Game Diary: Tomb Raider (2013) Week 1

Hello everyone, and welcome to our first week of Game Diary. If you haven’t checked out the announcement page yet, the way this will work is I will be playing a game I’ve never played before and detail my experience and thoughts as I go through. The first Game Diary series will be on the 2013 Tomb Raider game. This week I’ve played through the first three parts of the game, the Introduction, the Coastal Forest, and the Mountain Temple. So let’s get to it!

Introduction Recap

The game opens up rather abruptly as we see our protagonist Lara on a ship called The Endurance on an expedition to a place called the Dragon’s Triangle south of Japan. Suddenly the Ship lurches and cracks and water floods in. Lara gives a speech about the deep will to survive that pulls us through, and as she says this she makes an attempt to jump from the sinking half of the ship to the captain holding out his hand for her on the other side of the ship. He catches her, but she slips from his grip and falls into the ocean.

Lara leaps towards the captain on the other side of the ship

She awakes later on the beach of an island and sees a group of other ship survivors gathering on a cliff above. She attempts to shout to them but they can’t hear her, then suddenly someone punches Lara in the back of the head and knocks her unconscious. She wakes up and finds herself wrapped up and hanging from the ceiling of a cave along with a couple other bodies hanging as well. This is the moment you get to first control Lara as you must use the control stick to swing her around to first push a nearby hanging corpse into a fire, then swing yourself into the fire to burn the wrappings off. She then falls, but lands on a small spike that goes through her side and injures her causing her movements to be slowed.

Lara wakes to find herself wrapped up and hanging

You then go though a tutorial area in the cave where you must solve some minor puzzles involving setting fire to clear debris in your path. There’s also a few moments where they introduce you to quicktime events where you must follow the command prompts on the screen quickly or else face a rather gruesome death. Eventually after a couple of puzzles, quicktime events, and an escape sequence, you’ll find yourself exiting the cave onto a cliff overlooking the ocean and island and the title of the game will appear in the sky.

Introduction Thoughts

The game started very quickly and throws you right into the action which is great. The tutorials didn’t feel too heavy handed and were just enough guidance to help you figure things out for yourself. I did fail in one of the quicktime events, but the game is very forgiving in that it doesn’t set you back too far and the quicktime events appear to repeat the same way so you can get through with memory alone. The puzzles weren’t overly difficult, especially with a survival sense mechanic that allows you to highlight all objects in the area that you can interact with in some way, but they still required some level of thought and were satisfying to complete and watch the chain of events unfold.

A tense escape sequence with quicktime events

Coastal Forest Recap

After escaping the cave, Lara follows a narrow path along the cliff and stumbles upon a pack belonging to her friend who was aboard the ship, Sam. In the pack she finds a camcorder and a two way radio. She attempts to communicate over the radio but receives no answer. It begins to rain, so Lara decides to find a place to take shelter. She finds a used campsite that presumably was used by some of the ship survivors previously. She begins to hear some static over the radio, but still can’t reach anyone. To pass the time she plays the footage on the camcorder which was recording on the ship and gives us a glimpse of the crew.

In the footage, Sam is documenting their expedition and states that the purpose of it is to find the lost land of Yamatai which was ruled by Sam’s fabled ancestor Queen Himiko. We then see a scene where an argument breaks out among the crew about their destination. We are introduced to Dr. Whitman who was the lead architect of the group who believes Yamatai is nowhere near the Dragon’s Triangle. Two crewmen named Reyes and Jonah take Lara’s side and state that the place Dr. Whitman wishes to go has been searched over several times. Alex, who appears to be the tech savvy crewman shows a satellite feed of the Dragon’s Triangle showing constant storms in the area, to which the navigator Grim speaks up stating he has confidence he can sail anywhere that has water. Lastly we are introduced to Captain Roth who states the he always goes along with Lara and he decides they’re going to Dragon’s Triangle.

