A Raider Obsessed

Be Warned: Spoilers Ahoy! 

Press The Start Button
This morning I started playing Rise of the Tomb Raider. I have had a tough week at work, and depending on how things go, times might be tougher in the future; so, I decided that as of today, for 90 minutes every Saturday – if no other time – I will do something to stop thinking about myself and be someone else. Namely, Lara Croft.

Rise of the Tomb Raider takes place a few months after the events of Tomb Raider 2013. Lara is now on the hunt for an artefact that will confer immortality on whoever possesses it.

Her search begins in NE Syria in an area of land that looks to encompass territory currently owned by the Syrian government, Islamic State and other Syrian rebel groups. Lara’s enemy in this game, however, is a shadowy group named (The Order of) Trinity.

Her first mission in the game is to find the Tomb of the Prophet, a mysterious figure who appears to have lived during the Middle Ages, and in whose tomb she hopes to find an artefact that will give immortal life to whoever possesses it. Lara has become obsessed by the idea of immortality since her encounter with Himiko on Yamatai in Tomb Raider 2013 and is following in her father’s footsteps. He – according to his lover in a flashback – was ruined by his search for immortal life. Will the same happen to her?

At the end of the mission, Lara finds the tomb but when she opens it… yes, it’s empty. Well, the game would have been over rather quickly had it not been! Escaping from the agents of Trinity who also want to find the artefact, Lara heads next to Siberia. She has discovered that the artefact is in a hidden city named Kitezh. When I hit the ninety minute mark, Lara and I were collecting wood and doing a little bit of mining on the side. Not exactly the stuff of heroines but necessary for upgrading weapons and gear!

First Thoughts
I am playing the game on an X-Box One and as you might expect the graphics look superb. The snow glittering in the sun, the Prophet’s Tomb up close and from a distance, Lara Croft herself – all look so realistic.

What about the story, though? Hollywood, after all, consistently produces films with great special effects but abysmal story lines (See my review of The Force Awakens.

Well, I won’t be able to make any comment about the overall story until I have finished the game. But I would like to say something about Lara’s nemesis.

Trinity appears to be to Tomb Raider now what the Templars are to the Assassin’s Creed franchise; that is, an organisation bent on destroying their arch enemies and achieving world domination.

Why has Crystal Dynamics, the makers of the game, chosen an ostensibly religious group – and seemingly Christian one at that – to be Lara Croft’s enemies?

Well, if Rise of the Tomb Raider had been set in the 30s, you can be sure that Lara’s enemies would be the Nazis. Yes, just like Indiana Jones, but reboot Lara has not been afraid to borrow from other creative efforts in other respects, after all. If it was set during the Cold War then the USSR would have supplied the villains. No one is yet brave enough to make Islamic State the enemy* so what to do? Simple – plunder the source of the West’s cultural and religious tradition – Christianity – and use it instead. It’s not very imaginative but it is a tried and tested method.

When Assassin’s Creed did the same, it avoided a charge of being anti-Christian by putting up a disclaimer at the start of the game saying that the game makers came from a variety of religious and cultural traditions – as if that made any difference. A Christian is still capable of behaving in an anti-Christian manner. The proof that is wasn’t anti-Christian came when we saw the villains of the game (here I am thinking of Assassin’s Creed II) acting out of personal malice rather than because the Church was institutionally corrupt from its theological wellspring upwards.

It is much too early for me to say Rise of the Tomb Raider is anti-Christian or not. I would not expect it to be – even if one of the leaders of Trinity was a ‘bishop in Rome’. Notwithstanding the fact that that immediately puts the pope in mind (he is the Bishop of Rome) I still think what we will find happening is that this bishop is acting – or rather, did act – out of a desire for personal gain.

Lara Croft – Pause!
Lara Croft GO was one of the most successful mobile games of 2015. Lara Croft PAUSE needs to be something that the character in Rise of the Tomb Raider does. Although the game is set just months after Tomb Raider 2013 she looks several years older at the start. Unfortunately, her wisdom does not appear to have caught up.

During the flashback at the start of the story she tells her father’s former lover that she believes she knows where the artefact that will give immortality is. She justifies her seemingly mad search for it by saying that possession of this thing will end sickness and death.

This immediately rang bells for me. I belong to the Tolkien school of life, and regard life itself as something that cannot be lived forever; if we try to extend our span we will in the end become ‘stretched’ like Bilbo Baggins, tired and jealous of our existence. Actually, I suspect some people already are, and it is one reason why they promote the use of contraception, abortion and euthanasia.

Anyway, because of my Tolkien influenced outlook, the idea of wanting to discover the the secret of eternal life is both horrifying and tragic. In that light, Lara remains a brave adventurer (let’s not pretend any more that she is an archaeologist) but also a very tragic and sad figure consumed by an idea just as Mal was in Inception. Only the fact that the Tomb Raider has to live to fight another day will stop her from being destroyed by it.

These are my thoughts. I hope to write another post next week. Hopefully by then, Lara will have upgraded as least her currently rather primitive bow and arrow and will be able to take the fight to the evil agents of Trinity.

* If they ever make the transition from terrorist organisation to nation I am sure it will happen just as it did with the Bolsheviks

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