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    Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Journey Begins

    To understand what drives Lara to the Siberian wasteland, you have to first understand what drives Crystal Dynamics. Staff namedrop great explorers Jacques Cousteau, Edmund Hillary, Neil Armstrong and talk of man’s desire to be first or go further. These aren’t the Saturday matinee larks of Indiana Jones. You can’t ride a magic red line round the globe and expect to make history. Lara is driven by something grander, something studio staff summarise with fellow pioneer Amelia earhart’s bullish creedo: “Never do things others can do and will do if there are things others cannot do or will not do.”

    Of course, Lara has already done things others should never have to do. She has killed, seen friends die and witnessed evidence of supernatural power. For us, Tomb Raider’s descent into magic weather control jarred with its grounded survival thrust, but maybe this was deliberate. “At the beginning of the last game she’s going to find lost civilisation and artefacts and bring them back to a museum and that makes sense to someone fresh out of university,” explains creative director Noah Hughes. “But when she glimpses what she does at the end of the story, it really does change her world.”

    In foiling an ancient queen’s bodytransference ritual, Lara discovers proof of immortality. “It’s a possibility that the myths she thought were just stories that gestured at these ancient cultures might actually be indications of truth about humanity that have been lost to the ages,” says hughes. “And validating this myth almost becomes an obsession. If it is, what does that mean? But she also goes into it with a sense of idealistic nobility, that she can make a difference. And that’s very different to being an archaeologist, so we see her at the beginning of this story starting to recognise that uncovering these secrets is what drives her on some level.”
    having survived the worst holiday ever, where next for Lara Croft?
    Alas, the world is not necessarily in-step, with the events on Yamatai covered up by a shady organisation, Trinity (hinted at in the first game for those who diligently collected all the GPS caches), and Lara’s own account discredited. Undeterred, she sets her sights on a fabled tomb said to house the soul of an immortality-granting prophet. Which explains why she’s on her way to Siberia. Specifically the Lost City of Kitezh, a sort of 13th-Century Russian Atlantis that Crystal Dynamics plucks from the history books and embellishes for its own purposes. Bad news: Trinity has booked a ticket, too.

    Darrell Gallagher, head of studios and, Lara aside, a lone Brit at Crystal Dynamics, sees a hero with a far greater sense of purpose. “She went into that first game not really knowing who she was or knowing her capabilities because she was so new to this,” he says. “Thrust into a journey of survival, she realised she had an inner strength that she never imagined she had. Where she once thought she was going to go and find old archaeological digs, there’s much more to it now that she’s a Tomb Raider developing into that character was much broader than she imagined. It’s fulfilling her destiny.”
    “it’s difficult to see this lara lounging on the front of lads’ mags. and that’s a good thing”
    Croft has come a long way since those early days, where her evolution was defined by polygon counts rather than psychology. It’s certainly difficult to see this Lara lounging on the front of lads’ mags. And that’s a good thing. But as important as storytelling is to Crystal Dynamics it has again enlisted the talents of writer Rhianna Pratchett and invested in full body and facial capture technology we’re interested in how Lara’s new situation impacts her as an actual adventurer. As hughes describes it, Lara’s Bear grylls act is now less of a necessity than an enabling tool. “Her understanding of myths and her intellectual brilliance allow her to decipher these ancient mysteries, but her survival skills are what allow her to penetrate these harsh and hostile landscapes.” On this last point, hughes delivers a delicious hook: “The secrets of our world are hidden in the darkest places”.

    Returning Lara to her traditional stomping ground is welcome after the largely tomb-free reboot selfcontained box-pushing rooms do not a tomb make but might it undermine that work’s attempts to define itself on its own terms? “It’s important for us to continue the arc we started with Tomb Raider 2013,” says gallagher. “We are folding in tombs and putting an emphasis on those which is not necessarily going back to 1996, as it’s absolutely cast through the modern lens.” What this means is taking the survival action of the earlier game, and pushing it harder and further…

    The Lost City of What?
    The ‘real’ Kitezh, or so the legend goes, lay on the shore of siberia’s Lake svetloyar, its beauty so magnificent that word of it reached the invading mongol horde. the city was hidden to the invaders, until a drunkard revealed it. When forces arrived in the town, they found it undefended and its people quietly praying in the streets. as they did, water began to gush up through the floor, forcing the mongols to retreat as the entire town sank into the lake and out of reach. apparently the townsfolk are still there, kept magically alive in their sunken city. that’s the mythical morsel that would catch Lara’s attention, although expect Crystal dynamics to deliver quite a different take in our demo, Croft spots the spires of the city atop a mountain, which suggests the lake malarkey has been jacked in entirely.

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