With Uncharted Gone, Tomb Raider Can Finally Step Out of Its Shadow

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Huge Opportunity For Next Tomb Raider!

Story Highlights
  • Tomb Raider has failed to step out of Uncharted’s shadow in the modern age.
  • With a clean slate and the conclusion of Uncharted, Crystal Dynamics has the ability to finally break away from these comparisons.
  • A balance between modern and classic gameplay could be the answer to redeeming this franchise.

Elaborate climbing sections, heart-pumping action sequences, memorable stories, and witty dialogue. What gaming franchise comes to your mind when these elements are put together?

There’s a good chance you thought of Uncharted, even though another franchise has always grappled with the weight of crafting a similar experience. Since 2013, Tomb Raider has lived in the shadow of Naughty Dog’s work.

A series that started as a revolutionary 3D action platformer has been dubbed an Uncharted clone over the last decade. However, with Naughty Dog moving on from this IP, the stage has been set for Tomb Raider to redeem itself.

Why it matters: The next Tomb Raider game is currently in development. With Amazon’s backing and the use of Unreal Engine 5, there is certainly reason to be excited.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
The Tomb Raider Trilogy Was Rebooted In 2013

Poor Man’s Uncharted

It is hard to deny the similarities between Uncharted and Tomb Raider today. There’s a reason Lara Croft mods work so well in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. Quite ironically, however, Uncharted itself was considered a Tomb Raider derivative at one point.

Having played through Crystal Dynamics’ reboots, I don’t necessarily mind the modern direction. Yet, in all its efforts to emulate Naughty Dog’s success, the series lacks Uncharted’s charm, narrative finesse, and signature polish.

Lara Croft’s movements are stiff, the action set pieces less impressive, and the characters, apart from Lara, are all but forgettable. There is an argument to be made for series identity and how modern Tomb Raider foregoes its fundamentals for a more mainstream experience.

The recent trilogy is solid, but compared to what Naughty Dog achieved with Uncharted, it is hard to gloss over the IP’s shortcomings. However, with no direct competition, Tomb Raider is free to spread its wings and soar without any existing expectations.

Crystal Dynamics no longer needs to abide by the mainstream perception of what a game about exploring ancient ruins and finding lost treasures needs to be. Instead, the team can craft its own identity, with Naughty Dog practically leaving an open canvas for the team.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider Unreal Engine 5
Lara Croft Might Need To Return To Her Roots For The Future

An Identity Crisis

Tomb Raider was never as action-focused as the modern trilogy might lead you to believe. Sure, Lara Croft always had access to weapons like her signature dual pistols, but the original games never made her appear larger than life.

Exploring the carefully laid out terrain of the many diverse locations was the real draw. Whether it be the scorching hot lava of Natla’s mines or the Cistern’s crocodile-ridden maze-like layout, each level invited exploration.

While Crystal Dynamics did not leave out these elements for the modern trilogy, they were few and far between. The trilogy placed far more emphasis on high-octane action, cover-based gameplay, and cutscene-heavy stories.

In my opinion, MachineGames has already solved Tomb Raider’s biggest problem. Indiana Jones and The Great Circle, initially thought to be this team’s take on Uncharted, immediately sets itself apart thanks to a vastly different combat system, first-person gameplay, and more.

Crystal Dynamics can take a page out of MachineGames’ book and follow a similar approach. Crafting mechanics that balance past and present Tomb Raider design, Lara Croft can finally emerge from Uncharted’s shadow.

This would also be thematically consistent since the next game is said to bridge the gap between classic and reboot timelines.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
The Environment Is Your Biggest Ally In Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Future Direction?

Perhaps toning down the action might be a good starting point. I particularly enjoyed simple ideas like using walls shrouded in leaves to blend into the environment in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

The extensive stealth focus in the last game was another welcome change.

I also want to see an experienced Lara Croft from the beginning. Over the last decade, the character went on a journey of self-discovery and matured significantly, yet she was never able to live up to her confident original version.

I don’t lack faith in Crystal Dynamics as a team. However, I only hope the developer is prepared to leave the Uncharted-like template behind since there may never be another opportunity this big to redeem the series again.

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