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3 Things Uncharted Can Learn From Tomb Raider

Anything Drake can do Lara can do better!

Speaking of exploration, one of the main reasons that game element was important in Tomb Raider was that it was used as a mechanism to find salvage that could be used to upgrade weapons and equipment.  Furthermore, an experience point system enabled the player to upgrade Lara’s survival and combat abilities as the game progressed.  While this system could certainly use some improvement in future installments, it helped to reinforce the narrative that Lara was growing as the game progressed, while also offering players to tailor the experience as they wished – at least early on.

Uncharted offers no real sense of growth.  Nathan is immediately an expert on any weapon he happens to pickup.  While giving players the option of what their weapon layout is, there is no way to expand upon a favored configuration.  Nathan’s move set never grows either, being stable throughout the entire series.  There’s a great opportunity to expand on what Nathan can do here. 

An evolving character is easier to connect with – gaining new abilities gives the gamer a sense of accomplishment and shows real progression.  Nathan is static, and while he is likeable (or not), you never get the opportunity to evolve his abilities and through that evolve the player’s style of play.  Lara felt more like an extension of my psyche because we grew together – no such connection exists.

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03/16/2013 at 04:07 PM

From what I've seen I relate to Lara more too. Aka, there are times she's very frightened and vulnerable and this is expressed with her body language and heavy breathing. In the same situation I'd be exactly like that. (And the first time being forced to kill someone would leave a mark on me emotionally)

Granted, Lara becomes the fiercely independent bad-ass we know and love rather quickly but at least we get to see her down to earth humanistic side as well.


03/17/2013 at 06:15 PM

They did a fine job of making Lara feel more human. She isn't some kind of superheroine. Just a regular woman trying to survive extreme danger. The combat was just as frenzied in Tomb Raider. But the execution was much better. I have not tried multiplayer yet,I'm very hesitant about that. Was that really something fans of the series wanted? 


03/17/2013 at 06:39 PM

I must be playing a different version.  She is not a regular woman by any stretch of the imagination. Maybe in the cutscenes, but the ludonarrative dissonance  sets in while you're killing scores of generic thugs with Jason Voorhees like ease and aplomb, and surviving injuries and implementing tactics that would impress Rambo.  Of course this is mere hours after the game makes a big deal about her never having killed someone before.  


03/17/2013 at 07:13 PM

The thing is, this is a game. Yeah, she becomes a "bad ass" pretty quick but imagine slogging through 12+ hours with a character that is actually for the most part helpless and useless. (A good approach to survival horror perhaps but this is an action adventure franchise) I concur that realistically Lara would have to go through much more to become a skilled gunslinger/explorer but the question is, would this reboot be as fun if she spent most of the game severely limited?


03/17/2013 at 07:56 PM

They chose to go with a 'serious' story, that they undermine at every turn?  Seems like it was pointless if they are going to play the "B-b-but games are about fun!" card.  It doesn't seem like they were thinking about fun when they dreamt up an attempted rape and traumatic stress for a game about killing faceless goons by the hundreds.  They can't have their cake and eat it too. It doesn't hold up to the lightest of scrutiny. Making the character the equivalent of Arnold in Commando is at odds with humanization and being this regular person the publisher and the press are trying to sell her as.


03/18/2013 at 12:27 AM

Chris, I just got done going through RE 6, okay? If we want to talk about the "cheesy writing trying too hard to be serious" award, RE 6 beats Tombraider by several hundred miles! Tombraider probably is not a perfect jewel but it does seem better than what I usually get. At least there's "improvement" on some level even though it hasn't reached its' peak yet. Give it time,yo!

Casey Curran Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 02:10 AM

I gotta side with Macho on this. It's just awkward taking a middle ground where they act like they've never killed before, then take out a small army. Either make the story reflect how serious of a problem that is, accept how unrealistic it is and go with it, or have the gameplay be done where every kill happens rarely and feels significant. Hell, the series has been about platforming, why couldn't they just have her find ways to climb around guards?

Not saying that makes the game bad either. I haven't played TR and will probably enjoy it (though probably not as much as the last 3 TR games). But to have a story that's the complete opposite of the gameplay just sounds wrong to me.


03/18/2013 at 02:24 AM

Heroes/Heroines by their very nature usually lack a certain credence of grounded realism. Aka, they go above and beyond the average person.

