Tomb Raider: A new STORY is born

tomb raider

When the young Lara Croft says “I hate tombs” at one point in the 2013 reboot of the highly successful game franchise, her comment marks one of the very few ‘winks’ to the all-knowing fans of Tomb Raider. In most ways this is a brand new game; a gruesome coming-of-age story that’s been one of the most immersive experiences I’ve had while holding a controller.

It just so happens that Tomb Raider holds a special dimension of interest for me due to having a bit of a background in Japanese cinema; the story and its setting will send Japanophiles to all the right places while doing the exact same thing for everyone else. It was a stroke of genius to take the ancient Japanese queen Himiko as the plot’s driving force, quite literally hovering above the game’s narrative. Fiction feels less fictional when even historians can’t agree on who the mysterious “Sun Queen” really was. The effort that’s gone into creating an overall sense of historical authenticity is remarkable and is a great incentive to do some reading up on various aspects of the story after finishing the game.

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The Hannya mask as seen in Kaneto Shindo’s black and white classic Onibaba (1964) is one of the many collectible items in Tomb Raider. A representation of a jealous female demon that foreshadows Lara’s inevitable encounter with the game’s antagonist, the mask isn’t just an accurately represented artefact but it also clicks beautifully into the story.

Tomb-Raider-2013Lara Croft as a gifted archaeology graduate who manages to correctly pinpoint the whereabouts of the lost kingdom of Yamatai quickly learns that her talent comes with responsibility when all members of the expedition are stranded on an island stricken by mysterious weather phenomena. The young heroine watches her friends taken captive by a mercilessly violent cult and she is forced to learn how to kill in order to survive and help them. It’s as gritty and harrowing as it can be with elements of horror punctuating the adventure frequently.

The emphasis on Lara Croft as a person is ultimately the most rewarding aspect of the game; the character is profoundly palpable at every step of the way. Her origin story is a rite of passage of the most violent kind: the girl will either die or become a woman. While her agony and pain is often tangible to the point she tells her mentor she can’t go on, there is also a sense of stoicism beneath as she goes on to do what’s required to be done for survival. I can’t recall feeling that I knew a character on such a raw human level in a game before. As it’s so often the case with an experience of such impact, as soon as Tomb Raider was over I craved for the sequel. The character arc takes the cornered animal towards a more familiar Lara Croft as the story progresses to its end, with new convictions and principles that will inevitably lead her into a new era of raiding tombs.

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~ by arpadlukacs on August 19, 2013.

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