Tomb Raider is a third person shooter/exploration game with intensely constructed set pieces that bear no impact or gravitas on actual gameplay. A reboot of the playstation hit where you played wisecracking Lara Croft, shooting tigers and raiding tombs, you now play a much somber character that needs to save her friends and escape an island by mowing down a bunch of guys and raiding a tomb here and there. I've never played Uncharted, but I feel that while the gameplay might be similar, the tone isn't.
After a brief introduction to the cast of characters, Lara is thrown into terrible injuries and is being all-around battered in the environment, rocks, wood, metal spikes through the abdomen, nothing is too good for the player. Sometimes the hits are so powerful that the screen blurs for a while, sometimes you just tumble around without consequences, sometimes you need to mash E To Not Die. When you're fighting enemies, the screen gets filled with strawberry jam until you rest a little behind a rock. I find this jarring, the game tries to make us care about the pitfalls of the character by having tons of terrible stuff happen to her, but it doesn't matter at all, I don't care if I fall down four stories into a ball of barbed wire because it has no impact on anything. I'm not saying I want a MGS3-style medicine system, but why not? That would've fitted with the kind of injuries you take and the survival theme of the game.
You'll also get plenty of sequence where you have to dodge hazards, either trees, rocks, walls, spikes, fires and the like. In these situations, if you fail to dodge the things, it's game over. They're the only times where the environment can actually hurt you, in all other cases, even if you're hanging by one hand on a precariously placed piece of wood at the top of a raging river with debris falling all around you, just press the W key to keep moving forward, nothing bad will ever happen to the character except if you fail a QTE. Why not have some skill involved in these sequences as well? Is the only thing that matters being that the scene looks cool? It's crazy how sometimes Lara will latch onto something like a magnet even tho I've jumped clearly on the wrong spot.
And this game is full of QTEs, sometimes it's E, sometimes it's F, sometimes it's SHIFT, sometimes it's alternating A and D. Why not put the key you have to push inside the timing circle? Not at the bottom of the screen where I'm not going to look while frantically trying to mash some keys? You always die in one hit if you miss a QTE and they're all very scripted to happen always at the same spot, the same way, so you usually just restart at them when you fail. It's annoying to see the same scene happen multiple times if you fail but they're mostly formalities, quick time events are a cheap way to stress the player and make him feel like he's accomplished something, I don't like them.
This game rewards stealth kills, sneaking around enemies so you're not noticed and silent takedowns. You get a bow that silently kills things, you have all the cover in the world to sneak around, and yet, I don't enjoy doing that. The only part of the game I snuck around was at the beginning when you have no choice but to do so; otherwise it's a game over. The enemies walked around in fixed patterns and I just moved around them. When I got weapons, I stopped caring and just shot everything down. You get a machinegun and a shotgun early on and it works just as well to blow everything to smithereens. The shooting is fairly decent and that was in my favor, maybe the game should force you a bit more to be stealthy if it wants players to stealth around, have some stealth challenges or a few one-hit-kills-if-you're-spotted moments here and there.
By using salvage found in the environment, you can upgrade your weapons, these upgrades vary from alt-fire modes, more ammo capacity, faster reloads, etc. Salvage is everywhere, in boxes, in animals, on slain enemies, you're rewarded for exploring with it. You can burn down nets to get boxes full of salvage, whenever you find tombs you get salvage at the end as a big reward, chests are hidden here and there... You also get exp from most things, but salvage is where it's at. You also find weapon-specific upgrade parts, if you get enough of them, your weapon will change and new upgrades will be unlocked. I liked these systems, they rewarded exploration on a otherwise linear level design.
Tomb Raider isn't an open world game. You can fast travel between campfires and the map is fairly big but most of the time you'll be in areas with one entrance and one exit and you'll need to navigate there. These areas can be as complex as villages with multiple levels where you'll need to use special abilities such as climbing on rocks or shooting rope to make bridges (reminding me a little of metroidvanias) to get there or simple corridors where enemies will pop out to be mowed down. Sometimes you'll find books and artifacts which you can inspect for more experience. Also included are actual tombs that you can raid, they're full of puzzles and I wish the whole game was about raiding these tombs, some kind of 3d puzzle platformer instead of a third person shooter.
The skill system isn't that great. You get experience for plenty of actions and then you can use skill points at campfires in either of the 3 available skill trees. The problem is that there are tiers of skills and to unlock the next tier, you need to take the vast majority (if not all) of the previous tier's skills. That means you can't really customize your Lara Croft the way you want to play the game. There should be more options, skills that vary to accommodate people wanting to play this stealthy, or shooty, or a mix of both. I like the 'survival' skills, but you still can't really customize your character because there are barely enough to get to the next tier, that's a bummer.
I liked Tomb Raider! The shooting is good, the limited amount of exploration feels rewarding and some of the upgrade mechanics are alright. I don't play much games like this and while I feel like set pieces are not good crutches for game play and good game systems, they're impressive from time to time. Of course, the fact that it's all scripted spectacle removes me completely from it, making me feel nothing but the desire to push 'UP' on my keyboard and wait for the big circle to appear with the prompt 'Press E To Not Die'