The official Tomb Raider forums have hosted monthly Q&A sessions with the Tomb Raider development team over the past couple of years and this month’s session has shed some light on Crystal Dynamics’ decision to set their upcoming game (or at least part of it) in Siberia as well as highlighted Lara’s capabilities as an explorer, academic… and linguist.
Here’s an excerpt from the February 2015 Q&A session with Creative Director Noah Hughes:
Q: The legend of Kitezh appears to be a rather obscure story. How did the writing team come into contact with it? And how did the dev-team come up with some of the new areas in the next TR game. Did they find inspiration from locations over the world by previous visits, or did the development team plan some expeditions to feel the vibe of some areas?
A: Noah Hughes (Franchise Creative Director): When we start with the pre-production of the game, we research a lot of myths. We read books and we search on the web and sift through any myths we can get our hands on. Generally, we’re looking for things that sound exciting to discover. In this case, we knew we wanted Lara to go on a major Tomb Raiding expedition, and having something as important as the secret of immortality hidden in a city lost in time seemed like a good promise.
We were also thinking in terms of what locations she would be travelling to. As we had mentioned, there’s at least two locations. One of them being the wilds of Siberia was exciting to us and it caters well to our survival themes. But also there’s something else – the first TR opens with Lara in a snowy environment. There’s something nostalgic and classic about going into the mountains and the snow and it helps deliver on that sense of hard journeys to far-flown locations looking for lost secrets.
Q: Will Lara talk/learn Russian?
A: Noah Hughes (Franchise Creative Director): Lara isn’t just a survivor; she’s a scholar and archaeologist. She brings with her a rich understanding of the culture, anthropology and the language of the locations that she studies. She does have an understanding and awareness and some familiarity with the Russian language. That’s still an important part of what makes her able to unlock the secrets of this place – not just being able to survive the harsh climates but being able to take that culture and language understanding and use it to decipher the mysteries of the past that maybe other people couldn’t. It’s part of showcasing her character that this background of the culture and language exists.
Language is a system in the game and she becomes more proficient, not necessarily in speaking fluently, but in deciphering the texts in that language.
Please note that the Q&A excerpt posted above has been copy/pasted verbatim so any typos, spelling errors, or grammatical errors are not my own.
As a bit of a language nerd myself, I’m eager to see how Lara learns to decipher ancient texts. I believe the Game Informer feature mentioned something about ancient Mongolian inscriptions and I’d like to see how her understanding of those texts will push the game’s story forward.
And kudos to the development team for tackling a less well-known myth. If there’s one thing they did brilliantly in Tomb Raider 2013, it was the way they took a real archaeological mystery (i.e. the search for Queen Himiko and the lost kingdom of Yamatai) and gave it a unique and slightly supernatural Tomb Raider twist.
If you’d like to read the full developer Q&A session, head on over to the official Tomb Raider forums!