I didn't know what to expect with this game, I thought that the 2013 Tomb Raider
reboot was fantastic but I'd heard from a few sources going into this that it was just a rehash of the first game. Now, after beating it I gotta respectively disagree with that stance. Rise of the Tomb Raider takes many of the fundamentals of it's predecessor and improves upon nearly every one of them (except for maybe the narrative...). This game expands upon it's open world exploration elements, stays true to survival and crafting mechanics, and has some of the most gorgeous graphics and art design of any game I've played in this current gen. This is also the PS4's 20th anniversary edition which includes all of the original game's DLC extras free of charge. The amount of content here is refreshing, if it weren't for a boring narrative and a few minor control issues I'd have prolly given it a perfect score.
Let's get the game's biggest weakness out of the way first. The game's plot is incredibly predictable, and the script and voice acting performances are pretty dry and cliche. The story follows Lora Croft right after the events of the first game as she attempts to vindicate her late father's legacy by finding the "divine source", an ancient relic that's said to grant it's possessor eternal life. Of course, there's an ancient covenant called Trinity that seeks to find the source so that they can take over the world; thus Lora's tasked with finding it before they do and saving humanity! The story gets a big more complicated and there were a couple of twists I wasn't expecting, but whatever brilliant ideas were there in the plot would sometimes be bogged down by a dry script and drab performances. The one thing the game does surprisingly well is developing Lora's motivations throughout the story, she's clearly the star of the show here, it's just too bad that there was a shortage of interesting characters supporting her.
But despite all of that this game wows on many other levels. The tombs and puzzle solving are much more intricate than in the previous game, with some tombs and sections containing almost Zelda-esque layers of complexity. The action and set pieces are wonderful and the stealth combat is very intuitive. Lora has a lot of the same tools she's used in the last game (i.e. pick axe, crafting tools, bow & arrow) but this time with a few newcomers like a wire spool, underwater breathing device, and broad-headed arrows for climbing on flat wooden surfaces. You can now craft poisonous arrows, fires arrows, and explosive arrows (by god this really is Zelda!!!) and you can now pick up items during battle and quickly craft them into explosives and Molotov cocktails. The game's world is packed full of side quests, challenges, secret areas, and collectables that add so much valuable playtime to the game. The world design itself feels vast as a proper open world game should, unlike the previous game which felt more like a small web of linear corridors.
As I'd mentioned earlier this game is gorgeous, the Siberian landscapes look very much alive and stunning. The ice and snow look very realistic, tombs and temples have incredible architectural design, and the lighting effects are on point. Even just the treasures you find throughout the game have a ridiculous amount of detail to them. I may have said that this game's script is poor, but the amount of engrossing writing in the treasures and journals you find throughout the world is kind of outrageous. It gives every area in the game a back story and lends it a sense of importance, along with a lived-in feeling. You also read tons of stories that detail the lives of past figures who are in someways important to the game's current plot, from the journals of ancient Syrian pilgrims, Soviet Russian soldiers, and even Mongolians; the ways these stories integrate not only with the game's present day plot but also it's environment is truly a stunning feat from these developers.
So overall this game is fantastic! The story is kinda meh, and I encountered a few control issues with the pick axe climbing in this game, But that's pretty minor given the game's gorgeous world, intricate puzzle solving, solid combat mechanics, and fantastic set pieces. It's certainly one of the most consistent action adventure games I've played to date and I REALLY look forward to the next instalment in the series (should it ever get made...). I didn't even really get a chance to talk about the free DLC which throws you into these sick survival situations and the terrific Baba Yaga side quest that has you hunting down a f***ing witch who creates mad hallucinations! I couldn't recommend this package enough, if you've got a PS4 get on this ASAP!!!