It’s mid-November, which means that I’m already starting to consider my various year-end posts. It also means that I’m just a few weeks away from my birthday – and this year I’m turning 40, which means that I’m also doing a lot of navel-gazing and fretting and such.
Some things never change. My greatest anxiety as a little kid is, for the most part, still my greatest anxiety now – that the people I care about the most do not necessarily feel the same way; that if we were to list the 10 most important people in our lives, that I would not appear in the various Venn diagrams that I could draw from my own list. It’s pointless to get anxious over things that you can’t control, and in any event I have no idea of proving that any of this is true (even though I actually do happen to know one specific instance in which this is, in fact, true), and yet… it bothers me, it worries me, I get bent out of shape all too easily over this sort of thing.
I bring this up only because if it starts to get a little moody in here over the next few weeks, you’ll have a better idea as to why.
I think I’m approaching the end of Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s campaign; given the relatively by-the-numbers plot rhythms, I’m almost positive that the end is but a few hours away. The MacGuffin is relatively close by, and the inevitable tug-of-war-followed-by-the-boss fight will surely take place shortly thereafter. (I was totally right about the identity of one of Lara’s allies, by the way, and the actual reveal was so anticlimactic given the circumstances that I’m now wondering if (a) I missed something, (b) it was supposed to be obvious, or (c) somebody fucked up.)
I feel obligated to acknowledge that it makes me feel weird to be so dismissive of the game’s story. I don’t know why that is; it’s not like I have any personal stake in the game beyond the time I’ve spent playing it. I suppose there’s a part of me that feels shitty to be criticizing Rhianna Pratchett’s writing, given that the story of Lara Croft and the loss of her father (as Lara follows in her father’s footsteps) must have been written while Rhianna was herself mourning the loss of her own father, the great writer Terry Pratchett. Which is to say – you can’t help but notice the similarities, whether or not they’re intentional. I know nothing of Rhianna’s relationship with her own father, and I’m reluctant to make any presumptions in that direction – she’s an incredibly talented writer anyway, surely she’d be able to write about this topic regardless of her own personal situation.
I suppose another way of looking at the Tomb Raider narratives is that they’ve always been secondary to the action. The recent reboot wasn’t even really about the MacGuffin as much as it was about Lara Croft becoming and evolving into the iconic character that we already know. In this second game, she’s certainly far less squeamish about killin’ dudes, and she’s never seriously injured in the way that she was in the first; her emotional character arc is about avenging her father’s death, and then switches over to helping some local villagers who live near and guard the MacGuffin, and I suspect that in the end, she’ll defeat the bad guys and do whatever the morally correct thing is with the object she’s been searching for.
It’s window dressing, ultimately, because everything else is really enjoyable.
I can’t emphasize enough how much I enjoy Rise of the Tomb Raider’s challenge tombs and how much I appreciate and respect the amount of time and care that went into building them. The tombs in the first game were so short – one tiny room, one 5-minute puzzle – that they felt like afterthoughts. In this game, the designers really do commit to them, for the most part; each tomb is big and multi-layered and the puzzles present a really pleasing level of challenge, and the levels themselves are just flat-out gorgeous and atmospheric and feel suitably epic. And the rewards you get for solving them are neat little special powers – like having herbs and craftable items automatically glow and appear on the map, etc.
The last game that I can think of that took these puzzle/platforming levels this seriously and with this much care would probably be Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, which had those ‘Lairs of Romulus’, and which were similarly my favorite parts in those games.
Lastly, a word about the upcoming publishing schedule here at SFTC HQ: the day job is about to get super-ridiculously-busy, so there’s probably not going to be a lot going on here. I’ll post some impressions of Battlefront soon, and once I’m done with Tomb Raider I will finally get settled into Fallout 4, and that’ll be that. I’m also getting started on my Year in Reading posts, and I’m really looking forward to finishing my Favorite Sentences of 2015 post; that’s going to be a fun recurring feature in the years to come.
And eventually I’ll be getting around to the inevitable Game Of The Year post, though I can tell you right now that it’s probably going to be a little sad. I look at my spreadsheet and it looks miniscule compared to years past. Oh well.