Thursday, 12 September 2013

What The Hell Is Up With The Terrible Writing In Tomb Raider (2013)

This is just a quick one because although I only just played this, this game has been out for ages and there isn't really much to say other than just my basic point that I so subtly hinted at in the title. But Jesus Sweet Jesus, do people really think that the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot is well written? Because if that's so then fuck me in the face with a jagged crocodile dick, everyone needs to really hold video game writing up to a better standard than this. There aren't going to be many spoilers here, because to be honest there's nothing really to spoil. The story of this game is shit, the characters are shit and basically nothing happens.

Even when the game is dealing with fantasy elements it holds them off as if it's trying to be all mature and instead focus on the character growth of Lara, but eventually just ends up not doing anything of any interest with her character, whilst cock teasing fantasy elements of a plot, which never really come to fruition. So the story overall is boring, I feel I've gotten this out of the way. It's slowly told, not interesting, the setting isn't interesting and it constantly feels as if the designers feel that they're above the franchise's own subject matter. If you don't like fantasy, then maybe you shouldn't be making a game that is a fantasy adventure, that's set in tombs, with a lady shooting the fantasy things instead of the regular man.

Speaking of said lady, what the fuck have they done to Lara Croft? I mean Christ she was never that much of a deep character, but I find it funny that in trying to distance her from her big titted, gun toting, sex symbol roots, I think they made the character even more stereotypical and lazy. The original tomb raider may not be the master class of characterisation, but I'll give her one thing, at least she had some fucking character traits. I mean fuck, for every complaint about how she was just an over sexualised Indiana Jones, she was at least a recognizable character. If anything, the shame is that Lara Croft is actually a fine character. It was the media's attitude towards her and the franchise, as well as a cheap marketing ploy by Sony that has everyone remembering Lara as a pair of polygonal tits in tombs. In fact playing the old games and reading the game manuals for the character background (cause that's how it worked back in those days), you just get the impression that Lara is just a bit of a sociopathic dick. She fucking hates everyone, has no problem killing people and spends her life hunting down rare mythical artefacts solely for her own pleasure. She has wealth, but doesn't care for it and has a deep resentment for her father who treated her like shit when she was younger and so now she treats his legacy like shit in the wake of his death. But shit, she may be a lot of things. She may be a fucking horrible person with major personality defects, but at least she's a character.

Cuts and bruises are not a personality

So what do we have instead? What do we have in this reboot that shows off the new more mature creative direction in which to take Lara? Well they wanted to show a naïve girl on her first adventure and have her trying to survive the ensuing violent and terrifying situation that she ends up in. She kills her first man, raids her first tomb and then tries to take on an ancient cult, all the while stuck in an endless repetitive cycle of action sequences that are made up of nothing more than stuff falling out from under her feet and her sliding down a slope on her arse every ten minutes, because apparently that's really gripping stuff. Oh shit and quick time events are back, because they're a good replacement for ideas, right? That's the only part of the game play or the mission structure itself that I'll really comment on because that stuff was actually fine, it was just packaged inside an uninspired, repetitive game. And I'm here to talk about this story and writing.

So what have Crystal Dynamics decided to replace the original badassness of mid 90s Lara Croft with? Well thankfully, they've substituted all of the mildly interesting traits of original Lara with just all out inoffensiveness and doubt. Man what an interesting character. Lara starts out just talking in her stupidly soft voice about how she wants to aspire to greatness. She is then forced to kill some guys, gets involved in numerous insane situations and comes out of it as just the same dull person. Lara doesn't have any traits any more. She's just quite nice. Yeah she's brave and persistent, but those aren't really character traits in a game, or not interesting ones at the least and instead are more just consequences of me continuing to hold forward on the analogue stick. She has no character development and barely ever questions her situation outside of dull and copy-pasted conversations with her pseudo daddy figure, Roth. This guy is also a nice man and just keeps telling her that she's a Croft, whatever that means, and that she's just like her father, who in this version of the game was just a really good bloke. Because, you know, we'd hate to add anything in here that could give our character an interesting background at all. Lara is just a nice rich person, who had a good childhood and is now on an island. That's it. She stabs a guy and kills numerous people, but never at any point has any regret about what she's done, aside from in the very immediate short term. Neither does she let it get to her and neither does it change her.

