Editor’s note; this guest post was written by Tom Goulden; a fan of both the UNCHARTED and Tomb Raider games. You can follow Tom on Twitter or take a look at his DeviantArt page. Without further ado; take it away, Tom!
After the announcement of Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune in 2006 the internet was in uproar. “Dude Raider”, it was nicknamed, a shameless rip-off of the incredibly successful Tomb Raider franchise. Now it appears the shoe’s on the other foot, with similarities being drawn between Crystal Dynamics’ new Tomb Raider reboot and the Naughty Dog franchise we all know and love. It’s hard to avoid these sort of comparisons due to the fact the two games share a similar premise, but just like those early parallels, these more recent ones aren’t entirely fair either. I had the chance to playtest the game at this year’s Eurogamer Expo and set the record straight.
Certainly, it’s easy to notice similarities between Tomb Raider and Uncharted from the moment the latest demo begins. Lara stands wounded after a catastrophic ship-wreck, each staggering step she makes is pained, with one hand pressing firmly against her stomach. It’s very reminiscent of the opening scenes of Uncharted 2; simply substitute the frozen wastes of Tibet for an uncharted Japanese island and you’re halfway there. When Lara approaches a World War 2 bomber hanging precariously from a waterfall, then slowly begins to work her way up its skeletal frame you can’t help but again be reminded of Among Thieves and that train climb.
But for all the comparisons, Tomb Raider does well to set itself apart from its closest gaming relative. While it may share a similar control scheme (but then it’s hard to break the mould in that respect) it beats its own path with a more mission objective-based storyline and upgradeable skills. As we saw in the extended gameplay during Crystal Dynamics’ developer session both Lara’s skills and her gear can be upgraded at various campsites around the island – which possibly implies a little more in the way of permanent equipment rather than the mix-and-match weaponry featured in Uncharted. This serves to point out the key difference between the two: where Uncharted is an action-packed adventure, Tomb Raider seems to be a more gritty tale of survival.
And survival really looks to be a core element to this reboot, ruling over most of the gameplay seen so far. We don’t yet know if Lara has to constantly do what is necessary to stay alive, but in these early previewed stages we’ve seen her hunting and killing for food and flitting between shadows in order to escape from the watchful gaze of a pack of salacious captors. Crystal Dynamics have said time and time again that this is an origin story and it’s clear that all the horrific situations that they are putting her in are to mould the character into an icon – a new interpretation of the Tomb Raider we already know.
Even deep in these survival horror tones where Tomb Raider stands out most from the generally light-hearted tone of Uncharted, there are a few familiar elements. The strung up, gaunt bodies across the island and the secretive cult shrines echo the creeping threat of *SPOILER* the first Uncharted’s Spaniombies and their plane wreckage booby traps. Whereas this late shift in story and gameplay was a little unsettling for many in Uncharted (though was repeated in its sequels to better effect), the fact that Tomb Raider puts it quite close to the beginning makes sure that you know upfront just how much trouble Lara’s getting herself into.
While the two series may have been cut from the same pulp adventure cloth it’s obvious as we see more and more of the rebooted Tomb Raider that the story of this new Lara Croft is going to unfold just as differently from that of Nate Drake’s as his did from Miss Croft’s predecessor. It’s not going to be another “Dude Raider”, that’s for sure.