Sam’s documentary of the expedition

After watching the recording, Lara decides she needs to have a look around. As she presses forward she finds an abandoned shack that’s locked up. Near the shack is a skeleton hanging from a tree with a bow around its neck. Lara climbs up to retrieve the bow, and decides she must use it to hunt the nearby wildlife for food. After hunting a deer, Lara returns to the campfire to eat and the game introduces the concept of spending skill points on perks. After selecting a perk, Lara receives a transmission on the radio from Captain Roth. Based on the conversation they have, it seems Roth and Lara have a lot of history on past expeditions, and he helps to calm her nerves and encourages her to push forwards so that they can find each other. Lara then hears music in the distance and decides to follow it back to the shack which now has its door wide open. Investigating further, the shack is completely empty except for a trapdoor where the music is coming from. As she climbs down, Lara comments on how this is a mistake which shows how rightfully fearful she is of the situation. Below the trapdoors is a small maintenance tunnel covered in symbols drawn on the walls. The tunnel leads to a small room filled with raw meat, a locked door, a record player that is left playing, and a meat hook axe in a large piece of meat. Lara takes the axe and uses it to open the locked door and proceed further.

A weapon for hunting and defense

The other side of the tunnel leads to an open outside area where you hear the voice of Sam speaking with someone. You turn the corner to find Sam sitting with a man who introduces himself as Mathias claiming he is a teacher who is also a survivor on this island. Sam begins to tell Mathias about why they came here and the tale of Queen Himiko as Lara begins to collapse and fall asleep from exhaustion. When she wakes up, Sam and Mathias are gone. As she goes to look for them, Lara steps in a bear trap and is accosted by a pack of wolves who she must fight off with her bow. Dr. Whitman, Reyes, Grim, Jonah, and Alex find Lara and help her out of the bear trap. Lara tells them of Sam and Mathias and they decide to split up. Reyes, Grim, Jonah, and Alex go in search of Sam and Mathias while they leave Dr. Whitman with a pistol to escort Lara to Captain Roth.

Dr. Whitman nervously states that he plans to go on ahead to investigate, and Lara follows behind soon after. Dr. Whitman finds a large door with more symbols on it and Lara notes that they look like they were made recently. Dr. Whitman needs Lara’s help to open the door, so we are introduced to the concept of spending salvage points gained through investigating objects to upgrade equipment. Lara upgrades her axe to use it as a lever to open the gate and continue further.

Coastal Forest Thoughts

This chapter introduced a lot of new concepts and mechanics that made the game a bit more complex and in depth. I ended up spending my skill points on Arrow Retrieval which allows me to get arrows back from corpses and Survivalist which grants more xp for checking animal corpses and food caches. The hunting is fairly easy to adjust to and pretty satisfying to pull off (even though as an animal lover it does hurt a bit to hunt animals in a game.) I also began to find some collectibles including cultural items and diary entries. Although the game appears to be fairly linear from what I can tell, so getting all of the collectibles is likely something that won’t happen on a first playthough. Though I could be wrong and the game could open up to being completely open world towards the end, but it doesn’t seem that way right now. After meeting with Dr. Whitman, the game does allow for a bit of exploration to find hidden things, salvage, and even a DLC tomb which grants a skill point for solving the puzzle, however there was another section that was blocked off as it stated that I did not have the proper equipment to continue. There were also some of the first real combat situations outside of quicktime events in this section which introduced the concept of attempting to aim quickly while dodging attacks.

Mountain Temple Recap

After going through the gate with Dr. Whitman, he seems extremely excited as the images on the walls seem to depict Queen Himiko which tells him that Lara was correct in searching the Dragon’s Triangle. However, Lara seems more focused on surviving and leaving the island safety than Dr. Whitman. Soon, they are both accosted by a group of Russian men. Dr. Whitman gives up and puts his pistol down advising Lara to just go along with them, but Lara believes they can’t be trusted. Sure enough, she was correct as the Russian men capture them both and tie them up. They’re told to stay there while the men attempt to capture the rest of the survivors.

