Tomb Raider is an action-adventure game developed by Crystal Dynamics. It is a full reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise; the game's story, written by Rhianna Pratchett and Susan O'Connor, tells the tale of a young and inexperienced Lara Croft's first adventure. The game was developed by 80% of the team that worked on previous Lara Croft games and features a brand new engine dubbed the Crystal Engine.
Tomb Raider's development was first announced by publisher Square Enix on December 6, 2010. Initially scheduled for Fall 2012, release was pushed after Crystal Dynamics received a directive from Square Enix President Yoichi Wada to make the best game that they could possibly make. It was finally released on March 5, 2013 to general acclaim.
Like its precursors, the new Tomb Raider involves a mix of puzzle solving, platforming and combat in an open world environment. In terms of tone and mechanics, however, the game is more serious and realistic – Lara does not dive in slow motion while using dual pistols with pinpoint lock-on accuracy, but rather takes cover behind the environment and eliminates enemies with a carefully aimed arrow from her bow. Unlike the typical franchise enemy roster, consisting largely of various wild animals, players' opponents in this game are almost universally human, with few exceptions. This decreased diversity is offset by an increased depth to the combat. Lara uses four different ranged weapons, each with its own unlockable upgrades, alt-fire mode, and out-of-combat utility. Upgrading weapons requires resources in the form of salvage which can be found in various containers throughout the island or by looting corpses. She can also use salvage to unlock limited close-combat capabilities, being able to dodge and counterattack, as well as perform executions on incapacitated enemies.
Tomb Raider's platforming follows in the vein of the Uncharted series, with cinematic set-pieces and dynamic features, as well as limited use of quick-time events. These set-pieces led to some initial negative publicity for the game (the first in the franchise to receive an 'M' ESRB rating), as failure frequently results in gruesome, fully-animated deaths, such as being impaled through the chin or crushed under a boulder. Increased control over jumps and the ability to scramble up walls, among other enhancements, make the platforming feel more polished mechanically than previously in the franchise. Puzzle-solving is also a more active process, as Lara must take into account variable elements such as fire, wind, and momentum. To aid her, Lara can activate her "Survival Instinct" at any time while standing still, which will highlight objectives, enemies, collectibles, and interactive elements.
Base Camps allow Lara to fast travel across the island. These camps are also where the player upgrades Lara's skills and weapons. Use of fast travel is essential for getting all the collectibles, as many are hidden or blocked behind obstacles that Lara obtains the tools to overcome later in the game. These collectibles include journals from past island inhabitants and the Endurance crew, relics reflecting the island's legacy, and GPS markers which reveal hidden caches. They can be found through exploration, by use of Survival Instinct, or by clearing each area's tomb to retrieve the treasure map at the end.
Travelling aboard the Endurance, Lara and her boss, archaeologist Dr. James Whitman, are seeking the ruins of the legendary island of Yamatai, which was ruled by the shamanistic Sun Queen, Himiko. Accompanying Lara is the Endurance's captain, Lara's mentor Conrad Roth, as well as her friend of Japanese descent, Samantha, who is fascinated by the story of Himiko. For Lara, the quest is inherited from her father, also an archaeologist, while for Dr. Whitman the primary appeal is as material for a TV series. Against Dr. Whitman's wishes, they follow Lara's hunch that Yamatai is to be found in the Dragon's Triangle, an infamously stormy and dangerous area of the ocean southeast of Japan. The Endurance is caught in a raging squall and shipwrecked on a mysterious island. The survivors soon encounter a band of homicidal madmen, and are split up in the ensuing melee. Most of the game focuses on Lara's journeys across the island to reunite with and rescue her friends, and find a way home. Early on, she manages to send an SOS message, and a plane arrives to evacuate the survivors. However, a freak localized storm forms and strikes the plane from the sky.
As she fights the hostile inhabitants of Yamatai it is revealed that they are a fanatical cult led by the ruthless and insane Father Mathias, who was stranded there in 1982. As more people are shipwrecked by the Dragon Triangle's storms, the men are captured, tortured, and indoctrinated into the Solarii, the warrior core of the cult. The women, however, can be found crucified and burned to death across the island in some twisted ritual. Lara eventually reunites with most of her companions, including Joslin Reyes, the mechanic, who is repairing an escape boat, but discovers that Samantha has been abducted by Mathias for a sinister purpose. Pursuing him into the island's ancient temple, Lara discovers that the storms that surround Yamatai are caused by Himiko's vengeful spirit, still trapped in her ancient corpse. Mathias believes if they offer Himiko a "living successor", she'll stop the storms and allow them to escape. However, the ritual for the transferal of power involves a trial by fire, which every woman thus far has failed. Samantha miraculously survives the trial, and Mathias takes her into the inner sanctum to continue the ritual. This angers the Guardians, magically preserved but mindless soldiers of Yamatai who defend Himiko's remains. Lara fights her way through both Solarii and Guardians to finally reach Mathias and Samantha in the midst of the transference process. There, Lara finally learns the secret that Mathias knew but she didn't. Namely, that Himiko was a sorceress who cheated death by stealing the bodies of young women as she grew old again and again; the last 'successor to the throne' learned of this ahead of time and poisoned herself during the ritual, so that Himiko's evil soul was trapped in the girl's dead body. Mathias intends to sacrifice Sam to Himiko, giving Himiko the living Sam's body, killing Sam in the process. Therefore, to save her friend, Lara kills Mathias (finally wielding her trademark dual pistols) and torches Himiko's body, sending the witch-queen to Hell once and for all.
With the storms finally eliminated, Lara and Samantha escape with what few companions survive (only Reyes and Jonah, the galley master). They are picked up by a passing ship, and given the opportunity to go back home. However, traumatized by her experiences, Lara now believes that she is an adventurer at heart, and there are many more questions that need answering. She has become a survivor, and will go wherever she must to find answers.