Review: Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book

Rise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art BookRise of the Tomb Raider: The Official Art Book by Andy McVittie
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This absolutely beautiful book managed to make me feel surprisingly guilty.

I loved Rise of the Tomb Raider; it’s a worthy sequel to the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot (which I also loved). This book is, as you might expect, a collection of concept art and design documents that led to the creation of the game’s characters and environments.

The reason why this beautiful book made me feel so guilty is because it shows you just how much care and detail went into the environments and backgrounds that I cruised through as I jumped from one ledge to another on my way through the game. I love the Tomb Raider games and I get totally immersed in the world when I play . . . and yet I never spare more than a passing glance at the lovingly crafted ruins, relics, and other pieces that artists worked to create. There’s a page about a few chalices and other Byzantine relics that talks about how much realism the art team tried to create, but this chalice isn’t part of the plot (as chalices are wont to be). It’s just a nice looking ancient cup. I probably ran past it at top speed without ever noticing.

I play games to be immersed, but when that immersion happens, I give the credit to the writers who created the story and the actors who brought the characters to life. Maybe I spare a thought for the programmers who actually built the thing and maybe, maaaybe I think about the art team when I appreciate a well crafted character model or a pretty forest. But when you see just how much care, just how much craft and attention to detail goes into all of this, even a little cup that’s just a setting detail, it makes you appreciate how absolutely spoiled gamers are when it comes to our digital worlds. There’s an entire world of art around every moment and for the most part, we just treat it as window dressing as we focus on the shoot-shoots and the booms.

If you’ve played Rise of the Tomb Raider, I recommend picking up this book from your local library and paging through it, giving the artists a few moments’ consideration for all the work they did. We appreciated it, even if we were running by their work too quickly to notice.

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Review: Tomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of Serpents

Tomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of SerpentsTomb Raider Volume 3: Queen of Serpents by Rhianna Pratchett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I continue to be impressed with the comic series since Rhianna Pratchett took over the writing. It should come as no surprise, as she’s the main writer for the new Tomb Raider games, so it makes sense she keeps the storytelling smooth and seamless between graphic novel and game.

I like that this volume focuses on the deteriorating relationship between Lara and the “normal world” as a result of her experiences. One of the best moments of the 2013 Tomb Raider game was Lara’s horrified reaction to her first human kill; it was a deeply traumatizing and emotional moment and an excellent piece of storytelling. Eventually, the needs of the game mean you’re mowing down enemy mooks with all the concern of a video game character (which is to say, none), but that’s the result of it being an action game.

Here we see that Lara’s experiences continue to evolve her as a character. She’s trying to stay connected to the normal world despite the fact that she’s done and seen things that make her more and more removed from it. It sets things up nicely for why she’s continued to, ah, tomb raid and put herself in dangerous situations despite no longer being trapped on the island from the first game.

A very solid read for anyone hungry for more adventures with Lara. If you have a chance to read this one before going into Rise of the Tomb Raider, I recommend it, but even if you’ve already played Rise, Queen of Serpents is a fun, well written graphic novel that manages to have some surprising emotional depth. I quite enjoyed it.

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