It likely comes as no surprise to anyone who actually reads this and my Twitter feed that I really, really, really like the new Rise of the Tomb Raider. A lot. So much so that I was already blathering about it on social media at five minutes in, which is about how far I got before contacting some very nice people whom I owe a book chapter to ask them if I could write on the new game instead of Tomb Raider (2013).
Naturally, this means that I’m doing an As-I-Play series on it at The Learned Fangirl, and Part One is up today. There has been some internet “controversy” on the game–I put “controversy” in scare quotes because I hardly consider accusing the development team of being “feminist” as controversial–and its politics, and those politics are a part of why I really do love this game SO MUCH.
Rise of the Tomb Raider is unabashedly political, unabashedly critical, and unabashedly brilliant. All this is not to say that it doesn’t have its flaws–of course it does–and those are things I will talk about, here, at TLF, and in print (provided nice people will let me). This morning, Gameranx posted an article stating that “Rise of the Tomb Raider director Brian Horton is undisputably proud of Crystal Dynamics latest creation. Unfortunately for him, fans haven’t been kind, due to the Xbox exclusivity clause, but Brian isn’t afraid to answer back.” The whole premise of the article is that a poor choice was made in making the game an Xbox exclusive and that sales numbers are low… which as absolutely nothing to do with whether or not a team ought to be proud of the content it has produced.
Was it a mistake to release an Xbox exclusive-first? Maybe. Was it a mistake to do so on the same day that Fallout 4 was released cross-platform? Absolutely. Do these decisions at all reflect the quality of the content of the game? Not even a little, so please, journalists, let’s divide poor release choices from whether or not a development team ought to be justifiably proud of the kick-a** game they produced.
And it is kick-a**. Now, a reader of this post ought to remember that my definitions of “kick-a**” might be a bit different from those of the average gamer. I love it when my games are political. I love it when my games are in-your-face about making a statement about the world, and I love it more when they do it without beating it into your head with a spiked club (I’m looking at you, BioShock Infinite).
I am not a connoisseur of shooter mechanics. I do very much enjoy sniping with a bow, mind you, which makes Rise of the Tomb Raider my kind of game, but if you’re into hardcore shooters, I rather doubt this is your kind of game. I also enjoy puzzles, and this has a couple confusing ones. It also has jumping challenges, and I am not a fan of those, but I’m willing to deal with them for the sake of the rest of the game. My point, however, is that I don’t play games for their gameplay first. I enjoy the gameplay as a vehicle for the rest of the game–narrative, art, and social commentary. If you like gameplay first and above all other things, maybe you would enjoy the game less, but it’s certainly more varied and interesting than, say, the gameplay in Dragon Age (and I love Dragon Age), so I’d argue that it has that going for it, too.
In short, this post is about the only one anyone will get without heavy spoilers trying to explain to you why Rise of the Tomb Raider is so damn amazing. The As-I-Plays will be nothing but spoilers, so consider yourselves forewarned–but trust me, this game is one you want to play.