Mobile games have always been a mixed bag for me. Free-to-play mechanics can either feel like a necessary evil or unnecessary greed, so I was worried when I heard the legendary Tomb Raider was making her way to mobile with Tomb Raider Reloaded. Tomb Raider is known for combat and puzzles, so the thought of rigged challenges and exploitative upgrade systems was a concern. Lara Croft is an icon. I first experienced Lara in the recent Tomb Raider trilogy from Crystal Dynamics, and I loved my time with her. Now I’ve been able to play Tomb Raider Reloaded, and I’m happy to say that, despite some slight annoyances, this is a mobile experience worthy of the Tomb Raider title.

Tomb Raider Reloaded is developed by Emerald City Games (part of Embracer Group) and CDE Entertainment. The approach the developers took with this iteration of Lara Croft is a return to the classic Tomb Raider style, with some lighter colors and stylized, less-realistic graphics. Accompanying this shift away from the dark and gritty Tomb Raider trilogy, Keeley Hawes reprises her role as Lara Croft, after voicing the character in past entries such as Tomb Raider: Underworld, Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Legend. It’s a refreshing change of tone from the recent trilogy, and also complements mobile systems better for its greater visibility and color contrasts.

Tomb Raider Reloaded Combat
The smooth and simple controls of Tomb Raider Reloaded feel great.

Jumping into a level of Tomb Raider Reloaded just feels good, to put it simply. The game is played in rooms, with one level being made up of anywhere from 20-50+ rooms. There are also smaller Tombs, which are shorter but more challenging, and give resource rewards. Lara’s movement is controlled with a single finger, and standing still will make her automatically shoot a target. The most complicated the controls get is giving the screen a double tap to unleash a special magical ability given to you by equipable Mask items. The fluidity of the controls and the usefulness of the Masks does something very refreshing for a mobile game, in that it makes you feel in control.

Very often with free-to-play mobile titles, I find myself wondering if there’s an algorithmic system under it all that’s making it harder to play when I’m not paying or when I’m succeeding. This isn’t the case in Tomb Raider Reloaded, because you are in control. Every time an enemy hits you, it’s your own fault for not moving fast enough. This also means that to get better at the game, you can memorize enemy attack styles and patterns, to pre-empt their next move and get ahead of them. I don’t die feeling frustrated that the game is forcing me to spend cash to get better, I die thinking of ways to get better at this room next time, and what strategy would be best to avoid enemy attacks.

Tomb Raider Reloaded Weapon Crafting
There’s a lot of gear choices, but it can be confusing to navigate.

That’s not to say however that the game is easy. Tomb Raider Reloaded has a pretty significant amount of gear choices. From Lara’s weapons, to the ammo they use and the accessory that’s giving you buffs, there’s a lot to choose from. These items are upgraded by collecting manuals within levels, or from the Workshop that continually produces them in the background. There’s also a crafting system, in which three duplicates of an item can be put together to form a better, rarer one. There has been some confusion here for me, as the game never quite explained what the limitations on this are. There was a point where I had three duplicates of a type of ammunition, but for whatever reason the game wouldn’t let me put them together for the upgrade. I’ve had Tomb Raider Reloaded for a week and I still don’t know what’s stopping me. Whilst the system is simple, understandable and somewhat rewarding, it can still feel a little confusing at times.

Whilst parts of the inventory systems are overwhelming, I found it to be sufficiently rewarding. I never hit a point within my hours of playing Tomb Raider Reloaded in which I felt that I needed more than I had. Daily, weekly and lifetime goals, as well as events, constantly gave me rewards just for doing things. Even the game’s premium purple gemstone currency was given out in abundance at points. The only thing that was tough to unlock is another outfit, which requires outfit pieces from completing areas on the world map, or from completing goals. It’s worth noting that it’s a possibility that the game may get more demanding for spending and upgrades as it gets harder, but after my 10+ hours of gameplay, it’s still giving me ample amounts of stuff.

Tomb Raider Reloaded Daily Tasks
In classic free-to-play fashion, there are always goals to hit and things to earn.

The UI of Tomb Raider Reloaded is also a bit off-putting at times. It’s not hard to understand, but there’s just so much of it. A flurry of icons litter the map screen where you select your levels, with a variety of attention-grabbing indicators covering the tabs of the menus to get you to look at every minor thing you’ve earned. Within the Tombs you’re Raiding, you earn experience and level up, gaining abilities you can only use on that run – roguelite style. The visual display of these levels is a little dated, filling a lot of screen space in a strong black color, instead of adopting a more modern and sleeker style to allow the player to see more of the action.

As you progress through rooms, you’ll encounter characters from past Tomb Raider games, like Anaya and Winston. These characters get their own special screens to give you bonuses such as healing, boosted stats or abilities. Depending on the character, these can sometimes come at the expense of watching an ad, which is never fun but is better than spending currencies. The character models within these moments are also a tad dated, being quite pretty in their retro-modern fusion style, but animated quite stiff and rigid. This could be due to hardware limitations, as whilst I was playing on an iPhone 14 Pro Max, Tomb Raider Reloaded will also be playable on lower-end mobiles as well.

Tomb Raider Reloaded Lara Revive screen
Classic Lara is back, but there could be a little more visual polish.

There’s certainly room for improvement with Tomb Raider Reloaded, but honestly it’s a lot of fun as it is. I love jumping in to play for a while because I know I’ll get better and earn more useful items each time I do. The game could look a bit nicer and make its inventory a little less complicated, but dodging and weaving through waves of enemies then facing off against a giant boss while dual-wielding Lara Croft’s pistols will always be a worthy way to spend my time. It’s not perfect, but Tomb Raider Reloaded sure is fun.

Bobby played Tomb Raider Reloaded on an iPhone 14 Pro Max, with a developer build provided by Emerald City Games. 

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