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“I finally feel a sense of purpose again, like I’m doing what I was meant to do!” says Lara Croft in the recent trailers for Rise of the Tomb Raider.
There’s a deep meaning to these words that extends beyond the game’s story; Lara Croft is going back in to the tomb raiding business just like the old days. She isn’t just trying to survive and escape the dangerous island of Yamatai anymore – in her latest adventure Lara has put herself in these situations with a purpose. To us, Lara is starting to become who she once was again. Come Winter some of us (I’m still not happy about this Xbox One exclusivity) will find out what kind of a person Lara has become since her last adventure, what has stuck with her and what her new purpose is.
In the recently released gameplay footage we see how Rise of the Tomb Raider plays in a very similar way to its predecessor, however this time Lara has changed and evolved. She has sharped her combat, acrobatic and survival skills; she leaps through tree tops to sneak up on her enemies, uses her resourcefulness to create more deadly arrows for her now trademark bow and crafts healing items using the world around her.
Stealth and acrobatic elements, alternate ammo for weapons and a supply of healing items, not to mention a new intricate inventory all harken back to the Tomb Raiders of old – all of these elements have been seen before, but that goes to show Lara is slowly becoming the person we know she can be.
However new limitations such as a weapon loadout preventLara from becoming a one woman armoury. A much more vulnerable Lara without the protection of a lengthy health bar and more grueling fights that see her take down a bear with a bit more than a scratch create a more believable experience. This truly is Tomb Raider re-imagined, and whether or not it will reconnect to the previous continuity is yet to be seen.
What’s truly different this time around is Lara herself. From 1996 to 2015, Lara has be re-designed time and time again. In 2006 Crystal Dynamics arrived and gave the iconic adventurer a re-boot and emotions. They created a trilogy which saw Lara go in search of clues to her mother’s disappearance, while in previous games we knew only that Lara’s parents were dead and left it at that. This even included a re-imagining of the game that introduced us to Lady Croft with a slight change up to incorporate the new story. Crystal Dynamic’s first Lara showed a level of emotion and purpose that we hadn’t seen from her before, creating a much more endearing character.
With 2009’s Tomb Raider Crystal Dynamics went further and added vulnerability and fear, emotions Lara had never shown before, along with a whole lot of drive and ambition. Lara wasn’t just seeking artifacts and tombs to raid, she even claimed to hate tombs, a shock to all of us. Lara had the ambition to become an adventurer, and Yamatai gave her the drive and the skills to survive. Rise of the Tomb Raider will see Lara put the skills to use with intention.
“The extraordinary is in what we do, not who we are,” said the new, young Lara back then. This Lara set out to prove to us that she deserved the title of Tomb Raider, through a hard fought battle. She isn’t extraordinary because she’s Lara Croft; Lara Croft is extraordinary because of what she can do, and the limits she can push herself to with the drive of her ambitions. You could even say this translated in to the success of the reboot; Lara Croft had battled against the odds, against two continuities that had become stale, and she still came out on top.
Lara did the extraordinary back in 1996 too by becoming one of the first prominent leading female characters in video gaming. It’s unfortunate that this Lara became a sex symbol, rather than the symbol of female empowerment that she should have been, due to some proportioning issues.
Now, Crystal Dynamics are beginning to rectify the past. They proved that Lara could become extraordinary again, not through her name alone but through what could be done with her character, what could be proved to the fan base her past had accumulated. Not only is she more believable these days as someone that bears a personality, with emotions and morals to boot, but she has the look of a real human being to go with it.
In their latest development video Crystal Dynamics have shown how they have developed Lara to look more realistic than ever, without selling her through sex appeal. Unlike Lara back in 1996, Lara in 2015 has imperfections – scars from her previous adventure, she picks up mud and blood along her travels. She even has pores!
But to say the current Lara Croft has abandoned her appeal is false – This is the most beautiful Lara ever. Forget a stick thin waist and large chest, she’s human now and all the more gorgeous for it. This is Lara as she should have always been, a symbol of strength and beauty, not just sexual fantasy. As someone that grew up with this character without ever really seeing her sex appeal, I find myself much more engaged in her adventures into becoming human like me. I can finally relate to the character that has been so close to my heart all these years.
The words of the famous explorer ring true – Lara Croft is extraordinary not because of who she was, but because of what she can do and who she can become. She now stands as the symbol of female empowerment she was always supposed to be. That title of Tomb Raider has truly been earned.
You may not have convinced me to splash out on an Xbox One, but you have shown me that the franchise is in good hands. Bravo, Crystal Dynamics.