Noah Hughes on the Mythology of Rise of the Tomb Raider

In episode 28 of Crystal Dynamics’ studio podcast, Tomb Raider Franchise Director Noah Hughes took the opportunity to talk a little about the mythology behind Rise of the Tomb Raider and Lara’s search for the legendary lost city of Kitezh.

Here’s a short summary of the key points raised in the podcast:

  • Why Kitezh? – The dev team wanted to choose a myth that hadn’t been explored much in movies or other media and they “liked the idea of a remote Siberian location” as reflected their belief that “secrets that are lost in time are buried in the most harsh, remote, hostile locations, otherwise they wouldn’t still be hidden”. A fair point, I feel.
  • Balancing reality and fantasy – As with previous games, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s in-game mythology will be grounded in real-world mythology, though the dev team say they have taken “a certain amount of creative license” and that the game’s plot will “reveal [the dev team’s] own fictional truths behind the myth”. According to Hughes, “part of what’s fun about playing with the mythology is making something fantastical and that’s inherently hard to believe” but he also alludes to the fact that Lara (and the gamer) will approach mythology “as something you learn about through the culture, through the murals, through the books and ancient tomes…”[by] deciphering secrets and tombs”. It’ll be interesting to see how they will adapt the story of Kitezh to fit into the new Tomb Raider universe and how the game’s relic system will flesh out the narrative.
Concept art from Rise of the Tomb Raider
Concept art from Rise of the Tomb Raider (Image credit: Crystal Dynamics)
  • Transcending cultures – Although the story of Kitezh is very much tied into Russian folklore, Hughes pointed out that the post-reboot universe will explore myths that transcend cultures and might have an element of truth, such as the concept of an immortal soul. Rise of the Tomb Raider will not only approach the myth of Kitezh from a Russian perspective, it will also approach it from a variety of different perspectives, including that of the Mongol invaders who attempted to capture the city before it mysteriously vanished beneath the surface of a nearby lake. As Hughes mentioned in the podcast, the secret that lies hidden beneath the lake attracted “people like moths to a flame” and that it’s not just the Mongols that would seek to possess this [power]. That really becomes an important part of Lara’s universe – the desirability of these ancient artefacts and ancient secrets”. As we already know, Trinity will be one of the other interested parties. But will there be others? There was some mention of an Ancient Greek ship frozen in ice in the Game Informer and Official Xbox Magazine features last month, though no explanation has been given so far for its presence in the game. Did the Greeks also venture into Siberia in search of the secrets of immortality? I guess we’ll need to wait and see how this all pans out.

Crystal Cmpass episode 28

If you’d like to listen to the full podcast, which also includes a Q&A with Game Director Brian Horton and a fascinating segment on the allure of Ancient Egypt, please click on the image above. A full transcript of the podcast can be found here.

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About Kelly M

Kelly McGuire is a writer, part-time translator, and gamer who is passionate about archaeology, language learning, travel, and wildlife conservation. She tweets under the username @TRHorizons and is the admin and chief content creator for Tomb Raider Horizons.

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