Tomb Raider Dev on Lara’s Violent Reboot: ‘Let’s Be Bold’

The launch of the new Tomb Raider reboot marks a new direction for the storied action-adventure series, and according to Crystal Dynamics, it’s one that needed to happen.

Speaking during a roundtable interview last week, Studio Boss Darrell Gallagher explained that games in the franchise such as Tomb Raider and Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light were born of a necessity to evolve the franchise after several yearly iterations that were very similar. That sort of attempt to make something new and different in the franchise led to changes such as going back to Lara’s origins for the latest game, creating a much more violent story, and the addition of multiplayer.

That may well also expand to other new elements in the industry, such as motion control, Gallagher said.

“I think in general — I can’t really say whether we’ll do one thing or another — but just like multiplayer, I think it’s important to embrace what’s new,” Gallagher said. “And a lot of times there’s criticism in the games industry of franchises that don’t evolve, that sort of stay stuck in a repetitive way. And we’ve faced that in the past as well: When you get on a yearly cycle, it can be tough to innovate. So there’s sort of criticism around that, which I think is fair in some cases. What we wanted to do was actually say, you know what, let’s experiment. Let’s actually be bold, let’s not get stuck doing the same thing over and over. Let’s embrace change.

“And I guess I’m talking broader than just some new inputs or new controllers — I’m really just talking generally about our philosophy over the past few years. And out of that what we’ve seen is Guardian of Light. That’s just one example. We’ve also seen a reboot of the franchise, which is a very very different take on it and very bold. Certainly challenges the expectations internally and externally. We also had a multiplayer component to that, and in the future, I think that is our take on the franchise as a whole is one that we need to be allowed the room to experiment.”

Brutal Deaths and Emotional Responses

Lara’s story of survival includes some tough depictions, not the least of which are its graphic death scenes, including shots of her being impaled through the head or chest, of being stabbed or shot, and of being crushed. Creative Director Noah Hughes said those scenes of mortality, at some level, are meant to help players empathize with Lara’s struggle for survival on the island during the course of the game, and they also help to make survival feel more immediate and important.

Those scenes may be tough to watch at times, Hughes said, but they were also a part of the franchise the team felt needed to be included as part of the legacy of Tomb Raider.

“On one hand it was important that you didn’t want to die, that when you died, that felt like that was the wrong answer, and you were that much more motivated, like Lara, to survive on the island,” Hughes said. “But there’s another piece of it, that it’s a little bit of Tomb Raider legacy also. When we talked to fans, we asked, ‘What do you remember about the old games?’ a surprisingly high number of people remembered falling on the spikes for the first time, or swan diving onto hard ground and that neck-snapping crunch. And it’s something that at the time had the same impact — it felt brutal and it made you care about Lara’s success on some level because you really could empathize with the brutality that the world represented. So there’s an aspect of just classic Tomb Raider legacy that we felt was represented there too.”

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