The Xbox press conference during last month’s Gamescom was a thing of heartbreak and elation. The freshly announced Rise of the Tomb Raider promises to put gamers back in control of the first lady of games and everybody’s favourite antique enthusiast Lara Croft but during this surprising announcement Phil Spencer, Microsoft’s head of Xbox, proudly declared it an Xbox exclusive.
The use of the term ‘exclusive’ proved to be tricky word play on Microsoft’s part; once offstage they were quick to clarify that such licensing is timed. Whether announced tactfully or not this temporary restriction of a revered platforming franchise is certainly a cunning strategy from Microsoft’s marketing team, giving them a real chance to rival the adventurous stylings of Sony’s Uncharted series that Microsoft has been lacking of late. Nevertheless, Rise of the Tomb Raider will likely only remain solely a part of Microsoft’s ecosystem for 6-12 months before the inevitable PlayStation and PC releases.
Accompanying the announcement came a brief reveal trailer showing Lara’s story continuing from where we last left her. Clearly troubled from events that made up the 2013 series reboot, Lara consults a therapist who advises her to live a regular life, get a hobby and return to normality. The suggestion that Lara’s emotional story will be explored is an enticing one as her personal adjustment to violence proved to be a fantastic development during the prequel although considerably rushed at times.
Although tombs were still present in the previous installment, developer Crystal Dynamics has promised to “[put] the tombs back into Tomb Raider“, clearly a response to the yearning from long time fans that the raiding during Lara’s last outing lacked depth. Hardcore gameplay for the hardcore fans seems likely but is this something the current crop of diversifying gamers will welcome with open arms? If the success of The Last of Us is anything to go by, it looks likely.
And what about Lara’s legacy in games? As one of the few prevalent female protagonists in games Lara has almost single handedly borne the flag for female inclusivity since her 1996 debut. Questions bandied around as to whether there should be a more significant female presence in video games and whether the currently male dominant industry is oppressive to female audiences are the sort that get thrown up every year, increasingly so in reference to the recent #GamerGate movement. The gaming industry is certainly lacking in the female lead department but the audience is split with many feeling that focus on games like Rise of the Tomb Raider should continue to focus on their qualitative potential independent of such discussion. Regardless, whether players view Rise of the Tomb Raider as the return of a stalwart of gaming culture or a beacon for a more diverse future it’s encouraging to know that Lara Croft can act as an ambassador for both parties.
Rise of The Tomb Raider is scheduled for a Christmas 2015 release. Stay tuned to The Evans Review for future news and a review.