Left to Right: Increasing loss of personality

It's sad to say that although Far Cry 3's writing was instead criticised in this field, I actually think it pulled it off a thousand times better than Tomb Raider ever did. The protagonist of FC3, Jason Brody, went to an island where he was forced to kill and then...started to enjoy it. He started to become abit mental and liked the rush of killing another man. He thought it was freeing. Regardless of when you're stabbing a man in the chest or burning down fields of weed, Jason will yell out about how “awesome” it all is. The people he came with see that he changes and they clash on their opinions of Jason's behaviour. Jason tells them he loves the island and this is actually developed and brought into the story and their relationships as the game progresses.

But Tomb Raider goes down the safer route. Hey Lara you just killed a thousand men. Do you feel like a monster yet? Nope. Okay that's cool I guess. No you just stay as vanilla and pleasant as you were. We'll just have the nice Northern mentor tell you that you're a Croft for the fiftieth fucking time. The only time Lara does seem to have any differences in attitude at all is the 10 or so times during the game that during a fire fight she might yell out, “go on and run away you bastards”. Wow, she has become so corrupted. But she yells it out in her soft, delicate voice and then the next cutscene will be her complaining that she's not up to the challenge and then we're just back to normal. There's no growth. No nothing.

The characters remain friends throughout and any time anyone says anything mildly offensive, like insinuating that the whole affair is Lara's fault, they just immediately apologize. Wow, apologies. What intense drama. The game feels like it was made by a bunch of 13 year olds, never at any point wanting to explore anything more gritty than, “whoa man check it out, that man's on fire” or, “Holy cow, Lara's covered in blood”. There's no depth here, just base shock value through the violence and action. The characters involved seem to barely recognize how absurd the situation they're in is. The story is dull and so are the characters, which based on the fact that it's written by Rhianna Pratchett, the mastermind behind the cognitive shitting machine that was the Mirror's Edge storyline, it kind of makes a lot of sense.

A pretty cool and original game, but I dare you to try and remember what the plot was

I think it's a shame that this game was so well received for its writing and portrayal of Lara Croft when everything explored and handled in it is so inoffensive, safe and downright hilarious at points. I find it a shame that the Lara Croft of old has now been shelved as just some misogynistic invention of the 90s, when really she was the only one who had a personality. I also find it ironic that the people who set out to reboot Lara Croft as a more real and human character have instead in my eyes ended up producing an even more lazy and stereotypical female character than the originals ever did.

Being a bad person or just a dickhead are not bad qualities for protagonists. They're more human and they make your character more interesting based on the fact that they have personal demons and defects. Pure piety and virtue are boring and make no sense in the context of a character whose time is spent brutally murdering hundreds of people throughout the majority of the game.

Anyone who liked this game's writing is an idiot, or simply was so distracted by Lara's brain dead, doe eyed cuteness that they didn't spot the ice axe in her hands that she was using to bludgeon an entire island community’s head in with.

Try harder next time.

Okay, at least we can all agree that the tits were pretty ludicrous back then


  1. Ok, i feel you need to take a hot relaxing bath and sip on a stiff brandy.
    There, are you feeling better now?

    1. It'll take too many brandies and too many hours in the bath to clean me of this. I'll just end up passing out drunk in water and drowning, and if there was anything worth dying for, forgiving Tomb Raider is not it.

  2. I like the new Lara.

    And this is why i am anonymous.

    1. You are safe here anonymous, no one will hurt you for your opinions, they will just disagree with you alot.

      The thing is though that new Lara is designed to be likeable because there's nothing to dislike her for, and that's why I don't like her, if you follow.

  3. Pram, toys everywhere.

    I do think new Lara has better knees, but what's the point of good knees and no personality?

    1. Lol thank god human progression and increased computing power has created a world of good video game character knees. Hang on wait, new Lara always wears trousers. Is this some strange multi layered joke good sir?

    2. It's an existential assumption, dear man. The knees under those trousers won't be the knees in last picture right.