Gamescom 2016: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is a Voyage Through Lara's History

Gamescom 2016: Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is a Voyage Through Lara's History

Lee Abrahams

In order to go deep into the murky underbelly of the latest Tomb Raider game (for those that didn’t play it on Xbox One last year) we engaged in a trifecta of opportunities; hands on with the new co-op endurance mode, hands on with the swanky new VR chapter of DLC and an interview with the team behind this latest edition. It’s a triple threat of fun, knowledge and walking awkwardly into chairs and the wall. Our pain is your gain.

First of all what’s in the box? Assuming you are buying Rise of the Tomb Raider for the first time on PS4 then you get the base game, all of the DLC released to date plus the new Blood Ties chapter (also playable using PlayStation VR), the Lara’s Nightmare mode (think Resident Evil mercenaries), the co-op endurance mode and a bunch of unique skins and a new difficulty mode for the main campaign.

It’s basically the whole shebang in one lovely package. If you’re an Xbox One owner and already have the Season Pass, then you’ll get all the content for free on 11th October – barring the VR version of Blood Ties, you’ll just have to play it in the regular way. Sorry.

The Blood Ties DLC delves into the backstory of Lara and her parents, letting you explore Croft Manor in a bid to find evidence to substantiate her claim to her ancestral home against the money grabbing attempts of her Uncle Atlus to seize it. It’s only an hour or so of content but is fairly deep in terms of lore and story to flesh out the series as a whole. Obviously there are puzzles to solve, clues to find and random events to discover. Plus you can play the whole thing in VR – which we did. Well, up until a certain juncture to prevent spoilers.

The VR is pretty superb and can be played in numerous ways depending on how much space you have. You can go for full motion with a big area and the PS Move controllers giving you total freedom of movement. Alternatively you can opt for comfort mode with a regular pad. This means you can get the VR experience without having to move much, as you can use the bumpers and triggers to target Lara and teleport her around the environment.

It works superbly and is very intuitive to boot. The beauty of Rise of the Tomb Raider's VR is just how detailed everything looks and you can lose yourself just wandering around the manor and peering up at the scenery and through dilapidated rooftops. It’s a wonderful experience and, while brief, well worth trying out if you have the tech.

The Blood Ties level also plays host to the Lara’s Nightmare content which sees our heroine trapped in the manor against a host of deadly, zombie-like foes. Weapons and gear randomly spawn throughout the level and you have to find them to defend yourself and last as long as possible against increasing odds. It’s a fun idea, and one that Resident Evil did so well in its Mercenaries mode, but with only one map to test yourself against it may prove to be slightly limited in appeal.

Next up we got to dabble in the co-op endurance mode which certainly piqued our interest. This mode sees two players team up to survive the elements and discover hidden relics and treasure. You spawn in a randomly-generated frosty wilderness, so every attempt is completely unique to the last. You have your bow and a few items, but you have to forage for the rest. Stripping bark from trees lets you craft more arrows, or horde the wood until you find a fire.

Enemies aren’t your only peril, as you need to eat and acquire warmth at regular intervals too. So be on the lookout for wildlife to hunt or campfires to set ablaze if you want to succeed. Find a tomb and you need to work together to navigate the traps and find the booty hidden within. Then book it back to a signal fire and airlift your prize to safety. You could theoretically play indefinitely, but the longer you last then more enemies emerge, less food is available and generally more difficult it becomes. Essentially the devs want to make sure you die after 45 minutes or so, which is nice.

Rise of the Tomb Raider: 20 Year Celebration is certainly a compelling package as it includes the already great single-player experience plus a host of additional goodies for no extra cost. Despite the hefty wait for PS4 owners this is certainly something you should think about picking up on 11th October.

After all the hands on stuff we also got to chat with Will Kerslake, Senior Designer at Crystal Dynamics, about Rise of the Tomb Raider's past, present and future.

So this is the complete package? No more DLC after this for ROTTR?