 I simply think in a game it's pretty difficult to include those "in-between" moments. Yes, Lara Croft would probably be shaky and psychologically unstable "longer" after killing her first attacker but how can you stretch that out without making the game too long or without making Lara useless for most of the game? (Not good for an action adventure title)

 Maybe they should have had Lara be a "bad-ass" from the very start but isn't that just falling back on the tired & shallow "bombshell gun-slinging super-woman trope" Lara embodied way back during the ps1 days? How can there be progress if the same stuff just keeps getting recycled?

 Maybe this game didn't check all the boxes when it came to "gradually" developing Lara as a person but gosh guys, isn't it good she's just a smidgen more human? I'll take this Croft over yesterday's Croft any day of the week. (I'm not comparing the actual games, just the two portrayals of the character)

Casey Curran Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 02:54 AM

Yeah, but why can't there be a new take where the gameplay and story reflect one another? They could have given Lara a personality where you believe she can take out this many people while keeping her human or made the gameplay reflect that she was not a killer. Not saying this necessarily makes the games bad, just nothing I would consider good video game storytelling and something we shouldn't ignore because, "The game is fun."


03/18/2013 at 11:20 AM

It's a difficult balance to make a character "believable" yet "epic". For me a fully capable Croft going on yet another globe trotting adventure wouldn't have been that interesting,Cas. I've gotten that so many times already.

I personally like the angle of a somewhat naive yet capable enough young archealogist getting in over her head when something unexpected happens.

As for Lara turning into a "killer" she doesn't exactly have a choice. The people she's dealing with are unscrupulous. Sure, maybe she could have made more tranquilizer compounds from the surrounding plant life but in the end you're still shooting other living beings with something.

Though Crystal Dynamics can evolve Lara and even change things up to a point they also cannot fully do away with the franchise's original premise. Aka, Lara always killed dangerous wild animals and "the bad guys".

I'm not saying a game needs violence to be good but I am saying people shouldn't expect a Tomb-Raider game to be the title that completely reinvents the wheel by morphing into something it is not. (Perhaps an original ip should do that because the audience will not have built up expectations one way or another)

Certainly someone could make a Tombraider game that's entirely about solving puzzles & exploration ala Monkey Island minus the gun fights but would it truly seem authentic? Does taking away Lara's guns and combat ability really make her more "civilized" somehow?

Now, if you want to argue Tombraider should have included more platforming and less shooting that is actually a reasonable argument from a traditional fan's perspective.


03/18/2013 at 09:17 AM

I don't get all this praise. I've played TR for a few hours but I don't think I'll be going back to it. Exploration is cool but basically, it's just another shooter. I expected platforming and challenging puzzles. Now Lara Croft feels just like another Uncharted, Gears and countless other clones.


03/18/2013 at 09:31 AM

Come on get over it, the game is great if you dont like it thats your opinion. Everyone is so judgemental its a game not a movie. Games are meant to be fun and thats what it is.


03/18/2013 at 09:55 AM

It's fun for many people. For some it's not. But the issue is that it's a reboot of a franchise that used to be about platforming and great puzzles. Now people who liked TR because of platforming and puzzles lost their franchise. And the people who like action-shooters got another one. The market is already saturated with action-shooters and lacking in action-platforming-puzzle games. So what was rare, got even rarer and what was abundant, got even more abundant. Imagine that, suddenly, a majority of people got a bit smarter generally and started to like puzzles more. But you didn't get smarter for some unknown reason and you still liked mindless shooting-Russians fun. But because of a sudden surge of smartness in the world, companies decide to reboot franchises and all those Gears of Wars, Uncharteds and Call of Duties get rebooted into super challenging puzzle-platforming games which are boring to you because you didn't get smart enought to understand those challenges. You still like shooting moving targets with your joypad but there's no such games to play anymore. Maybe a few low-budget indie shooters with retro graphics, but all of your favourite shooting franchises are gone to puzzle-loving nerds. Now do you understand when you switch shoes. You should if you posess empathy capabilities (only psychopaths lack empathy, hope you're not one so I didn't waste my words). Cheers

Our Take

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 10:00 AM

As the author of this piece, I agree that the new Tomb Raider needs more platforming and more puzzles.  I think Crystal Dynamics was trying to hit the biggest spectrum of consumers with the reboot since previous games weren't selling that well.  I hope they have more creative freedom with the next entry, now that they have an established hit on their hands.

