I’ve been playing an array of games in the last 4 months. Games like Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, Mad Max, Black Ops III, and Metal Gear Solid V. None of them have reached the level of synchronicity and immersion that I like in a game. Then I started playing the latest Tomb Raider and I couldn’t let go. Rise of the Tomb Raider is like a good book you can’t stop reading.
First, the tweaking process to synchronize the player’s mental model with the game controls was smooth and fun. The game does a good job at making sure the players learn the controls and Lara’s limitations with the environment in a progressive manner. The consistency in the affordances of the path/objects, the camera angles, and the hints on how to interact with the environment assisted the player into being Lara. I was concerned with the hints at some point, thinking that maybe that would negatively impact my immersion but it did not happen. There was a point in my experience in which I would do the action before the hint appeared or “maybe” I learned to ignore it.
Feeling that I had control over my character helped with game immersion. As a player, I felt that I knew how to move without feeling clumsy. Lara’s movement was exactly how I calculated it. However, it’s not just about movement and enemy encounters, it’s also about interesting narrative and exploration. It is an action-adventure game, so good story-telling and exploration are key aspects.
Rise of Tomb Raider makes exploration part of the general game progression even when it’s not needed to continue with the main storyline. In other words, an area may not be completed (100%) until you have done everything but you can still move on with the story. Seeing how close I was to 80% in many areas, encouraged me to get a higher percent. On the other hand, completing those challenges and exploring caves, crypts, and tombs gives the player a sense of achievement throughout the game. The sounds of Unlocking a weapon or skills were the sounds of instant-gratification.
Playing Rise of the Tomb Raider was fun at so many levels, from completing menial challenges to understanding and finishing the main storyline. I was also amazed by the little things like the movement of Lara’s hair and her shivering from the cold. This game made me feel guilty when Lara was not wearing a snow jacket! Which was not part of the game mechanic because she will still shiver in the cold no matter what.
Hopefully, this game gets the awards even when it’s an Xbox exclusive (and now, on PC/Steam). It’s an excellent game.