One of the differences between 2013’s grimy Tomb Raider reboot and this holiday’s Rise of the Tomb Raider (opens in new tab) won't be obvious until you’ve seen the whole story. The primary writer behind protagonist Lara Croft, Rhianna Pratchett, was involved early in the project this time - and that doesn’t happen as often as you might imagine.
“One thing that was nice is we had Rhianna Pratchett from the beginning,” says Noah Hughes, creative director at Tomb Raider’s longtime custodian, Crystal Dynamics. “It’s always great to have a writer as early as possible.”
Speaking to Comicbook.com (opens in new tab) earlier this year about her work on the Tomb Raider comic series, which leads into the new game, she said, “Lots of fast-paced action in a game doesn’t really allow much time to portray the inner journey of a character, especially since it’s the outer journey that forms the primary challenge for the player. Therefore you need to find quieter moments to have the more emotional and characterful exchanges.” That’s easier to do in comics, but likely impossible to accomplish if the level design doesn’t make room for those story-driven moments.
“I’ve also tried to build on the world and characters we established in the Tomb Raider reboot so that readers can find out more about the lives of those they encountered in the game,” Pratchett said. “Ultimately we didn’t have much time to give the secondary characters too much screen time, but behind the scenes [in comics] they all had a lot of texture and backstory created by the team.”
With Pratchett involved from the start - which is to say, being brought on as writer once only the high-level concepts of the game had been established by Crystal Dynamics - there may be more room for secondary characters to flourish. Rise of the Tomb Raider introduces several new characters to the series, including some that populate the more open areas to converse with Lara and provide her with special objectives, or sidequests.
As with the previous game, Rise of the Tomb Raider is hinged on developing Lara as the pro-level temple smasher she grows into. "We have this premise of the world’s secrets being hidden in the most remote and hostile and dangerous locations," Hughes says. "In a lot of ways, this game is about taking the survival themes and characterization of Lara that we brought into the last game, but advancing them in a way that shows how those skills she learned on the island were actually the central foundations of character - that would allow her to then go unlock these secrets."