Lara Croft and her Tomb Raider games have always been under some degree of scrutiny: whether it was what got her attention in the first place, the quality of her games, or the fact that, to this day, her releases have almost always been up against some stiff competition. From the time her character was conceived, she has always faced some kind of adversity in the mainstream spotlight. With the latest release in the franchise, she has to rise up to, perhaps, her greatest challenge yet: being released in very close proximity to the hype train arrival that is the release of Fallout 4. Love it or hate it, Fallout has been a show stopper and this game has been stopping hearts ever since its formal announcement.
Not So Humble Beginnings
Starting out as a kind of gender flip of Indiana Jones, Lara Croft was one of those weird characters where you could tell many different people were involved in her creation: you could tell some were interested in creating a powerful, influential female, you could see that some were interested in creating sex appeal, you could see that some really had no idea what they were doing. Even one of Lara’s more… stand out features… that being her bust line… was, apparently, a complete mistake that stuck. What resulted was something of a mishmash that sold units regardless and it seems that Lara was one of those characters that started out without a stable foundation but people found value in it so her creators built on it anyway. It was bound to collapse someday and collapse it did.
As games in the franchise released, it was hard to tell if Eidos and the gang were serious about the franchise’s direction as things just seemed… lost, most times, as a lot of novelty franchises were. The reasons the franchise seemed to hold on, though, was due to the fact that Lara as a character stole the show and often shined through some otherwise dull or bland games.
It wasn’t until, in my humble opinion, the Tomb Raider movies were released that the character had totally imploded and started floundering to stay relevant. Angelina Jolie was cast as a stand in for what could have easily been a Chronicle of Riddick sequel that didn’t really wow anyone or do anything but get some people’s hopes up and fail them miserably. Angelina didn’t really bring any personality to the role and proved, once again, that it was very clear that it was sex appeal that was selling this character to the masses and, by proxy, the games she was starring in. I think it was by this point that people started catching on to this and the franchise kind of struggled to stay relevant.
Redefining the Tomb Raider
For a while, the effort was made to redefine the character but it wasn’t until the complete reboot of the character and the franchise in 2013 that Lara and the franchise got the attention it deserved: finally, Lara Croft was this character you could easily relate to, with a great game built around her, that respected not only the intentions for the franchise’s roots and the players who have been along for the ride but also respect for what they intended in the first place. 2013’s Tomb Raider was met with great success and players were treated to a lot more than an insufferable platformer with broken combat and needlessly difficult puzzles: we were treated to a fleshed out character with a great story that set the stage for awesome combat and platforming segments. It felt way more real than anything the franchise has ever seen.
Fast forward to Rise of the Tomb Raider and the hype has already built up a little pending the game’s announcement: will it live up to the last game? Will it build on that game’s success and revive this franchise into something way better than it ever was? Things were looking very good until Fallout 4 was also announced as being released extremely close in proximity to it. While they were very different games in spirit, many feared that Fallout‘s hype alone would overshadow the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider. They were completely wrong.
You see, Tomb Raider has almost entirely been fighting to be taken seriously: Lara’s chest was too big, her clothes were too revealing, her personality was shallow and sassy, her games were shallow and uninspired, she’d always controlled clunky and looked fairly awful, among other criticisms the games have always faced. By proxy, Lara faced these consequences, too, and in seeing her become this powerful, empathetic, and inspiring character that she is today explains exactly why I think a lot of people who were interested in Rise of the Tomb Raider didn’t let Fallout overshadow her. Lara had always been in a world of her own and now she was finally making it.
Under enough pressure, even coal can become a diamond: Tomb Raider is no different from this and it’s great to see that she’s able to stand with one of the most hyped releases in recent memory for more factors than her sizeable assets.