I'm also considering writing a follow up piece on ways that Tomb Raider needs to improve in a sequel.


03/18/2013 at 09:58 AM

Oops, sorry about this triple post. It kept telling me that there was an error 3 times.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 10:00 AM

No worries - I got that fixed up for you :)


03/18/2013 at 10:13 AM

Thanx for fixing it, it was embarrasing :) Yes, I know about that "not selling that well" problem with Tomb Raider. But does everything really need to be a blockbuster? I'm sure it would sell enough to provide a decent life to people who made it. I have a feeling that games were better and actually beneficial to the development of young brains before a flock of managers and other suit&tie-people came to the gaming industry. They just care about their yachts and villas. Greedy.

Btw, TR used to be a game people played with their girlfriends. Parents with their children. Not so sure about that now.

Jesse Miller Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 10:41 AM

I absolutely agree that the violence is unnecessary - I've railed against it a couple of times in print and podcast - and I also agree that not every game needs to be a blockbuster.  But, publishers think that Tomb Raider should be a blockbuster based on previous sales and general notoriety.  I hope that future installments get back to the series roots more, we'll just have to wait and see.


03/18/2013 at 11:39 AM

Reading these comments it feels as if some gamers are trying to be too "politically correct" when it comes to a franchise that's always had guns and some level of confrontation.

Asking for more platforming is a reasonable request because that was part of the series from the beginning. However, asking for Tombraider to have "less violence" goes against the very fundamentals the series was based upon.

Crystal Dynamics is already trying to make Lara more humanistic but at the same time taking away her guns and combat capability might as well be metaphorically neutering her.

There are plenty of games out there that have exploration & puzzle solving minus the intense shoot outs. (Or with the option to avoid them all together) However, Tombraider was never supposed to be Monkey Island, Dishonored, or Mirror's Edge.

I think this is a problem with gamers. Aka, we "demand" each game include specific traits which we see as progress then years down the line we complain how every game is the same though in truth we shaped those fads to begin with.

Tombraider is probably getting more flak than usual because many of us are sick and tired of shooters presently. However, I'm still supportive of shooter gameplay that is done genuinely well. (So long as the game in question gives me a few other other things to do besides killing things)

I'm not saying this new TR game is perfect but it has gotten me sincerely interested in Lara Croft again. That's something many previous TR games were not able to do.

Angelo Grant Staff Writer

03/18/2013 at 03:02 PM

I've got a couple of refreshingly non politically correct comments for you

1: Guns are awesome.

2: Laura killed a friggin T-rex, with guns, and that was double awesome.


03/18/2013 at 06:12 PM

Do we have a lot of games that focus on platforming and puzzle-solving like TR did? I mean what games currently bring what CD's recent entries (prior to this one) to the market. Prince of Persia and Mirror's Edge are it and neither is exactly getting new entries lately. Yes combat has always been a part of the game but a minor part. The balance with the new game is the issue more than anything else. You seem to be responding more to criticism of the narrative dissonance which isn't my issue, so maybe I'm jumping in where I shouldn't. My issue is that the platforming and puzzles are so easy and in the case of puzzles a seeming afterthought in this game.

You seem to be in these same comments lumping those who want a challenge from a series that have always provided one in those areas into one pile based on someone's troll comments which is unfortunate because as someone who feels similarly it's a little insulting. CD's games weren't the most challenging games to be honest. This game is on a whole other level lower as far as difficulty. That is the issue. Some of the stuff you are slinging down there is a joke.

Edit: I see you wrote a blog on this Broken so I will read that and try and understand where you are coming from here. I am obviously reacting to part of a comment I disagree about and probably going overboard.


03/18/2013 at 08:36 PM

I'm actually not against puzzles and platforming. Asking for those things is not unreasonable at all. Yet I do think it's unreasonable to take away Lara's guns or completely take away the ability for her to fight back.

I will agree large numbers of spawning enemies seems redundant. I would prefer fewer enemies with more intelligent ai or a much more menancing pressence. I'm admittedly tired of "horde wave styled gameplay". It always seems like the more thugs there are the more "stupid" they are.

PS: I apologize for coming off as so offensive. I did get a tad hot under the collar here. lol. It's just everyone clamoring for less violence seems to kind of miss the points of the franchise. True, TR isn't just about shooting goons and dangerous wild-life but that is at least one of the three main essentials to the formula.


