Rise of the Tomb Raider is second only to Halo 5: Guardians as the most anticipated game for the Xbox One. Set to release this holiday season, I had the opportunity to see a live gameplay demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider at Day One of E3 2015. The demo was set immediately after the footage shown at Microsoft’s E3 2015 Briefing. You can watch it here. No photography was allowed during the demo. This is what I saw:
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s E3 demo was all about survival. How Lara survived her first adventure in 2013’s Tomb Raider, and how she continues to survive new environments and threats in this latest installment into the series. Set some time after the events of the previous game, Lara now finds herself in search of a Lost City hidden somewhere deep within Siberia. She has grown tougher and more confident since we last saw her, which is good thing because the freezing cold of the Arctic would make short work of a lesser adventurer. Separated from her companion, Jonah, I saw Lara build a camp fire to provide her with warmth and a safe place to rest. In searching for the necessary supplies to build this fire, I was introduced to Rise of the Tomb Raider’s refined crafting system. By scavenging or looting component parts, Lara can piece together useful items on the fly. The very first example I was shown involved some tree branches, a bit of cloth, and a few mushrooms. Able to combine these items anywhere and at any time, Lara was able to craft a new ammo type for her signature bow—poison arrows. I was assured that craftable ammunition and one-use items will markedly affect how players approach combat in Rise of the Tomb Raider and indeed, I got to see this in action.
Having rested for a short while, Lara continued through the demo—which sported some pretty incredible visuals that will even simulate snow accumulating on Lara’s body—before encountering an armed patrol huddled around a camp fire. How and why a group of mercenaries are stalking the Siberian wilderness isn’t known, but I was told that Lara isn’t the only party interested in finding the Lost City. This is when I saw the biggest change to Rise of the Tomb Raider’s combat—an increased emphasis on verticality and environment navigation. Lara is now able to climb up trees and scale other objects in her environment in a manner reminiscent of the Assassin’s Creed series, which is to say that doing so is fast and fluid. By quietly making her way up a tree and across several nearby branches, Lara was able to stealthily move into a more advantageous position with better sightlines. Lara fires an arrow away from the group of gunmen, drawing one away from the pack of four. While the others aren’t looking, she fires a single arrow into the lone merc, killing him instantly. Jumping down from her treetop perch, and looking a bit like Batman doing so, Lara rummages through the dead man’s belongings and finds a radio, which players will be able to use to call off reinforcements or distract nearby enemies, which will feature more advanced AI search and attack patterns this time around. In this case, Lara was able to distract the remaining mercenaries by turning the radio on and throwing into the nearby snow.As they coordinated their movements to investigate the commotion, Lara made her way through their little camp, picking up a small gasoline canister and combining it with some pieces of cloth to make an improvised explosive. Again, this was all done in-game, in real-time, similar to such crafting systems as those found in Dead Rising 3, or more recently, The Last of Us. You can imagine what happened next: Lara threw the explosive at the remaining mercenaries, killing them in a shower of flames that kicked up as much debris as it made a thundering sound. What I took away from this short scenario was 1) players will need to pay closer to attention to their surroundings than ever before and use it in creative ways to accomplish their goals 2) stealth is a much bigger component of this game than it was in the last 3) crafting items and upgrading weapons is crucial to success in Rise of the Tomb Raider. Coupled with a new environment traversal system that appears to open up the play space considerably and I think Rise of the Tomb Raider has the potential to present players with a new and tightly refined combat engine that is as much about stealth as it is hard-hitting combat.