Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book

In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft explores a hidden oasis in Syria and a centuries-old settlement in Siberia in her quest to uncover the lost city of Kitezh and the secrets that lie within.

Along the way, you. the gamer, will come across countless Byzantine murals, awe-inspiring ruins, and a wealth of ancient artefacts, not to mention wild animals, mercenary soldiers, and troubled villagers. And if you’d like to take a closer look at the characters and locations that appear in the game, Titan Books’ art book may be the book for you.

Cover art for Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book (Image credit: Titan Books)
Cover art for Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book
(Image credit: Titan Books)

Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book is packed with more concept art, storyboard sequences, and character models than you can shake a stick at and is the perfect companion to the 2015 game. I ordered my copy from Amazon back in January 2016 and I cannot recommend it enough to fellow fans.

This beautifully-bound hardcover book was put together by Andy McVittie and Paul Davies and includes a foreword and introduction by Brenoch Adams (Art Director), Brian Horton (Game Director), and Noah Hughes (Franchise Director), who outlined the development team’s commitment to putting the tombs back in Tomb Raider and creating an engrossing story and environments for Lara’s first proactive Tomb Raiding expedition.



The first batch of art spreads include a two-page spread of Lara and Jonah walking through a snowy, mountainous landscape in Siberia, an atmospheric spread of Lara attempting to decipher an ancient Greek monolith, and a two-page spread of Lara sitting in front of a small committee of men (presumably lawyers in charge of the Croft estate). These succulent hors d’oeuvres are just a taste of what’s to come in the remaining 180 pages or so.

So let’s move on to the main course.

Chapter 1: Characters

The first chapter, “Characters”, devotes a good 50 or so pages to character studies and designs for Lara Croft and the game’s secondary characters, antagonists, and wildlife.

Each character entry includes a brief biography of said character as well as commentary from the design team, costume designs, concept art, and character studies. It’s easy to forget how much work goes into crafting the look of even the most minor of background characters so this book really gave the design team an amazing opportunity to showcase artwork that may otherwise have gone unnoticed.

I’m a little disappointed that some of the costumes created for Lara weren’t used in the final game, especially the blue climbing jacket featured on page 15, which I would have chosen over the now iconic red expedition outfit. But c’est la vie…



Chapter 2: Weapons and Props

The second chapter, “Weapons and Props”, is by far the shortest chapter in the book. Only 10 pages were devoted to showcasing the various weapons, gear, and other objects found in Rise of the Tomb Raider, so people hoping for an in-depth exploration of said items may need to look elsewhere.

On the plus side, the pages on Lara’s gear and weaponry might be of some use to cosplayers and the detailed close-ups of the game’s Byzantine-style murals are among the most beautiful works of art in the entire book.

That said, I feel this chapter could (and should) have been a lot longer and included close-ups and commentary on a selection of the collectable relics found in the game. Perhaps there was a conscious decision not to include these in the book, possibly to avoid spoilers or to save them for inclusion in another book.

Whatever the reason, the book could really have benefited from devoting several more pages to in-game art and relics. But I guess this gives me more incentive to work on some new Arte-Factual articles for this site. 😉



Chapter 3: Locations

Consisting of over 100 pages, the third and final chapter, “Locations”, is a testament to the excruciating detail and countless man-hours that went into designing the environments and ancient spaces that Lara explores in Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’s without a doubt my favourite chapter and it’s not hard to see why.

A Tomb Raider game would be nothing without its exotic locales and atmospheric tombs and the Rise development team were well aware of this when they began working on the game. Reading through the commentary, it’s clear that a lot of research went into choosing historically-significant settings for Lara’s latest adventure and bringing them to life on screen.

The section on Syria and the Prophet’s Tomb could have been expanded further (there was a noticeable lack of art depicting the tomb’s picturesque inner sanctum) but this chapter is jam-packed with storyboard illustrations, lighting concepts, sketches, art spreads, and close-ups of some of the statues and other background art seen in the game.

The sections on the “Byzantine Ice Caves” and “Chamber of Souls” are particularly noteworthy as they offer a little insight into Byzantine architecture and iconography and include some captivating close-ups of some of the Byzantine-inspired relics and “set dressing” created for the game.



Some Final Thoughts

The thing I most enjoyed about this book was the focus on seemingly insignificant background items and set dressing. The time and care that went into crafting even the smallest and most insignificant of objects, such as the pots and pans in the Remnants’ wooden huts, shows how deeply committed the team were to world-building and creating a lifelike tomb raiding experience for the gamers at home. It’s easy to miss a lot of this painstaking detail when you’re busy fending off Trinity mercenaries or running for your life so the book provides the perfect opportunity to just sit back and truly enjoy what these talented artists and designers have to offer.

The only things I felt the book really lacked were detailed 3D models of the collectable relics, sarcophagi, and other artefacts found in the game (thankfully, a lot of these can now be found on ArtStation) and in-depth interviews with the artists and dev team. But these are minor complaints on my part, especially since much of this “missing” information can easily be found on the official Tomb Raider blog and elsewhere. And the fact that there’s a lot of designer commentary throughout the book. Certainly more than your average video game art book.



In short, Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book is 192 pages of sheer awesomeness (and outstanding artwork) and is a must-buy for fans of the franchise. Head on over to Amazon or Amazon UK to order your copy today!

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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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