The young archaeologist Lara Croft is traveling on the ship Endurance together with a crew to locate the prehistoric Japanese kingdom of Yamatai and the secrets of the Sun Queen Himiko and her mystical powers. Against the group’s advice, Lara presses on to go to the Dragon’s Triangle, a location plagued by mysterious storms. When the ship is struck by one of the storms, everyone is stranded on a seemingly desolate island. Lara’s task is to bring the crew back together and find out more about the island. She has to fight off the Solarii, a cult led by a mysterious person who has taken an interest in Lara’s friend Samantha Nishimura.
Tomb Raider is the ninth game in the long-running series, serving as a complete reboot of the franchise and a prequel to it. Like the predecessors, it is an action-adventure game starring Lara Croft. Compared to previous entries, the gameplay has a number of differences. There is much more focus on stringing together stylized action sequences that involve shootouts and escaping through a crumbling environment, similar to the Uncharted series, and combat against human enemies. Animals are still present, but as a minor threat and largely to be hunted. The puzzle-solving object of moving objects to create paths to progress is toned down severely. Puzzles are still present, but mostly confined to using various tools on pre-determined objects. Optional areas can be discovered and accessed, but exploration is only possible within a series of interconnected hubs that eventually provide linear progression rather than an open world of contemporary titles such as Far Cry 3.
Lara gets to explore the island in a linear fashion through different areas. There is always a direct goal to reach, but in the meantime some parts can be explored freely. There is a forest, different abandoned towns, bunkers, and large temples. Lara can climb, duck, hang from ledges, use an axe to move up rocks, construct and use zip lines, and more. Goals can be highlighted by activating instinct. It renders the entire environment in monochrome, but lights up important objects, enemies and the goal for the current location. Each hub area consists of one or more camp sites that act as checkpoints. These can be used to fast travel and to spend skill points or upgrade gear. The entire environment can also be viewed through a mini-map. Next to the main gameplay there are many scripted sequences involving quick time events where Lara swims down a stream, parachutes through trees, runs over crumbling bridges and escapes burning buildings. These often have different camera perspectives and require quick reflexes. There is no health bar, but the screen fades in shades of grey when Lara is hurt. When taking cover, health is restored automatically over time.
The action element is stronger in this title, and combat portions are much more extensive. Lara can wield various weapons such as a pistol, a shotgun and a rifle. Her most important weapon is the bow. It is used to attack from a distance, with optional flame arrows, but can also be used to distract enemies and construct makeshift bridges. There is a cover mechanic used for stealth and activated automatically when near to an object. The many opponents can be taken out from a distance, targeting specific body parts, or from up close with melee attacks and finishers. Opponents leave behind additional ammo. The different weapons can be upgraded at base camps along with various modifications. The resources for these are gathered through salvage, by looting enemies or locating crates in the environment. Experience points can be converted into skill points at base camps in three categories: Survivor, Hunter and Brawler, with different tiers for each. Upgraded weapons provide new and better options and the same goes for skills. Lara for instance learns how to dodge attacks, spot objects in the environment, or distract opponents with sand. She also has a torch to lighten up dark environments and fire plays an important role in some of the puzzles.
There is a large amount of optional treasure hunting. Each area contains a number of documents, relics and GPS caches than can be discovered for additional experience points. There are also separate challenges for each area such as burning flags, stealing eggs or destroying specific objects. Completion progress can be tracked in the map screen. Later on, by using instinct and a high tier of survivor skills, spotting hidden objects becomes easier. True to the series’ origins, there is a number of optional, isolated tombs that resemble those of the earlier games. These separate locations are set in a small, closed environments and require more puzzle-solving than usual to locate and steal the treasure.
Online multiplayer for up to eight players is present with different characters to choose from. There is an overall experience system where leveling up is rewarded with new weapons and skills. Before each game a load-out can be defined through different elements. Next to free-for-all and team deathmatch, it includes the team-based modes Rescue and Cry for Help. They pit the Survivors against Scavengers. In Cry for Help the Survivors need to activate radio transmitters scattered around the map and keep them online, while the Solarii disrupt the process and need to steal batteries. In Rescue the Survivors gather medical supplies while the Solarii attempt to stop them.