Tomb Raider Explained

Posted by | November 01, 2013 | Game Library | 3 Comments
Tomb RaiderSource: nixxes.com
Tomb Raider is a series of action-adventure games, and one of the most famous game-based franchises in the world. The series features an iconic female hero, mystical enemies to fight, and lots of puzzles.

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Sex, Drugs & Rock n’ Roll

Violence: The Tomb Raider games all involve some degree of violence, usually shooting. Lara faces off against lots of enemies, sometimes human, sometimes supernatural or animal. She uses a variety of weapons—traditionally guns, but sometimes melee weapons like spears—or, more creatively, she will turn the environment against her foes. Traditionally the violence in Tomb Raider games is appropriate for teenagers—the remake of the original Tomb Raider, for example, has no blood. But the most recent Tomb Raider game received an M rating for graphic violence and gore.

Scary Imagery: In older Tomb Raider games there are some jump scares, and there are often bodies lying around—though not in a gory state. The latest Tomb Raider game takes things up a notch, with a river of blood, body parts strewn all over the ground, and Lara in an isolated and increasingly desperate situation, fighting for her life.

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Sexual Content: Tomb Raider is famous for Lara Croft’s voluptuous figure, and for camera angles that swing around at opportune times to catch close-ups of her chest or rear. In the newest game this is no longer an issue—Lara has been reimagined with a realistic body, and the camera doesn’t objectify her. In one scene, an enemy touches her waist suggestively, but there is no further sexual action.

Strong Language: The latest Tomb Raider contains strong adult language, which is used throughout the game. Older Tomb Raider games only include minor cursing, like “damn” and “hell.”

Substance Use: There is a brief mention of cigarettes in the newest Tomb Raider game.

Nudity and Costuming: In older games, Lara wears a tight tank top and short shorts. The new game has, again, changed things considerably. Lara has a realistic body and isn’t sexualized by her clothing.

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Player Interaction: The latest Tomb Raider game offers multiplayer, so parents should be cautious about how kids interact with others online.

Save Points

In the latest Tomb Raider game there are autosave points, as well as the option to save any time as long as the player is out of combat.

Story & Themes

Lara Croft has been around since 1996, as an archaeologist and explorer who specializes in mythical objects—like Thor’s hammer or relics of Atlantis. Traditionally Lara uses guns, agility, and puzzle-solving skills to evade enemies and dangerous animals. The games usually have a supernatural element, and Lara will not only fight nefarious parties who want the artifacts for themselves, but also mystical enemies—for example, in the first game she fights an army of mutants and a revived ancient Atlantean ruler.

Along the way she explores lots of tombs—the games have heavy platformer elements, with Lara needing to climb and run and jump to reach her goals.

From 1996 to 2003, Core Design released a Tomb Raider game every year before finally laying the franchise to rest after declining ratings. The series was rebooted for the first time in 2006 by Crystal Dynamics, which received a lot of praise for bringing the First Lady of Video Games back to the screen. Crystal Dynamics made a trilogy of Tomb Raider games, including a remake of the original Tomb Raider, now titled Tomb Raider: Anniversary. Along with Tomb Raider: Legend and Tomb Raider: Underworld, the trilogy wove the story of Lara’s broken family into the fight against Lara’s nemeses who want to control magical artifacts for themselves.

Tomb Raider: Legend pitted Lara against an old school friend, Amanda Evert, who holds a grudge against her and, as Lara finds out, was involved in the disappearance of Lara’s mother years before. Tomb Raider: Underworld picks up right where Legend left off, and reintroduces arch-nemesis Jacqueline Natla, the aforementioned Atlantean ruler and primary villain of Tomb Raider: Anniversary.

In 2010 a new Tomb Raider game, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, was released. It featured Lara teaming up with an ancient Mayan warrior to stop darkness from taking over the world. The game was well received but didn’t become the series that Crystal Dynamics had planned.

However, the decision to reboot the franchise again had already been made—this time starting from before Lara became the strong, skilled explorer that fans were familiar with.

The 2013 reboot sees Lara as a college student on an archaeological expedition off the coast of Japan. She and her colleagues get shipwrecked and discover that the island they are on is not uninhabited—in fact, it is under the control of a group called the Solarii, who worship and are trying to resurrect a Japanese queen named Himiko. Her friend Samantha Nishimura gets kidnapped by the Solarii, who believe that she is their reincarnated queen.

Lara goes through hell trying to survive on the island, find help, and rescue her friends from the Solarii. The player sees her grow from a vulnerable character into a hardened survivor. Lara goes through the usual puzzles, tombs, and obstacles—while also brutalizing a lot of Solarii who want to hurt her. It’s definitely a violent experience, but it’s a meaningful one in a world where women are often painted as victims. Lara is in a position where she could become a victim, but she claws her way to a position where she is the one that the Solarii are frightened of.

Unlike many other series, Tomb Raider has a strong focus on female relationships—whether it’s the enmity between Lara and Jacqueline Natla, or the friendship between Lara and Sam. There have been many critiques of Lara as a character, with some people arguing that she’s just eye candy and others arguing that she is a feminist icon. It is inarguable, however, that she is an important figure in the game world, historically as well as currently, and Lara has been a source of strength for many people.

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The latest Tomb Raider reinforces themes of strength, growth, and loyalty. It is extremely violent, but it has a story to tell and a stellar female protagonist.

The Creators

Tomb Raider was first developed by British company Core Design—now defunct. Crystal Dynamics has been in charge of the series since 2006, and both developers are under the publishing umbrella of Eidos Interactive, another British company. Eidos is now owned by Square Enix.

Controversies

Tomb Raider is one of the few game franchises that feature a female protagonist. Lara Croft has been a powerful explorer for many years, but many people object to the way that she is portrayed physically—with her famously oversized chest, and the camera movements that track her rear rather than her movements. The new Tomb Raider game released in 2013 shifted away from those elements, but was still subject to some controversy.

In one interview, studio manager Darrell Gallagher implied that there was a rape scene in Tomb Raider; many people objected to this, leading the studio to release a statement saying that sexual assault was not part of the game. In the end it was revealed that Gallagher had misspoken. The scene in question is extremely violent, but there is no point at which Lara is sexually assaulted

Conversation Starters

Tomb Raider is a long-lasting franchise that has been given new life with a gritty reboot. The design and character choices that went into the new game reflect a changing attitude towards female characters in games, as well as towards games themselves.

  • Lara Croft goes through a lot of struggles and failures in the 2013 Tomb Raider. Does her struggle make you empathize more with her? Do you feel like she gains strength from failure?
  • Lara has a strong friendship with her female friend Sam Nishimura. Do you often see friendships like this represented in media? Does Sam and Lara’s friendship improve the story?
  • The 2013 Tomb Raider is incredibly violent. What does that do for the story? Do you feel that that level of gore helps or hinders the game?
  • If you’ve played any other Tomb Raider games, does Lara’s makeover (smaller chest, less revealing clothing, younger age) change what you feel about the character?
  • Tomb Raider is a lot more realistic-looking than its predecessors. It’s also a lot bloodier. Do you think that level of blood is realistic? Should games with lots of killing have lots of blood just to be realistic?

Simone de Rochefort

About Simone de Rochefort

Simone de Rochefort is a game journalist, writer, podcast host, and video producer who does a prolific amount of Stuff. You can find her on Twitter @doomquasar, and hear her weekly on tech podcast Rocket, as well as Pixelkin's Gaming With the Moms podcast. With Pixelkin she produces video content and devotes herself to Skylanders with terrifying abandon.