Are Square Enix to blame for the once scrumptious Tomb Raider now being perceived as a cow that needs to stop being milked?
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider and Lara Croft’s greatest adventure yet have both been added to the Xbox Game Pass catalogue this month, but – despite being excellent titles – Square Enix has recently given Tomb Raider (and Just Cause 4) the cold shoulder for under-performing and not being "novel" enough. But, while Square Enix are disappointed in Tomb Raider, it's Lara Croft who should be furious with them as they failed her with the modern reboot.
Tomb Raider is one of the industry’s greatest protagonists, but in recent years her perceived quality has declined. While some might say she’s a cow who needs to stop being milked, I argue that she’s still an in-date product that has been let down by Square Enix. Certain old-school veterans will be nodding and shouting they ruined her by replacing her Dead Or Alive bosom with realistically proportioned breasts, but Square Enix have instead let her down by giving her Jonah as a pet, releasing Shadow Of The Tomb Raider in the same month as Marvel’s Spider-Man, having unrealistic expectations, and turning her into Katniss Everdeen.
Releasing Shadow Of The Tomb Raider in the same month as Marvel's Spider-Man
The biggest mistake Square Enix made with Shadow Of The Tomb Raider was releasing it in the same month as Marvel’s Spider-Man. Despite the developer’s confidence in the British heroine’s status as a video game icon, Square Enix pretty much allowed Lara to be pummelled by Spidey and his gallery of rogues. Not only did this result in the female Indiana Jones being left for dead with nothing but an empty first aid kit, it also resulted in gamers missing out on a pretty damn good adventure.
Square Enix releasing Tomb Raider in the same month as Marvel’s Spider-Man was equivalent to a proud parent forcing their child to compete against an Olympic athlete at a sports day for school. There was only ever going to be one winner, and if Lara Croft is now dead then Square Enix are the ones with her blood on their hands.
Making Jonah an annoying pet
One of my biggest gripes with Rise and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is “nice guy” Jonah. Yes, he’s a teddy bear whose appearance keeps changing, but he’s also Lara’s annoying pet solely created by God to constantly remind us gamers that his owner is heroic and awesome. I seriously cannot stand the guy. He never takes the blatant hints to f**k off, he’s a hairy and big parody of Princess Peach, and he’s a friendzoned donkey who probably smells Lara’s hair when she’s asleep.
Compared to Alister and Zip, he’s a complete tool who is even more insufferable because he’s a burden who chases after Lara in the field. Although he initially gives Lara a dose of reality at the beginning of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider by telling her that the world doesn’t revolve around her, he quickly falls back into being the high-school princess’s butt kisser. Square Enix obviously kept him around so Lara had a mate to accompany her like Nathan Drake did with Elena, Sully, and Chloe, but the difference is that Tomb Raider has always been a solo explorer. If Lara Croft isn’t dead and buried, then Square Enix must kill Jonah and push his corpse into the British heroine’s already made grave. The real Tomb Raider doesn’t need someone to tell her she’s awesome to be a badass.
Having unrealistic expectations
Square Enix recently announced to investors that Shadow Of The Tomb Raider has shipped 4.12 million units. Instead of being happy about this, they instead considered it to be an under-performance which is ridiculously harsh when it sold more than Dragon Quest XI, showing they unrealistically expect it to be a juggernaut comparable to Naughty Dog’s Uncharted. One of the major problems with the modern reboot has been its marketing as an action heavy and poor man’s Uncharted, resulting in a lot of side-eyes and flack. With Lara Croft’s newest adventures being positioned as Uncharted clones, it’s no surprise fans of the competition and the old-school Tomb Raider games have mixed to negative feelings about the modern reboot (even though Uncharted copied Tomb Raider first).
For the future, Square Enix need to stop telling Tomb Raider she should be like Sony’s beloved Michael Bay flick, Uncharted. They also need to be realistic with her commercial performances, instead of threatening to lock her away for doing a great job instead of an exceptional one.
Turning Lara into Katniss Everdeen rather than Tomb Raider
Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot started off so well with Lara Croft’s horrific ordeal on the Japanese island Yamatai. The developer’s firmly established that their modern characterisation of Lara was a work in progress with her developing from a naïve and innocent girl who “hates tombs” into the badass chick we all know and love. Then Rise and Shadow Of The Tomb Raider came along and ventured further and further away from the classic traits that make Tomb Raider so iconic. Instead of “becoming the Tomb Raider”, Lara Croft merely turned into an imitation of Jennifer Lawrence’s biggest mistake, Katniss Everdeen.
Not only did Lara turn into Katniss Everdeen with her being positioned as an outside hero for a bunch of misfits against a morally corrupt organisation, but she also embraced the bow and arrow instead of her classic dual pistols. For whatever reason, Square Enix mistakenly appeared to be embarrassed of the cool archaeologist Lara Croft used to be, when instead they should have cringed at the copy Lara had become of a “hero” from a young adult novel.
In addition to her turning into the Hunger Games’ protagonist, Square Enix also failed Lara Croft by making her a whiny hypocrite who was always pushed along by the narrative. If Square Enix plan to continue making Tomb Raider games, then they must turn Lara back into a self-aware and stylish heroine who has fun.