Since F4 is out of reach for winter diversion, I got a copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider and started playing that. I played the 2013 Tomb Raider game last winter, so this ROTR isn't totally new to me as compared to the classic originals that I played on PS1 and PS2. I'm aware that it's both open-world and linear, I'm aware that it's formulaic (hunt for things lazily identified with the "awareness" function that makes it all glow for you; platforming jumps/crawls/swings meshed with Bat-Utility-Belt tool trickery; more combat and less puzzle-solving than original game; and an attempt at being more literary/story-oriented than the original game.
It also arrives in a certain game-playing era, one that keeps moving faster and further toward the end point of a barely-involved watching of an animated story.FN
The reviews I scanned before getting a copy of the game were almost to a person impressed with the graphics of the game, but I'm sure they're talking about the cinematic cutscenes, because the actual game world is no more impressive graphically than Skyrim when run on my 360 and CRT. Of course Skyrim only has very minor cutscene use, and even then mostly if you activate the combat action cam for kill scenes. Otherwise you have the opening lead-in cinematic, and nothing else. On those bases, Skyrim's graphics are weaker. But in the actual gameplay situation, one's as good as the other.
The biggest gripes I have so far are these:
1) Tough combat situations will arise suddenly, not as a ramp-up of existing combat. For this to work well, the shooting mechanics and camera control of Lara & her weapon must be precise, or playing the scenario will result in those moments that can make you need to buy a new controller. The camera control is not consistent enough in this game, sometimes you can't see what you need to hit because you're obscured by Lara's body or the panels/shades of the environment. Making matters worse, the gun/weapon changing is not seamless, nor is reloading. I got killed on reloads many times, and when those reloads obviously weren't quick enough I went for weapon switches, which were no quicker. I'm not playing on a tougher setting, just middle of the road -- "Tomb Raider."
2) It's so similar to 2013 Tomb Raider in its layouts (environments) that it doesn't seem a different game. 2013 TR was fun enough, so I'm not really complaining about the game play when I say this; I'm talking about the fact that it's a new game $60 fee for what seems like a mild rewrite of the existing game. It's Ludlum-esque. At least in the Elder Scrolls series, you get entirely new environments. Skyrim looks nothing like Oblivion which looks nothing like Morrowind. Well, except for caves -- they stay pretty much the same throughout TES games.
3) This is a universal gripe that has existed since at least 2010 or so: the newer HD games don't display well on CRT teevees. The game's map and its information panel are impossible for me to use well because everything's blurry. My teevee can't do the resolution needed for everything to be crisp, so playing the game becomes less a strategic matter using the information panel during gameplay, and more a be-in-the-game situation. I don't mind this part, it's the fact that I can't read the damned screen that is a problem.
4) Stealth, my favorite playing style, happens automatically and is controlled by the software, rather than by your choice of using a crouched movement, etc. Whether you are being stealthy is not within your control, really. Can't say I understand this game design choice.
Best things about the game:
1) The story has an interesting mix of human social dynamics, and in my take on the story, it seems to comment on socialism, religion, authoritarianism, and human independence. I'm early in the Geothermal Valley part of the game, and thus far it's never been didactic, bossy, stern, chastising, chiding, lecturing, hectoring or anything like that when it handles these subjects, it just raises them as part of the history of the region you explore. You can just take it as landscape, or you can let it be part of a developing history of humans dealing with other humans.
2) It's as good as ever at inducing vertigo.
3) The rope-arrow to create ziplines remains fun.
4) There's an insane number of tombs and caves and things to seek, just in the base game. Hopefully the formula won't have worn me down before I've uncovered every discoverable.
-- Chet Redweld, an amateur amateur gamer.
FN - This was foreshadowed by the "gaming industry" pitching hard for games-as-art
several years back, because apparently the coders and game-designers
themselves are more impressed with the animation-as-diversion side of
things than the actual game-playing diversion side of things. As a cynic, I'm not surprised
-- but I thought geeks' own alienation would be more a template for
ignoring what's "popular" or appealing to a great majority of people. I
guess that's true only for geeks of prior generations.