Friday, August 23, 2013

Tomb Raider, The Non-Reboot

Admittedly a little late to the party, I finally played the new Tomb Raider, and I loved it. I think the game kept going a little too long gameplay wise. Lara got a little too action hero post-Temple. As an origin story it was brilliant, even if she went from one kill to many a little too easily. I'd have liked a three stage process, first kill, realising she will have to keep killing, then first brutal kill. As it is, her first stealth kill where she, CALMLY STRANGLES A GUY WITH HER BOW happens a bit too easily for my liking. But it's a game and these are the concessions of the medium.

However, I do have one big problem with another aspect of it. Everyone was calling it a reboot. It isn't. If you listened to last week's BeefJack podcast you'll have heard me say some of this argument, but partly having not finished the game, and partly being ambushed, I didn't argue my case very well. I used the example of Star Trek as a reboot, the new JJ Abrahms films being a different timeline to the old Roddenberry stuff. While true, Abrahms also did it in-universe too, so a better explanation would be Batman.

Batman Begins/Dark Knight can in no way exist in the same universe as the old Burton films. At the basic level there's two Jokers, two Two-Faces (though he'd probably like that) and two Banes. Events in the new films contradict those from others. It is a new timeline.

That isn't the case with Tomb Raider. Nothing in the film directly contradicts anything previously set up. The game end with Lara admitting that maybe her Dad had a point. While previously she had dismissed his claims of there being truth to stories of myth and legend, her experiences on Yamatai prove that he was right. This is a direct correlation with the story Crystal Dynamics were telling with their previous games. Following the disappearance of Lara's mother, Richard Croft throws himself into mythical research to try and find her. Based on this I'd say this is a prequel, showing how Lara went from being a budding archaeologist to the Tomb Raider.

So I decided to go look at how some of the hardcore fans see it. My first stop was the dedicated Lara Croft Wiki. You can't get more hardcore then guys keeping a database on this stuff. Now the interesting thing here is that they quite specifically say “A completely new character also named Lara Croft was created by Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix for their game Tomb Raider (2013).” Yet look at 'original' Lara's entry. She has two biographies. One Core Design, one Crystal Dynamics. The difference? Lara's back story given in the original Tomb Raider's manual. There it stated both of Lara's parents died in a plane crash. Crystal Dynamics changed it up with the mother dying as a result of the plane crash – which also happened a lot earlier in Lara's life – and her father throwing himself into his work and eventually dying as a result.

At a push I'd say that there are two timelines, Core and Crystal Dynamics. Really, I feel Crystal Dynamics expanded upon a brief note from a manual that barely anyone knew about and turned it into a far more interesting story.

Of course, the next game could totally contradict everything I just said and show Tomb Raider (2013) was a full blown reboot.
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