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Strange Futures: ‘Tomb Raider’ Seems to be Losing its Identity (Again)

For all its success, the Crystal Dynamics/Core Design game ‘Tomb Raider’ has been struggling with its identity for quite some time now.

Tomb Raider
Credit: Square Enix

For all its success, the Crystal Dynamics/Core Design game ‘Tomb Raider’ has been struggling with its identity for quite some time now.

As Lara Croft grew bolder and more embroiled in large conspiracies, the games slowly left the tombs behind and embraced action over exploration, and things started to get a little strange. 

Project Jawbreaker

Of course, other games have taken up the baton dropped by ‘Tomb Raider’ long ago. ‘Uncharted’ is the obvious example but ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’, ‘The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim’, and even ‘Mad Max’ have dealt with lost places and hidden worlds. There seems to be a holdout for the exploration genre in the online casino industry too, which has a long-standing love affair with ancient mythology. 

Titles like ‘Book of Relics’, ‘Action Jack’, and ‘Arthur Pendragon’ might not be as immediately familiar as ‘Tomb Raider’ but they have helped preserve many of the ideas that Lara Croft helped popularise. Playstar, a safe online casino hosts the Bounty Raid slot, a game that features a female protagonist as its star. Still, Tomb Raider’s shifting personality has been a bit of a concern for players over the years.

The absence of large-scale tombs was seemingly fixed in newer games, like ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider’, the second game of the rebooted universe, but the next title in the franchise has some wild plans for our legendary leaper. These plans were revealed almost accidentally via a takedown request sent to a podcast early in 2022, which also gave us a temporary name, Project Jawbreaker. 

The episode in question talked about an impending ‘Tomb Raider’ release in some familiar terms, such as a modern setting. However, the addition of multiple new protagonists, a team-based approach to problem-solving, and a story revolving around a “mysterious cataclysm” does seem to be painting the franchise an unusual colour. An actor’s call for Lara’s new voice also mentioned a hint of romance. 

Unaided Tomb-robbing

While it might sound innocuous, the reveal is by far the most alien concept introduced so far. Rival title ‘Uncharted’ always thrived on the fractious relationship between hero Nathan Drake and journalist Elena Fisher but Lara has always led something of a solitary life. With the exception of co-conspirators Zip and Alister, as well as long-serving butler Winston, Lara doesn’t seem to have many friends at all. 

It’s easy to infer what all these leaks combine into, namely, a cooperative action game in an expanded world, both in terms of characters and story scope. It’s also likely to take a realistic approach to gameplay. This sounds interesting but also a little disappointing. ‘Tomb Raider’s original premise, i.e. unaided tomb robbing in a vaguely ridiculous setting, seems to be a relic all of its own. 

The constant worry with older franchises is that all the good ideas have already been used up. Games like ‘Final Fantasy’ manage to avoid this by completely erasing the previous canon for each instalment but ‘Tomb Raider’ is one story about one person (actually, two, given the reboot) so it’s hard to escape the fact that the developers seem to be clutching at straws for each new game.

The next ‘Tomb Raider’ is likely to be a long time in the making, so most of the ideas circulating online are pure speculation. It would be nice if they could drop all the gimmicks for a bit, though.

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