03/19/2013 at 02:05 PM

I'm the anonymous one who commented above, starting with "It's fun for many people. For some it's not". I've never asked for removing violence from TR. I love Killzone and Uncharted. But TR has always been a special treat for me and my girlfriend because of focus on platforming and puzzles. Something a bit different. Now all the games are the same. Mindlessly shooting Nazis, Slavs and Arabs. I'm just sorry that TR shifted focus to more of the shooting-thugs. T-Rex, that was awesome! Shooting encounters in TR were much rarer and more memorable than in this new game. They could've improved it while keeping the balance.


03/18/2013 at 02:15 PM

Puzzle Solving? Where? Oh you mean those "For retarded and handicapped apes" quality puzzles that even 5-year old could solve? Gimme a break.


03/18/2013 at 02:31 PM

Is that a whiff of self anointed elitism I smell? I can understand the love of a steep challenge but using terms like "puzzles for retarded handicapped apes" is a bit harsh. (Good troll bait though! A winner is you?)

Besides, I know plenty of "intelligent gamers" who love to mindlessly blow up things once in awhile. You can't always judge a person's IQ ratio by the types of games they enjoy.

All this aside, the puzzles might actually be harder in the sequel. Maybe they'll be so sophisticated the "special few" can fondle themselves in self gratifying masturbatory narcissistic bliss when they beat the game everyone else was "too dumb" to complete. Ah, to be apart of the gaming master race! Can I get a V.I.P pass? I've been told I look dashing in high boots while sporting an arm band!


03/18/2013 at 06:22 PM

I agree with some of your points here Jesse. I wish Uncharted did have some of this game's more open-ness and wave combat scenarios aren't fun in either. I do think this TR's combat suffers from more limited battlefields, so it doesn't always have more options than Uncharted does in it's mini-sandbox type arena fights where there are a ton of places to move around and ways to approach the combat. Weapon upgrades and abilities were another big success in this latest TR that Uncharted might indeed want to look at. I also loved Uncharted 2's early multiplayer before the patched it into a much less desirable setup, but TR's is certainly subpar. So I disagree with your last point to some extent.

Having said all that, ideally, these wouldn't be such comparable products. Uncharted was never a modern-gen update to TR like you mentioned. Their gameplay focuses were just too different and if it weren't for the similar treasure-hunting backdrop I doubt anyone would find them all that similar (pre-reboot of course). I hope TR learns a bit from its own series going forward. I wrote a blog on my wordpress about it recently. I think if they can combine the old aspects of this series with some of the new things the reboot brings we might have something much more special.That is obviously a whole other topic though.


03/18/2013 at 11:05 PM

Honestly, the series can't win apparently. I have been a fan since the very first game back on Sega Saturn (yes, it wasn't a playstation exclusive). I fell in love with the immersive environments, but the market has changed. There is a bigger demand for charecterization and combat. Neither of which were big in previous iterations of the Tomb Raider franchise. And consequently the series was made fun of for its lackluster combat and outdated focus on puzzles and platforming (Don't believe me? Look up Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider threads from 2010, and you will see tons of people arguing that the gameplay is outdated. There are other debates where people make the same claim, this is just the example off the top of my head).

However, when Crystal Dynamics reboots the series to create a fine line between both perspectives of interest (platforming and gunplay), now people are complaining that it's leaving its traditional roots that were—not too long ago—panned as being outdated. This is very similar to the issue with Tomb Raider II. When the original came out, there were some critics saying the combat was too small of a portion of the game. Then the sequel, Tomb Raider II, came out and people said there was too much of it.

All I'm saying is, no matter what the developer does people will say one or the other. I think Crystal Dynamics made the best move, and I used to think about protesting this game because I feared that it would ruin my favorite series, but quite honestly they did a remarkable job in the end. I do wish they add some more tombs into the inevitable future sequels. But I do understand that an excess of tombs is difficult to develop the characterization they pulled off in this game.

Tomb Raider: 10/10


03/19/2013 at 02:24 PM

We're consistent.  The way the game was divided into measurable squares is what was outdated about the old Tomb Raider, not platforming and puzzles. The people who expect Tomb Raiding in a Tomb Raider game weren't complaining about puzzles platforming. Those tons of people in the Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider were probably shooter fans, not puzzle and platforming fans. 


03/19/2013 at 04:10 PM

Machocruz spot on!

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