This is it, everything that is going to be in ROTTR is going to be in this one package. Coming to PS4 as the complete package. If you bought the X1 or PC version beforehand, and bought the Season Pass, then you’ll get Blood Ties, Lara’s Nightmare and the rest on the same date. Bam – it just shows up. Obviously you won’t get Playstation VR because... you can’t.

Obviously ROTTR came out exclusively on Xbox One for about a year, were you happy with how it performed?

We’re very proud of how it did on Xbox. Microsoft was a great partner to help work and focus on making a great game, it reviewed quite well and we’re really proud of that title. Now we’re looking at this 20 Year Celebration and not many games can make it that long and so it’s like, “wow”. We wanted to make sure the PS4 version was special and had extra content, because it’s the 20 year anniversary and we wanted to give extra stuff. But we also wanted to make sure everyone that played the game gets to have it too as it’s a celebration for all Tomb Raider fans. So we’re super excited for new players to get to play it in October.

Was Playstation VR something you had in mind all along or was it a happy coincidence it came about and you got to add it in?

Being a big VR advocate myself, the team has a lot of VR guys on it and obviously we’re tech geeks we love all this stuff. So we just wanted to say “how do we make the right VR moment?” and we were thinking about what to do with the Croft Manor, and what to do with the 20 year celebration?

We wanted something that transcends both the new series and the old games and the manor was that perfect touchstone of what you used to play in the old games as a tutorial level, and you got an experience of it. So for a lot of people they might not have made it out of the manor, their memories are of the manor. So it was something we could touch on in ROTTR and let people walk in that space, so very early on we decided it should be an adventure space that was very story focused. Because it’s exploration based it’s perfect for someones first VR experience, as you’re not being attacked by things and not under pressure.

PlayStation VR might be a lot of people's first taste as it's on console and a lot more available for people, so we wanted to people to be comfortable in this space and have a chance to experience it. SO those two melding together with the ideas of what we wanted to do for this 20 year edition and what we wanted to do with someones first VR experience.

Now you’ve had a taste for VR would you use it again in future?

We have no specific announcements for anything in the future. I love VR tech and I think it’s super exciting. I can’t wait to see all the things that are going to get made with it. I think people will really enjoy this, I really hope they do. I’d love to see more in the future, but can’t announce anything specific.

About the Xbox platform exclusivity, would that be something you’d do again?

Right now we’re focused on the 20 year celebration content, and the PS4 version so we don’t really have anything to say about future releases.

Looking at the co-op endurance mode, is there a reason you added this in now?

We were looking at what was the right way to add multiplayer in Tomb Raider. There was MP in the 2013 reboot, but as we built the DLC we wondered what was the right thing to add for ROTTR? We didn’t just want to do MP, we wanted to do something that fit the spirit of Tomb Raider. People were enjoying the Endurance Mode and exploring the space. So we thought that was the perfect space to get a friend in, not about it being competitive but let’s get two players raiding tombs together. There is no better multiplayer experience than that for this game. So when it came down to “what’s the Tomb Raider thing?” This is the Tomb Raider thing.

So it’s more about exploration and working together than combat?

Well there is combat, but everything is about the two of you working together. You share resources, share a pool of lives and your score is shared on the leaderboards. It’s very much about working together as a team. Plus, as ever you can earn credits and roll them into card packs to alter your experience in other parts of the game.

Have there been any technical changes to the PS4 version to what we saw on Xbox One?

The big thing we focused on is running at 1080p and 30FPS, anything above that is a bonus but really we were just focused on that figure.

  • I don't like the way they're discussing the deal so calmly. It screams "yeah, it was pretty great, we'll totally do this again" to me.
  • I really hope they don't do the whole XBox exclusive again, it sucked having to wait the year later to get it on PS4, the only plus side to that is getting free DLC.
  • Funny cuz when it only sold like 50K copies on release in UK they didn't seem "pleased with the sales" at all.
  • @1: Saying they're proud of their work should be an acceptable thing for them to say, don't you think?
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