Lara sneaking around as the Russian men search for her

As soon as the men leave, Lara begins to sneak behind low walls as she makes her way up the mountain. Eventually she hides in a ruined house as some men pass by. One of the men finds her and pulls her out and she must complete a few quicktime events to kick him off, grab his gun, and kill him. Lara is visibly disturbed having just taken a life, but continues to climb the mountain now with a bow and a pistol. At this point you can choose to climb the mountain stealthily or shoot your way out which is much more difficult to pull off. As she climbs, Captain Roth contacts her via radio to check where the fire is coming from. Lara updates him and confides that she had to kill someone. He expresses condolences saying it couldn’t have been easy, to which Lara states that what scares her most is how easy it was. Upon reaching the top, Lara finds Captain Roth fighting off a couple of wolves. After killing them, he is revealed to have greatly injured his leg. He tells Lara that the wolves made off with his food pack which has his GPS as well as medical supplies. Shortly after he passes out from pain, leaving Lara to find the food pack herself.

A quicktime event sequence where Lara must kill to survive

Mountain Temple Thoughts

This segment introduces another few concepts to the game including stealth, guns, and firefights. When near enemies and a low wall/object, Lara will automatically take cover which is incredibly useful and leaves one less thing to think about. The bow is completely silent and enemies can’t immediately determine where an arrow was shot from. Guns do much more damage and can be fired at a higher rate, but will immediately give away your position. The bow can even create distractions by shooting a nearby wall. There is also an option to stealth kill opponents by sneaking up behind them. Firefights are incredibly dangerous as you’ll take damage very quickly and it becomes very hard to aim as you’re getting shot. You also can’t hide behind some cover forever, as some enemies will set fire to your cover. I also found a collectible during this segment that caught my attention as it was a diary entry belonging to one of the Russian men. The entry stated that when they washed ashore on this island, they were met with a man who called himself “Father Mathias” who offered them the choice of salvation or death. When anyone refused Mathias, he killed them without hesitation. He was described as being cold and calculating, which stirs up some foreshadowing to the future of the story.

Final Thoughts

The dark and grim elements of the game set a very good tone for the survivalist aspect of it. Failing the quicktime events leads to a very gruesome looking death which can be a bit much for some gamers, though it doesn’t get too ugly. A lot of the mechanics are very forgiving and easy to get used to. Lara is also not depicted as the hardcore action hero in this game as she may often otherwise be portrayed. In fact, it seems throughout the game she has some of the worst luck in existence with one bad situation happening after another. Her fear and anxiety make her a very relatable character. The fact that the game starts off right away in the action is great and it immediately immerses you into it. After finding the collectible that talked about Father Mathias I find myself much more intrigued into the story of what exactly is going on in this island and what twists the future may bring. I also find myself suspicious of Dr. Whitman wondering if he knows a bit more about what’s going on then what we’re led to believe. I also feel that having Sam as a descendant of Queen Himiko can lead to some implications about her part in the plot as she may end up the object of worship among the people on this island. I’m very excited to continue further!

Next week I’ll be tackling the Mountain Village and Base Approach, so if you want to play alongside me that’s as far as I’ll be going till next Saturday. And if you want to purchase the game for yourself, you can buy it on Humble Bundle here where a portion of your payment will go to charity and another portion will help support me (as of the time of this article, the game is 80% off for the next 5 days.) Also, if you have a suggestion for another game you’d like to see done in the Game Diary, please comment your suggestions below. I may or may not accept all requests, but the game you suggest could be my next. The general rules are as follows:

  • The game cannot be too long
  • The game must have a clear ending
  • The game must have intrigue beyond gameplay (i.e. Match 3 games won’t work out)
  • It must be a game I’ve never played before (No real way to tell without suggesting it first though!)

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