Discussion The Patient Gamer - Tomb Raider (2013) - Ludo-narrative Dissonance

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
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Let me just start out by saying Tomb Raider was a fantastic game. I've added Rise of the Tomb Raider to my wishlist and I'll pick it up during one of the upcoming sales.

The game does a lot of things right. The game looks incredible, it tells a relatively interesting story, production values are excellent, gameplay is tight, platforming elements are solid, and the hints of "metroidvania" elements boost the overall experience to something greater than your standard third person shooter experience.

This is a reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise. You play as a young Lara Croft, fresh out of university and on her first major archeological adventure in search of a lost island civilization in the far reaches of the pacific. Her boat is destroyed in the course of a violent storm, and Ms. Croft and her crew are stranded on a mysterious island teaming with cultists, cannibals, Imperial Japanese WW2 bunkers and emplacements, and more. Its a helluva adventure and does a solid job evoking the adventures of someone like Indiana Jones.

The setting is fantastic, bleak, lost, forgotten. I cannot say enough positive things about the production that went into this game. You go from snowy mountains to tropical jungles to ship graveyards, its all very well done. These environments are stung out linearly as well, no open world BS, each area is tightly crafted with some collectibles, and a save point to upgrade gear and skills.

However, the game has become a poster boy for some college words: ludo-narrative dissonance. This is the phenomena when the story the game wants to tell, and the gameplay the game wants to present do not line up at all and the whiplash effect can have the effect of taking the player way out of the game. This is Lara Croft's first adventure. At the start of this game, she is a wide eyed naive adventurer and the game goes through great pains to present her as such. The gameplay however, especially after some of the more combat oriented upgrades, presents her as a psychopathic serial killer.

I had read about this well before I played the game, and just chalked it up to the internet being the internet. After playing however... wow. Cinematics have Lara Croft struggling with being forced to kill to survive, experiencing incredible loss, psychological stress, and more. The gameplay however involves her cutting down literally hundreds of violent, hardened cultists without blinking an eye, sometimes in somewhat shockingly brutal ways. Its bizarre to cut a path of destruction that would make Rambo blush, while performing acrobatics that would qualify for a Cirque De Soli starring role in a gameplay segment, only to hit a cutscene with Lara whimpering about having just killed a man and getting sweaty palms over a 20 foot drop.

The gameplay was good enough that I did sort of start glazing over the cutscene stuff a bit later, especially after calamity after calamity strikes in what appears to be an effort by competing writers to keep one upping each other with how much torture they could put their main character through.

As Ben Crosshaw best put it "torturing the protagonist is a poor substitute for character growth" or something along those lines. The game seems to take a particular delight in killing Lara Croft in some remarkably sadistic ways in the event that you ever screw up. Strangulation, impalement, having her throat slit... there is enough to keep even the most jaded snuff fans coming back for more. And after all that, you never really get the sense that Lara is a changed person at the end of the story. She just sort of started out as a hardened serial killer and ends the story as a hardened serial killer with a serious body count. Oddly enough, the game also sort of acknowledges this, with the enemies shouting lines like "She killed everyone in [the last area]" or stuff that makes them weirdly sympathetic like "You're going to pay for all the brothers you've killed!"

Again, the game is generally considered fantastic, and with good reason. Its just presents itself in such a weird way that there must have been some sort of weird struggle or internal conflict regarding how to portray Lara Croft in a reboot because the dissonance is real.

At the end of the day, if you like platformers, third person shooters, and some exploration/collection elements to your games you could do much worst than TR 2013.
 

Stuka87

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Dec 10, 2010
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The 2013 Tomb Raider was a great reboot of the series. The third game is by far my favorite. And I felt the second is also better than the first. So it does get better. WAY less quick time events in the second than the first also. All three of them have her go through some terrible deaths, but the first game seems like its out to punish her at every turn.

The series certainly matures as it goes on. The third game has the most exploring and puzzles. And a much larger area to explore. Rise is also larger then 2013, and with more puzzles as well.

I did end up doing a full 100% completion on Shadow, which I enjoyed. It didn't seem overly tedious. I think I did a 99% pass on Rise (there was like one item I couldn't find), and 95 or something on 2013. I found going back later on to get items in 2013 to be tedious because of the level layouts.
 
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GodisanAtheist

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Nov 16, 2006
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The 2013 Tomb Raider was a great reboot of the series. The third game is by far my favorite. And I felt the second is also better than the first. So it does get better. WAY less quick time events in the second than the first also. All three of them have her go through some terrible deaths, but the first game seems like its out to punish her at every turn.

The series certainly matures as it goes on. The third game has the most exploring and puzzles. And a much larger area to explore. Rise is also larger then 2013, and with more puzzles as well.

I did end up doing a full 100% completion on Shadow, which I enjoyed. It didn't seem overly tedious. I think I did a 99% pass on Rise (there was like one item I couldn't find), and 95 or something on 2013. I found going back later on to get items in 2013 to be tedious because of the level layouts.
- I forgot about the QT events. TR 2013 starts out absurdly QT heavy, especially for the first hour or two, but lightens up a lot as it gives you more actual gameplay tools. QT events after that point seem to primarily occur during transition sequences as you move from one level to the next.

The game is pretty liberal with the checkpoints so there is very rarely any serious consequence to failing a QT event, which is both a blessing and a headscratcher... basically just interactive non-skippable cutscenes you may have to watch 2-3 times.
 

nakedfrog

No Lifer
Apr 3, 2001
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I've enjoyed this whole series, I'm currently 30% through Shadow.
I do get what you're talking about with all the murderiness, but I kind of just got over/accepted it with the Uncharted series (which are very similar games). Especially the last Uncharted game, when his wife is with him "like old times", and I'm sitting there chuckling about how they're enjoying their mass murder spree together, the way a married couple ought to.
 

GodisanAtheist

Diamond Member
Nov 16, 2006
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I've enjoyed this whole series, I'm currently 30% through Shadow.
I do get what you're talking about with all the murderiness, but I kind of just got over/accepted it with the Uncharted series (which are very similar games). Especially the last Uncharted game, when his wife is with him "like old times", and I'm sitting there chuckling about how they're enjoying their mass murder spree together, the way a married couple ought to.
- I've been hearing pretty consistently that RIse is a huge step up from the TR2013 and basically does everything better, but then Shadow starts off strong but quickly falls apart as it leaves the initial railroading portion behind and goes into an open world and sort of succumbs to a lot of the poor open world design mistakes.
 

nakedfrog

No Lifer
Apr 3, 2001
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- I've been hearing pretty consistently that RIse is a huge step up from the TR2013 and basically does everything better, but then Shadow starts off strong but quickly falls apart as it leaves the initial railroading portion behind and goes into an open world and sort of succumbs to a lot of the poor open world design mistakes.
I will say the open worldiness probably isn't doing the narrative any favors, when I decide that I want to go back to a previous area to do some side missions I hadn't done earlier, LOL.
But I don't really mind that in a game.
 

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