This past week, I’ve been playing a whole lot of Crystal Dynamics’ new-to-PC, Rise of the Tomb Raider.
As an overall experience, it’s been solid, but there’s one particular element of ROTTR’s design, which I’ve utterly adored – crafting new outfits and gear.
Call me superficial, but I’ve loved changing Lara’s look over the course of the game, and the scope for evolving her arsenal and ensemble in Rise has been brilliant.
The prospect of a new outfit or some improvised padding on a rifle stock, was all the incentive I needed to enthusiastically carve up the game’s fauna for resources. And where normally I’d be apathetic towards work-shy quest givers, they only needed to hint at a cosmetic reward before I’d send Ms Croft sprinting across the tundra towards her new objective.
Why? Well although there are gameplay benefits to certain costumes and weapon mods; incrementally changing Lara’s appearance over the course of Rise really helped tell her story.
As I approached Tomb Raider’s finale, I appreciated being able to compare her end-game getup to her starting civvies. The red parka had been swapped out for a Siberian Ranger’s uniform, the mountaineering gear replaced with handguns, rifles and shotguns – each modified for grizzly practicality. And of course, Lara herself looked like she’d been through some serious shit.
Bloodied, muddied and scarred, there was evidence of her adventure everywhere; and each aesthetic change and tweak served as a reminder of what she’d been through.
In getting to decide what gear she crafted and equipped, as I player I felt personally responsible for how much of a badass she looked by the game’s end. The system rewarded my exploration and resource gathering with a real sense of ownership, and provided me with a visual reminder of my in-game achievements.
It’s a simple, but psychologically gratifying design element that I really wish more titles in the genre would adopt.
Well done, Crystal Dynamics. This is the coolest Lara’s looked in years.