Tomb Raider And Uncharted: A Debt Repaid
Yes I know I'm a little late to the Tomb Raider reboot party, but as I play it I can't help but smile at the nuance present in how games advance by feeding one another.
Of course, I'm speaking of Naughty Dog's brilliant Uncharted franchise. As a fan of the better Tomb Raider entries from the past, I (and most others) immediately seized on the Tomb Raider influence in the Uncharted games. Indeed, it is hard to imagine Uncharted existing as it does without having owed a rather large debt to Ms. Croft and her many adventures. From the globe-trotting treasure hunting stories to the clever puzzles to the tense platforming and ledge shimmying, Uncharted was a Tomb Raider for a new generation.
It was not, however, a clone. Where the combat in Tomb Raider was supplementary at best, Uncharted was comfortable being a cover shooter. Where Tomb Raider had bigger puzzles and exploration, Uncharted had localized puzzles and intense cinematic progression.
Now I see that Crystal Dynamics has done a fantastic job of updating Lara and in so doing has taken many of the better cues from Uncharted. For instance, the combat is now a more relevant mechanic but the game's tone hasn't been sacrificed in the implementation. In another case the platforming has taken on greater intensity previously not present in the series. With the shoe on the other foot, Tomb Raider has managed to not become a clone of Uncharted but a singular experience of its own.
Developers are gamers, of course, and Uncharted has informed a number of games this generation with developers like Ninja Theory and Ubisoft mentioning the titles for inspiration regarding Enslaved and Assassin's Creed III, respectively. And as I experience the cinematic nature of Lara's new adventure and watch the way the environments, mechanics, and animations are handled, I'm reminded of how well games turn out when they aren't developed in a self-imposed vacuum.
Modern literary theory evaluates its art as a kind of dialogue with one text always speaking back and forth through time to another; I think it is the same with modern video games. And in my opinion the debt that Uncharted owed to Tomb Raider has now been repaid in full, and I'm very much looking forward to how these games will continue to inspire each other and get better and better.
4/20/2013 David Nelson