Lara Croft has been raiding tombs for more than 20 years — 1996, to be specific — and since then she's graced the silver screen and the pages of, well, tomes. But this latest iteration of the franchise is shaping up to be something truly special.
Two years after the first reboot was released in 2013, it had sold more than eight-and-a-half-million copies. It stands as the best-selling #TombRaider game to date, and even though its 2015 sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider has yet to break the two million mark, Square Enix and Microsoft were said to be pleased with the reception.
And they should be. They should be pleased with the reboot of the franchise as a whole. The games are fun and fast paced, they tell exciting stories grounded in savagery and mysticism, with environments that are beautiful.
But as a fan of both Tomb Raider and Uncharted, I realized that, especially seeing as the latter wrapped things up pretty finitely with what seemed like a logical conclusion in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End, I wanted more.
Of course, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy is on the way, but it won't be enough. While the game is sure to be compelling and Nadine and Chloe are both fantastic characters, they aren't Nate and Sully. They aren't Nate and Elena. They aren't even Nate and Sam.
Originally I believed my longing for an #Uncharted story was only to be sated by replaying the games until I'd memorized all the lines spit out by actors Nolan North, Richard McGonagle, Emily Rose and Troy Baker, or by writing a movie of my own that feels, even to me, like a ripoff of the franchise. But hey, most art is theft, right?
But then I had a thought. A thought that, at first, seemed a little bit silly — even to me. I love the new Tomb Raider games for so many reasons, but could they be better games?
Could Tomb Raider really learn anything from the "Dude Raider"? For my sake, and for the sake of the many disheartened fans of Uncharted, I pray that the answer is yes. I don't ask for much.
I don't want developer Crystal Dynamics to remove anything, but what I want, and what I know the developers are capable of, is just giving #LaraCroft someone to talk to while she gallivants through tombs and rescues her friends from certain death.
Was Nate ever alone? Of course. My favorite moment in the entire series comes when he wanders through the Rub' al Khali desert on his own. It showed me who Nathan was at his lowest moments. It showed me that he could truly survive when all of his bravado and wit had been stripped from him.
Lara Croft has already shown me, and anyone else who has played the games, that she's got the natural instinct to survive and prosper. What I want, and I hope that I'm not alone, is the Lara Croft that exists when she is with her closest companions.
With A Little Help From Her Friends
Crystal Dynamics doesn't have to recreate Sully, Elena, or give Lara a brother or sister out of the blue. That, by the way, would have been amazing to play alongside in the earlier games — I’m talking to you, Naughty Dog.
But what I would really love for the developers to do is give me more characters to care about.
I know that there is Jonah, and he's an excellent character. The relationship that he and Lara share is brilliant. But for the most part, he isn't in the games. He doesn't travel around with Lara while we play. He certainly experiences similar events as Lara, but he's never right there with her.
I stress again that I understand that #NathanDrake wasn't constantly chumming it up with Sully. My favorite game of the series is the third installment. And for the best parts of that game, he is on his own. I am talking about the cruise ship, falling out of the back of the cargo plane, and the aforementioned Rub' al Khali.
But Lara is always alone. She often insists that she's alone. The relationship that she has with her best friend Sam is probably my favorite one in the entire series, and yet it is only expanded on through cutscenes. And it works.
The player can understand why they’re friends, but if Sam were there alongside Lara with her camera while they search through the forest or the tombs, their relationship would become not only stronger, but deeper and far more fleshed out. Look no further than the relationship of Nathan and Elena, adventurer and camerawoman.
The friendship and romance of Nathan and Elena takes center stage in all the games. It evolves through both gameplay and cut scenes. And, even though it plays such a key part in the games, the games never suffer for it. They are only enhanced.
Lara Croft doesn't need a romantic interest. She just needs someone there alongside her to remind the player that she is afraid, that she is human, that she is more than the huntress defined by her actions after she was shipwrecked in Tomb Raider.
Lara is already a very deep character. Just imagine what it would be like if we truly were able to see inside her head. If we got constant reminders that what we're playing through is quite literally the unbelievable tale of an archaeologist, fresh out of college, doing what she is doing. Crystal Dynamics created a real and grounded character and it would only make sense to make her character stronger by giving her relationships that grow and shift alongside her.
She doesn't have to be Nathan Drake in this sense. She doesn't have to be arrogant, cocky, or whatever other adjectives the Dude Raider might possess. But it might help.
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Why Is The Dude Raider More Successful Than The Tomb Raider?
The four main Uncharted games have all sold better than Rise of the Tomb Raider by quite a bit. Why? Its combat isn't nearly as exciting. Its graphics aren't overwhelmingly more beautiful.
Are there other reasons outside of Crystal Dynamic's control? Potentially, but what it really comes down to is the fact that fans of Uncharted needed to get their hands on the next game. They needed to know what was up next for Nathan.
The clip above for #PlayStation's "Man Behind the Treasure," the first ever glimpse I had of Nathan's final adventure, didn't lure me in because of the guns and explosion (well, maybe a little), but what really grabbed me, what really gave me goosebumps and pushed me to spend $60 on the game, was the fact that I knew I would get more than the regular adventure.
I knew I'd get into Nate's head one final time. I knew I'd finally get a full look into the psyche of Nathan Drake. The trailer didn't make me excited to romp around through ruins, hunting for treasure — it made me want to be Nathan Drake again.
For many fans, myself included, what we will miss most is the character. We'll miss him because we experienced his innocence when he was growing up alongside his older brother Sam, someone he idolized and who was the only person left to care for him. We'll miss him because we experienced the true love he had for Elena. We'll miss him because we experienced the paternal bond he shared with Sullivan.
Oh yeah, and he ruined some lost cities.
These may all be mad rantings of a morose mind, but I believe that the Tomb Raider franchise has something special. It's got a lot of what Uncharted arguably lacked. A legitimate combat system, meaningful treasure and puzzles — hell, even tombs. But what it lacks is the one thing that made Uncharted stand apart from those it so graciously borrowed from. Nathan Drake might have started as the Dude Raider, but he became so much more.
What would benefit Lara Croft the most is if she were able to become so much more than just the Tomb Raider. And I believe that Crystal Dynamics is more than willing and able to handle that.
We'll next see Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider movie starring Alicia Vikander, which releases March 16, 2018. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy will be available on August 22. What do you hope to see in a comping Tomb Raider game? Sound off in the comments section below.