For every breathless clickbait article that proclaims that PC gaming is dead, another solid PC port seems to come out and blow players’ minds. Sure, there’s the odd turd here and there, but generally you’re getting improved versions of console games on a machine better able to do them justice. Often it’s just about getting to play games you can’t play anywhere else, sometimes by design.
Today we’re talking about the latest console port to grace our beloved glowing computing boxes: Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was originally released as a timed-exclusive for the Xbox One last year.
So what’s new in the PC port? Well, the graphics are certainly much nicer, assuming you’ve got the hardware to handle them. I played Rise of the Tomb Raider on an Nvidia GTX 980ti and everything was smooth as butter at max settings. Early reports of questionable performance were completely unfounded in my case, even on a pre-release build; the card did run at a fairly high temperature during play, but otherwise the experience was hunky-dory. Everything is crisp enough to make the Xbox One version look like the low-to-mid-tier gaming PC that it actually is. It’s glorious. You’ll need some beefy hardware to really make it sing…but it’s glorious.
As for the game itself, it’s pretty much what we saw last year. Lara Croft goes on adventures in the footsteps of her missing father. She’s a darker character that struggles with single-minded obsession. There’s lots of platforming; Lara remains responsive and easy to control, maneuvering about the game’s environments with a grace the old Tomb Raider titles lacked. There’s also lots of bad guys, generally the villainous Order of Trinity, who get arrows through the skull. The game, like the reboot, is shockingly violent at times, which might put some players off. Like every game to have come out since 2011, it features a simple crafting system, and like every game to have come out since the mid-2000s, it features a skill tree.
There’s not a lot of genre-shattering innovation in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but unlike most reviewers I don’t consider innovation to be an absolute positive. What’s important to me is that the game is fun on a basic level and nails the fundamentals before it tries to break new ground. That’s what we see here. Rise of the Tomb Raider’s new toys, like a grapple axe for swinging about, are introduced and worked into the same solid gameplay that powered the original reboot. New gameplay additions, like an expanded upgrade system for your weapons, are overlaid on top of what already worked. Playing Tomb Raider felt good; playing Rise of the Tomb Raider feels good and there’s more of it. This is how you do a sequel.
It’s not perfect, of course, but we can blame that largely on the industry moreso than the game. I’ve only got two big complaints, really. The first is that the Expeditions mode returns, and with it microtransactions, but the time to fight that fight was long ago and I guess we collectively decided we were cool with our $60 AAA games squeezing us for more cash. The other is that the system requirements on PC are fairly high. While I had a great experience, every indication suggests that wouldn’t be the case if my graphics card were several tiers lower on the Great Hierarchy of GPUs. Given Nvidia’s push for this game as a flagship title and GPU pack-in, that might also be the case if I used an AMD card (like the iffy R9 Fury X).
Regardless, if you’ve got the rig to run it and are willing to swallow your pride regarding the gradual infestation of every facet of the games industry with microtransactions, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic experience that’s absolutely worth a look. Playing on a properly equipped PC allows you to enjoy the definitive version of the game, and I was happy to check it out again. Fans of the reboot are full speed ahead on this one; newbies should play that first, then check Rise of the Tomb Raider out.