Crystal Dynamics released their recent reboot of Tomb Raider on Mar 5. The game was met with high praise from critics including this site (read Gaming Illustrated’s Tomb Raider review, here). Not only did it do well with critics, but from the earlier sales figures, it seems that the game struck a chord with the public local and abroad. Having sold 1 million units in its first-48 hours of release, the game is a certified hit. With any hit game, there is little doubt that Square-Enix will leverage the new take on Lara Croft into several more titles. Whether Crystal Dynamics will helm future sequels is a mystery, but it makes little sense to take off the team that has had such good results with bringing Lara back to prominence. The inevitable Tomb Raider 2 will likely be a ways off as the current console cycle is winding down and any future Tomb Raiders will be on the PlayStation 4 and the next Xbox. However, that does not mean people cannot start looking for ways to improve upon some of the aspects where Tomb Raider could have used work. In Tomb Raider 2, Crystal Dymanics should focus on finding a good and unique location, opening up the weapon types, include more meaningful secrets, tweaking some aspects of gameplay and introducing more diverse enemies.
Interesting New Location
Wider Weapon Variety
The weapon arsenal that Lara found and made use of in Tomb Raider was not bad by any means. It had a solid variety even if the bow was the most interesting to use. Lara could make use of a bow, pistol, machine gun and a shotgun with special upgrades for each. They made sense based on the piecemeal way she found them utilizing only weapons she could find on the island or steal from enemies. However, now that she knows how bad things can get, she will likely be packing some weaponry on her next journey. By no means should the bow ever leave her side because it was a joy to use in dispensing enemies. But maybe in the next game, add some more meaningful hand-to-hand weapons to her arsenal. The hand-axe was fine, but how can she be in an island full of katanas and not make use of them? Again, knowing the danger she might face, the time between the first and second game, Lara should take some sort of class to learn a specific combat style to help her in a pinch. What would be fascinating is if she learned something other than traditional kung fu styles often featured in hand-to-hand combat gameplay. How about learning the useful Krav Maga defensive techniques or Pencak Silat, the fighting style featured prominently in the Raid: Redemption. This could open up for more meaningful combat experiences and experimentation.
Meaningful Secrets, Collectibles and Tombs
Artifacts, treasures and tombs played a heavy part in Tomb Raider, but they were not hugely difficult to find. Mainly it involved using Lara’s survival instincts, marking them on a map or finding a treasure map or tomb to reveal where they were. What Tomb Raider 2 could do is make finding these little trinkets more meaningful, either by making them have a wider variety or actually affecting story or gameplay. Plenty of the treasures in Tomb Raider began to look similar after a while. Although, they were fun to track down and find, the treasures did not mean much other than to up the player’s completion percentage. With more ability to create complicated environments with next-gen systems, it would be nice to see Crystal Dynamics make the environment manipulable so that players can really experiment with finding trinkets. In addition, there should be a better integration of tombs with actual story progression, where exploring them has bearing on how the story occurs. Also, throw in some secret areas that take diligent exploring to find because Lara is after all an explorer/adventurer/archaeologist, she is all about discoveries.
Gameplay Tweaks and Boss Fights?
Featuring a mix of gunplay, action set pieces and intuitive platforming, the gameplay in Tomb Raider was satisfying and worked really well. That is not to say it was perfect. There were some drawback and some elements that could have been fleshed out more. Obviously, the hunting in Tomb Raider was pretty superficial. Lara did not have a hunger meter or feel fatigue from not eating even after climbing a precarious plane or killing a few dozen enemies. Thus, hunting only served a small story purpose and a way to gain some quick experience to buff Lara’s skills. While it will unlikely be brought back in a future game because she will not likely be stranded again, if she does indeed by chance need to hunt game then there should be more specific consequences for hunting or not hunting in Tomb Raider 2.
Enemies in Tomb Raider were plentiful, but there was not a huge amount of variety to the types of enemies except for the alternating of light, armored and the occasional heavy. While the enemy A.I. was fairly smart using cover or making or flanking Lara when she hid for too long, there was a pattern that developed after playing the game for long periods of time. What would be great in Tomb Raider 2 is if Crystal Dynamics upped the variety of enemy types making harder hand-to-hand enemies (which would compliment any improvements made to Lara’s combat arsenal) and long-ranged enemies that coordinated smartly with these buffed up close-quarter enemies. In addition, there needs to be more heavy enemies littered throughout combat, the occasional heavy every few hours seemed way too spaced out. The stealth elements were fun in the game and added a different approach to combat, but there were not enough opportunities to test it out. In Tomb Raider 2, it would be good to have a skill set for players who prefer to go stealth and help boost their abilities to remain undetected.
(Possible slight spoilers for those that haven’t played Tomb Raider yet, skip this portion for those planning to play it). Even though the boss fight in a more realistic game like Tomb Raider seems out of place (i.e. the big boss fights in Uncharted), they do need to have a bit more toughness than what happened in Tomb Raider. Make these “bosses” either smarter or make Lara have to work harder to get off a clean shot. The complexity of a final fight should be more than fighting waves of baddies to get to the boss. Make the player and Lara work for the catharsis of taking out this final evil.
Dinosaurs and Aliens
Whatever Crystal Dynamics and Square-Enix do with the sequel to Tomb Raider, the fact is plenty of people will be waiting eagerly to play it. They have managed to successfully make gamers care about Lara Croft again. Better yet they have made Lara come across as human. There is room for improvement and surely Crystal Dynamics will have some plans to make Lara’s next adventure even more expansive. Here were a few suggested areas that they could refine and improve. One thing that needs to happen is bringing back Rihanna Pratchett to write the game, she got the voice of Lara down excellently.