A History of Tomb Raider and Looking Ahead

There is no denying that Tomb Raider has taken fans on many perilous journeys since its debut in 1996. Now that the series’ 25 anniversary is just around the corner, speculation about what to expect is on the rise.

The Tomb Raider series centers around Lara Croft, the famed English archaeologist with a very impressive skillset. Seriously, she is like an acrobat sometimes! As for Lara’s backstory, that has gone through a few variations over the years, from following in the footsteps of her archaeologist father, to discovering what happened to her missing mother, to being disowned by her father for her adventuring lifestyle. Lara has put herself in danger time and time again to unlock secrets, discover tombs and ruins, solve mysteries, and right wrongs. We think she really needs a vacation!

But it all stems back to Tomb Raider, which released in 1996. The original game is still regarded as one of the best in the franchise. The trouble is that 25 years on, it is rather dated. It is actually an incredible example for how far video games have come. Regardless, Tomb Raider holds a special place in the hearts of fans. At the time of release, the original was, I dare say, revolutionary. It was praised for the controls, graphics, combat, puzzles, and freedom, which kickstarted combining genres. Tomb Raider went on to sell over 7 million copies worldwide and win numerous awards.

Tomb Raider Screenshot 1996
Tomb Raider Screenshot

It is not just in video games where Lara Croft has made her presence known. In total, Tomb Raider has been adapted onto the big screen three times! As we know, video games adapted into movies have always met a mixed reception, and Tomb Raider is no exception to this sacred rule. The movies kicked off with Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie in the title role, who received praise from critics. Jolie went on to reprise her role in Lara Croft: Tomb Raider – The Cradle of Life, which was slightly better received than its predecessor. The series was rebooted in 2018 with Tomb Raider, with Alicia Vikander in the title role. Vikander’s portrayal was based on the younger Lara Croft from the 2013 reboot of the series whereas Jolie’s take was naturally based on the earlier entries to the franchise.

As teased earlier, with a game series spanning 25 years, we have seen a staggering increase in the quality. Comparing the graphics from 1996 to the recent 2018 entry is crazy. Long gone are the days of stick person Lara Croft when compared to the richly detailed motion-capture technology of today. Even the scenery is a lot easier to enjoy in the later installments with dense foliage, jungle animations and lifelike environments compared to the block style in the early entries. But it is not just the graphics, the controls are far more manageable, and glitches are less frequent, making for an overall more enjoyable gaming experience. Due to the realistic approach and lifelike appearances, the reboot certainly works to make you feel immersed in the tension. However, nothing can take away from the magic and sentimental value of the originals.

Tomb Raider Screenshot
Tomb Raider Screenshot

During its run, the series has passed the gauntlet to various voice actresses each putting their own spin on the voice. After all, Lara Croft is the suave, smart, sexy, and sassy heroine. Shelley Blond was the first to voice Lara in the debut game, for which she received a positive reception. Judith Gibbins took over the role for Tomb Raider II and Tomb Raider III: Adventures of Lara Croft, with Jonell Elliott taking up the mantle for Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider Chronicles, and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness. Kelley Hawes, recently known for her portrayal of Julia Montague in Bodyguard, took up the voice as Lara Croft for Tomb Raider: Legend, Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and Tomb Raider: Underworld, and then reprising the role for the spin-off games Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light, and Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. Now, we come to modern day where Camilla Luddington has voiced and motion captured the role for Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

The overall style has gone through changes too, with the recent reboot opting for a grittier, more violent, and realistic approach. The previous entries generally had a balance between action, story, and puzzle solving, which is ultimately what made the series so iconic. However, you can see why the grittier approach is easier to pull off with the technology now, especially for a focus on a younger, inexperienced Lara.

So the question falls, how will Square Enix celebrate this landmark anniversary? Let us delve into the history of Tomb Raider anniversaries! Most recently, Square Enix released a special edition of Rise of the Tomb Raider for the 20 anniversary of the franchise. This special edition included new spin-off storylines, quests, classic Tomb Raider skins, endurance mode co-ops, and all the DLCs. It is a bit of a steal if fans liked this game! There was also an artbook edition which contained the 20 anniversary game edition, limited edition packaging, and as the name suggests – an artbook.

Tomb Raider 20 Anniversary Artpack
Tomb Raider 20 Anniversary Artpack

Obviously, a 25 anniversary is slightly more groundbreaking than a 20, so we ought to look even further back for what we might expect. Here we land on Tomb Raider: Anniversary, which was released in 2007 to mark ten years of the franchise. This game was a sort of re-imagining of the first game, on an updated engine and continuing the storyline from Tomb Raider: Legend. Remakes are always quite risky, but Anniversary went down well with fans and critics. Part of this could be because it was not a straight copy of the original.

Tomb Raider Anniversary Screenshot
Tomb Raider Anniversary

Fans speculating on Reddit are also hoping for something similar to mark the 25 anniversary. One user, Fox_Malloy said: “I would also be happy if they just ported the classic games onto PS4/5. Make them all $10/15 and its easy money. I imagine they could probably tidy the graphics up a little too, without having to overhaul the entire game. I would love another remake. I know they did Anniversary, but graphics have come a long way even since then.”

So, what do we know so far?

If you saw our previous Tomb Raider article, you would know that Square Enix has confirmed a new Tomb Raider game titled Tomb Raider: Reloaded, but it’s for mobile. Understandably, this is not quite what fans were expecting for an anniversary considering Tomb Raider is a console dominated series. Unfortunately for the developers, fan frustration certainly reflects their disappointment with the news. On the announcement video with around 120k views, there are now 1.7K likes and 2.1K dislikes, so there is certainly a divide of opinion. Something to note about this is that Square Enix has not yet officially stated that Tomb Raider: Reloaded has been made in celebration of the series’ 25 anniversary, so fans may still see an entirely new or re-imagined game. All hope is not yet lost. The eagle eyed among you would have noticed that Tomb Raider: Anniversary was released a year after the actual anniversary, so we may see something crop up later.

What do we want to see?

Much like Fox_Malloy said, we would love to see another re-imagining of some kind. One game in the series we feel would benefit from this would be Tomb Raider: Underworld, one that is often seen as middle ground or average in the franchise. It sported a range of exciting scenic locations, challenging puzzles, new combat, heart racing quick time events, and a more exploration based gameplay. However, Underworld unfortunately came in short because of its nauseating camera control. Seriously, it was not great! It also could use an updated combat system, as it was not the best or most exhilarating compared to other entries. On the other hand, Tomb Raider: Underworld had an interesting plot centering around Thor’s possessions and Lara Croft’s doppelganger. That’s right, hindering on the bizarre and slightly creepy side! We feel that with a modern update, Tomb Raider: Underworld would be a stellar game especially because of the vast range of scenic environments from underwater caverns to danger infested jungles.

Tomb Raider Underworld Screenshot
Tomb Raider Underworld

Lara Croft has ventured far and wide since her debut in 1996. As for the series, we have seen it branch off and expand to become something of its own. With games riddled with scenic masterpieces, convoluted puzzles, and danger around every corner, it is no wonder that Tomb Raider has gained such a fanbase. We can cross our fingers and toes in the hopes of seeing a new game on the horizon. Regardless, we will have to sit and wait until next year, perhaps even beyond the official anniversary in October to see if we shall be greeted with the great news of a new Tomb Raider game. Anyway, we are sure Lara is enjoying her well-earned vacation!

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