Thursday, March 19, 2015

Interactive Friction: Tomb Raider (2013): Episode 2: The Titular Archaeologist

First off, this episode was supposed to be posted yesterday, but both Sam and myself completely forgot to do so. For that, I would like to apologize to you guys who are watching us.

Early on in what can be generously referred to as my game criticism "career," I wrote this article comparing the collectibles in Tomb Raider to those in Assassin's Creed 3. As I said in this episode, the collectibles in this game, namely the diaries and the artifacts, really add depth to the world, the side cast, and Lara herself. Whereas in AC3, all of it was frivolous. I feel this is worth pointing out because so many games do so little with collectibles that they are almost entirely pointless.

I said my criticisms regarding Sam in a general sense here, but we'll go into further detail as the game progresses. For a game that has such a well-written female protagonist, to rely on the damsel-in-distress trope feels strange and tiresome in comparison. Sam's one of the worst types of damsels, so it comes off as even more irritating.

Like Sam, Whitman feels like another tired trope, that of the incredibly obvious betrayer of the team. His motivation is also one of the worst. Survival isn't why he betrays us, it's because he wants to be the one to document all of this. It's so bad that it's laughable.

One of the last scenes we see in this episode is the uncomfortable "rape" scene. I can somewhat understand why this scene exists, because it helps to reinforce the kind of opposition Lara will be facing as the game progresses. These men are so deranged that they think nothing of forcing another into a sex act unwillingly. Furthermore, it gives him an excuse to get close enough for Lara to be able to grab the gun in a plausible manner, making her first kill. In the end, it does work, but it still could have probably be handled better.

As we also mention in the episode, the time between our first kill, and the first fight against human beings is on the small side, for good reasons. In the ideal world, the developers would have been able to hold off on giving us pistol ammo. However, I do believe the transition was handled with much more skill than Jason Brody's was in Far Cry 3.

Though we missed in during our conversation, Lara has a very good line right after her first genuine fight. When climbing up the rope ladder, she is talking with Roth on the radio. He says "[Killing those guys] can't have been easy." She responds with, "It's scary just how easy it was." That's really all you need. Even though the transition was somewhat rushed, the acknowledgement that the character is better in violent situations than could or should otherwise be expected helps alleviate that tension.

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