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RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER E3 2015 Impressions–Woman Vs. Wild

While Crystal Dynamics’ 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider may not be everyone’s cup of tea, there are many (myself included) who’ve been eagerly awaiting Lara’s next adventure. Sure, Lady Croft adapted to wrecking everything in her path (after making such a big deal about her first kill), became an expert mountain climber overnight, didn’t spend enough time in tombs, and faced some seriously weird supernatural stuff during the last title, but at the end of the day, playing through the young archaeologist’s origin story was just plain fun.

Thankfully, from the looks of the new gameplay for Rise of the Tomb Raider–which is due out November 10, 2015–that was shown off during Microsoft’s E3 2015 press conference, and an extended demo we checked out behind closed doors, it looks like that fun is going continue and get even better in the sequel. Before we explain what we saw, check out the gameplay video that premiered during the conference:

Sure, while on the surface it looks like we’ve merely traded in the Japanese climate for snowy Siberia, it’s Lara’s new maturity and skills that make Rise look so promising. After following what the developer describes as a “breadcrumb” to a temple–which we’ll get to in a bit–our leading lady and her companion Jonah Maiava (who appeared in the last entry) find themselves in Siberia in search of the mythical city Kitezh, which lies beneath Lake Svetloyar in Russia.

The extended behind-closed-doors demo I had a chance to check out shows how a gearless Lara uses her resourcefulness, and newfound survival skills to stay alive in the snowy wilderness. Though she has been separated from Jonah, she’s intent on going it alone. Shivering, she tells him to go back and to not try to find her.

She trudges through the deep snow to find an old camp and resourcefully uses branches in the nearby area to build a fire. While warming herself near the flickering flames, she discovers via radio that the mysterious group Trinity is also in search of Kitezh because they believe the secret to immortality lies within. She then strings a makeshift bow from things she found in the environment and uses the sinew and hide she looted off a dead animal to upgrade the new bow’s loadout.

According to director Noah Hughes, the developers at Crystal Dynamics wanted to take the “woman vs. wild” theme a step further by allowing a matured Lara to harness her environment to craft upgrades for her bow, arrows, and more. For example, there is a certain mushroom growing throughout the area that when coupled with other materials, can be used to craft poison arrows which he notes is great for stealthily taking out enemies who are close together.

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Also, in addition to swimming–which was sort of shown off during the released video–Lara can now quickly leap into trees, and quietly jump from branch to branch to get a better vantage point of the surrounding area, and take out enemies before they even see it coming.

In the demo we were shown, Lara wakes up to the sound of Trinity voices on the walkie-talkie. One of the soldiers out in the field, who by the light of Lara’s campfire in the distance we know is nearby, is told to kill anything still moving. Aware of this, we find Lara already hiding in a tree before the soldier stumbles on her camp. Before he even has a chance to look up, Lara leaps from the tree and tackles him to the ground, finishing him off with some melee moves.

Sure, one enemy is easy to take out this way, but what if there are more? When she sees a duo searching the area up ahead, she gets into a tree again and shoots an arrow in their direction which takes them both out with a cloud of poisonous smoke. The cool part about this is that she didn’t have to aim at both. They were close enough to each other that shooting the arrow between them was enough to do the trick.

Since not all enemies will be so close together, the developers also showed that the sound of an arrow was enough to draw your foes into an area. When Lara spies a whole group of baddies spread out up ahead, she distracts one of them with an arrow and takes out the one riding solo on the left side. With that area clear, she tosses an object to draw the rest of the enemies on the right into a single area and violently takes them all out with a powerful molotov she crafted from a gas can.

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“Within human vs human combat, we are really celebrating the ability at times to avoid combat or approach combat in different ways”, says Hughes. “And a lot of what we like to do is make sure that our combat celebrates the mobility of Lara, as well as the intelligence and resourcefulness of Lara.”

Humans are of course not the only enemies our protagonist will encounter. If you thought she was safe after blowing the Trinity folks to smithereens, the massive bear that emerges from the wilderness and chases her down will definitely tell you otherwise. Just in case you were wondering, yes, the gruesome death scenes are back and better (depending on your perspective) than ever. The developer demoing the game got caught by the bear on purpose just to show us what happens when you try to outrun a bear. Trust me, it’s not a good idea.

Thankfully, Lara has enough time to slide beneath a wooded barricade from the beast and is protected for a brief moment. After it forces its way through, and throws Lara off of a cliff, she has a few minutes to heal herself with herbs and bandages crafted from things in the area. That means, that healing during battle will be available in Rise. Ready to take her foe on again, she reencounters it and immobilizes it with poison long long enough to shoot enough areas and take it out for good.

“Some of the things we have tried to do this time is celebrate hostile animals and environmental elements like traps that could kill Lara,” says Hughes.

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After this section, Hughes briefly showed off something that will make a lot of Tomb Raider fans happy: Tombs, which were sadly sparse and boring in the 2013 title, are back, redesigned and looking better than ever. Here is where Lara will use her archaeological background to learn ancient languages, unlock secrets, avoid traps and solve puzzles to get to the bottom of what Trinity is trying to find deep within Kitezh.

Sure, I was already excited for the sequel, but I think what I was shown will finally get the attention of those who were craving more adventure, and the days of raiding actual tombs filled with dynamic puzzles nestled deep within. Though it seems like only a slight difference, Lara’s resourceful ability to craft upgrades and other items like poison arrows and healing items on the go from the environment, will make this a deeper experience I can’t wait to have.

Are you excited for Rise of the Tomb Raider’s November 10, 2015 release? Let us know in the comments below.

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