Rise of the Tomb Raider
This game is one of the most improved sequels I can remember playing in recent memory. The first game was fine, an enjoyable action game and perfectly fine way to spend some time. This game is something I will recommend strongly to friends who enjoy the genre, and something that offers such fun and dynamic gameplay that I want to talk about the game and hear about others' experiences. I'll remember this one!
The story is a huge huge huge improvement over the first game, with collectibles unveiling an interesting multi-century tale of an immortal prophet while the primary story finds Lara struggling to survive as she crosses paths with powerful factions fighting for immortality. I love the incorporation of Christian-like mythology, giving a strong Indiana Jones feeling to the tale. The characters, especially, have taken a massive leap forward. Gone are the horror-movie rejects from the first game, now we have some seriously intimidating baddies and a Lara Croft who grows into a real tough chick. I think the ultimate ending of our story is a bit weak, but the ride is a blast, with excellent pacing to keep things moving.
The wide open areas offer a much improved take on the Metrodvania approach, and the game does a great job incorporating crafting and skills like you might find in the survival game genre. I played a lot of this game, just running around enjoying the gorgeous scenery and leveling up.
Combat is much improved, with better AI and more responsive weapons. The shooting feels good and the guns are fun. It's no great challenge but if you play on hard you'll definitely die some times. The combat isn't at Uncharted 4's level and doesn't let you reestablish stealth as cleanly, nor does it encourage you to use the environment as much as that game e.g. rope swinging. It's still a blast. Once stealth is lost you're basically stuck in combat, which works great. I tend to start an encounter by scouting and picking guys off, then fighting my way out if I get spotted. There are so many great ways to kill your enemies, be it the fantastic bow, your guns, knives, craftables, etc. It works, and it's a lot fun and only gets more fun as you progress.
The sense of progression is EXCELLENT, you end up feeling like such a badass by the end, with awesome gear and weaponry. I enjoyed leveling up Lara and felt rewarded for my effort. She turns into a serious predator over the course of the game, and the baddies don't stand a chance. The scale of the game near the end increases to a great climax of combat.
The tombs are great! They're bigger, bolder, more fun in every way. They're more than just "solve one thing" like in the first game. They are not dungeons, by any means, but they do a great job of breaking up the combat and story by giving you some basic puzzles to solve. Traversal is improved generally.
I highly recommend this game. Playing the first does a good job of setting the stage both in the Lara Croft character and in the evolution of the gameplay, but it's not necessary. I hear Shadow is a step down, but haven't played it yet. Seems like Rise is the one to play.
Played January 2020