Hard Time

Be Warned: Spoilers ahoy!

Writing about Playing Rise of the Tomb Raider pt. 4

The good news is that this week I enjoyed playing Rise of the Tomb Raider more than in any of the previous three sessions. There is no bad news, unless you count the fact that this week’s game time was cut short by ten minutes due to Lara getting killed over and over by some Really Tough Dudes and me not being able to work out how to defeat them. But I’ll come back to that presently.

… Scholar, Spy
What made playing the game more fun today?

Ana. Previously, we knew her only as Richard Croft’s mistress. Today, however, she was uncovered as a Trinity agent. Everything Lara’s father ever learnt about the ‘divine source’ was fed by her back to Trinity. Bill Haydon would have been proud of her efforts*.

The Ana revelation took the game from being a rather simple quest to something much deeper. Now, Lara must find the divine source not only for herself, and to complete her father’s work, but to defeat the woman who made a fool of him and his love for her. In a single stroke RoTR has gone from being professional to very personal and I hope it builds upon that.

* And, no doubt, recognised himself in her as he also used sex as a distraction technique

Story and Stores
A key feature of many, if not all, video games is the player’s collection of objects, which will help him complete a mission or, eventually, the whole game. I imagine that game developers spend many hours discussing what items to introduce and how and where they should be found and used.

Rise of the Tomb Raider allows Lara to pick up some objects on her travels but also asks her to buy others.

To buy. In Siberia.

In Trinity controlled territory.

Well, it turns out that there is an agent of Trinity who wants out. But in order to get out he has to raise the money. Conveniently, he is in charge of an equipment store, and will sell whatever he has to Lara if she has enough gold pieces.

But where on earth will Lara find any gold? The ground, of course. Byzantine coins litter the region. Lara will simply dig them up and use them to buy what she needs.

The RotTR storehouse stretches the credibility of the story almost to breaking point. Even letting aside the ethics of Lara digging up and trading with the coins, what are the chances of a Trinity agent wanting out? Of trusting Lara enough to trade with her? Of her trusting him?

You could reply that this is a game about someone searching for the secret of immortality. If the player can believe in that why can’t he believe in a rogue agent and two trustful people? The thing is, we don’t yet know enough about the divine source to say whether it is a credible aspect of the story or not*. We only know it by repute. Not until it comes into plain view will we be able to judge its place. The rogue agent and his storehouse are now in plain view and, personally, I don’t find them very convincing.

* In terms of the game’s logic rather than the real world’s

Lara’s Bust
Lara discovers the truth about Ana after being caught by Konstantin. She is then thrown into a prison cell, from where she promptly escapes, taking with her a man named Jacob who says he can take her to the divine source.

Can he be trusted? Despite trusting the rogue agent Lara is not so keen on him. But then, Jacob is a proper part of the story. He also has a beard. In fact, he looks very much like the Bearded Dude whose name I have forgotten from The Last of Us. For my part, I would be more than happy to trust Jacob on account of his beard. I rather like them. The bushier the better. But that’s me and we should be concentrating on Lara. She decides to trust Jacob not because of his beard but because she wants to find the divine source before Ana. There is plenty of time and space for Jacob – a native, I think, like the red head Lara met the other week – to betray her but for the sake of his beard I hope he doesn’t.

Big Dumb Battle
After teaming up with Jacob, Lara continues her prison break-out. She comes to a courtyard, and after the first few attempts to storm ended with Lara becoming a bullet-sieve I began to think that I might be stuck here for a while. Nevertheless, I kept at it, and on one attempt simply ran, shot, panicked and repeated for several minutes.

Much to my surprise, and I’ll admit, embarrassment, Lara survived. She killed everyone! How on earth she managed this I do not know but there it was. Afterwards, I was tempted to start the set-piece again but who knows how long I would be there if I did. Sometimes, you just have to accept your good luck and move on.

Tap the Map
I suppose the most famous cinema cliche is the Wilhelm Scream. Another one that I have noticed, however, is when the actors are standing over a map and the director wants to make clear either where they are or where they are going. So, while talking, whichever actor is using the map will tap the relevant location(s) with his finger. Konstantin does the same during one scene in RotTR. Goodness knows why as I’m sure the map was not clear enough for the player to see anything on it, but anyway, it made me smile.

Shoot-Out
So, we come to the last scene of the session, and the reason I quit ten minutes early. Another courtyard in the prison, more guards to kill. Lara now has an AK-47 and so dropping them was not hard until the well-armoured Really Tough Dudes turned up. After a few attempts at killing them, which succeeded only in Lara getting lit up brighter than a zeppelin on fire, I decided to call it a day. This had the air of a scene that I really could spend ages and ages on and get nowhere, but yet try again after a rest and immediately get through. Probably by doing everything I shouldn’t like I did earlier. To improve my chances, though, I think I will be going on to You Tube this week to see how other players have managed it.

Press Pause
So, there we are. Week 4 over. In the weeks to come I will be very interested to see how Jacob works out (fingers crossed that he will prove true). If he is a good guy it will also be interesting to see what kind of relationship he has with the red head. I hope they will not be shadows of each other.

Playing & Writing about
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

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