Many moons ago, I put together a wish list for a sequel to Tomb Raider (2013) and, oddly enough, most of the items on that list ended up being gameplay features in Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, or both. And while a new Tomb Raider game has yet to be confirmed, I thought I’d have some fun in the meantime and think about what I’d like to see and do in Lara’s next outing.
1) Maintain the current balance of combat/exploration/puzzles – For all my issues with 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I genuinely believe that the game struck the perfect balance between exploration, combat, and puzzle-solving. Any future games should stick to this formula and, if anything, skew in favour of exploration and puzzles. I know combat has been a mainstay of Tomb Raider since the very beginning but I could do without the all-too-frequent waves of mercenaries and humanoid enemies.
2) Fewer fetch quests, more riddles – In addition to the usual environmental and traversal puzzles, I’d also like to add cryptic riddles to the mix, something along the lines of the papyrus puzzles of Assassin’s Creed: Origins or Ainigmata Ostraka of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. That way, gamers can use their detective skills and knowledge of the terrain to unearth hidden secrets and vital clues. Imagine if the entrances to challenge tombs could only be found by correctly solving a multi-step riddle. Wouldn’t that be more rewarding than helping a random villager retrieve some lost equipment?
3) Bring back Croft Manor – At the end of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we see that Croft Manor has been restored to its former glory and is now Lara’s base of operations. While the reboot trilogy did a decent job of incorporating tutorials and gameplay hints into its opening levels, I miss the training areas of yesteryear. I’m sure Lara could fit a decent gym, pool, and assault course in that lofty mansion of hers. Furthermore, I think Croft Manor would make an excellent central hub that Lara can return to throughout the game to upgrade abilities, craft new materials, equip quest-specific weaponry or tools, or simply take a breather between missions.
4) Take a more open-world approach – I’m not entirely sure what a fully open-world Tomb Raider game would look like or how it could be executed, but I’d welcome the option to jump between locations with greater ease and have greater freedom to explore the surrounding areas without triggering a cut scene.
That said, it may be difficult to create a Tomb Raider game that feels as open-world as the last few entries in the Assassin’s Creed series, where you can find yourself straying off the beaten path, discovering lost tombs and sites and unlocking parts of the map before returning to the main story quests many hours, days, weeks, even months, later. Granted, Tomb Raider isn’t a franchise that’s geared towards open-world gameplay. A better option would be to allow gamers to choose which order they would like to visit certain locations. This less-linear approach was used to great effect in Tomb Raider III.
5) Use a wider variety of locations – Egypt and China seem to be the two places that fans are clamouring for, but as much as I’d love to see those locations in all their next-gen glory, Tomb Raider has slowly set itself apart from other adventure games by exploring some of the world’s less well-known corners. Sub-Saharan Africa, Central Asia, Oceania, and the Middle East are fairly underrepresented in the franchise and would be fascinating settings for a future game.
And the more locations per game, the better. Imagine a story set along the entire stretch of the old Silk Road, which once facilitated trade and cultural exchange between China, Central Asia, Persia, Arabia, Southern Europe, and even parts of North Africa. Or one focused on the medieval kingdoms of West Africa, who conducted trade with places like Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia. Or perhaps one that follows in the footsteps of Alexander the Great, whose vast empire once included Egypt, Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. The possibilities are endless.
6) No more lost tribes/forgotten people – Tomb Raider has always had its problematic elements and been somewhat colonial in tone, but one of the tropes that has bothered me the most is that of the “lost tribe”. For the last two games, Lara has come across lost tribes in long-forgotten settlements and quickly stepped in to save these communities from certain destruction and, essentially, save the day on their behalf.
The most egregious example of this was in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, when Lara is asked to complete the ritual and assume Unuratu’s sacred duty after the queen’s untimely death, despite being an outsider with no real knowledge of Paititian tradition. By eliminating lost tribes from any future games, we can avoid yet another “White Saviour” story and, hopefully, limit the number of pointless side quests that involve solving the local community’s personal problems.
7) Bring back vehicles – Sure, we’ve all had our issues steering that damn kayak in Tomb Raider III or had difficulties steering quad bikes and snowmobiles along treacherous paths but I think a lot of us would welcome the return of vehicles, especially since the drivers and pilots Lara hires always end up dead. Vehicles would allow her to explore her surroundings with greater ease, navigate rivers, or make speedy getaways when needed. Even a horse or husky sled would be a step in the right direction.
8) Add scuba diving to Lara’s skill set – Rise and Shadow brought back swimming but I’d like the next game to go one step further and bring back one of the more entertaining features of Tomb Raider: Underworld: scuba diving. What better way to explore underwater ruins and passageways?
9) No more reboots for now – A lot of fans have speculated that the next game may be yet another reboot of the franchise or, less likely, a continuation of the LAU timeline. Personally, I think a reboot of any sort is completely unnecessary at this stage and could lead another segment of the fanbase to give up on the franchise altogether. Just fast forward a few years so that we’re dealing with an older, more confident and skilled Croft and continue Reboot Lara’s story. Let’s see what she got up to after defeating Trinity and making peace with her family history. Oh, and let’s avoid any more trilogies for now unless they are mapped out in advance to avoid inconsistencies in tone, story, and intent. Standalone adventures are the way to go.
10) Let Lara have fun – I know the series has largely sworn off the more fantastical elements of the older games – such as dinosaurs and dragons – but it doesn’t have to rely so heavily on gritty realism, family drama, and jump-scares. In Shadow, we saw a Lara that was a little more assured of herself, jocular, and occasionally sassy. The campy “wink at the screen” antics of Angelina Jolie’s Croft might not work in the 2020s but I’d like to Reboot Lara to learn how to unwind and start enjoying herself. She should crave excitement and adventure, not approach her latest quest with the enthusiasm of someone doing their grocery shopping in the middle of a pandemic. Because if Lara isn’t having fun, I’m not having fun.
So that’s my list. Feel free to share your own wish lists in the comments section below!