If Tomb Raider is a Superhero Origin Story, When Does Lara become Lara?
What makes Lara the character she really is? Could the new game have a defining “suiting up” moment like a superhero origin movie, and if so what form do you think that would take?
Every superhero origin movie has that iconic moment where the legend is born; Clark Kent putting on the cape, Bruce Wayne donning the cowl, Peter Parker unfurling the mask. It’s a trigger point both emotionally and narratively, and let’s you know that the hero you’re familiar with has arrived. Regardless of what has gone before, they are past the point of no return, and the persona is established. Though Lara Croft isn’t exactly a superhero, her place in the pantheon of modern day action heroes is safe and secure. She transcends the medium from which she was born, and thanks to a fairly consistent cross-media effort from Core Design, then Eidos, and now Square-Enix she is known by more than the just those of us that have played the games in which she stars.
Throughout the game, it seems apparent that we’ll see nods to actions that we know she takes in later episodes, but at what point will we know it’s really her? We know that she kills for the first time in this reboot, but is that her defining moment?
All told though, what really makes Lara, Lara?
The new Tomb Raider from Crystal Dynamics is still eight months away from release, but Comic-Con 2012 represents an important moment for the new game as it’s the first time that the public has been able to get their hands on it. What’s clear is that the gameplay is a slight departure from the classic formula. Yes, it’s still a third-person action game with Lara firmly at the center, but there’s now an emphasis on survivalism, stealth, and even lightweight RPG-like XP allocations. Want Lara to have better aim, or be able to fall from greater heights? Now you can boost specific skills and affect the way your experience with her unfolds throughout the game. It’s not innovative stuff by any stretch, but it affirms the more considered, and character-focused approach that the new game takes.
Key to that focus on character is the fact that, like any superhero origin movie, we know where this is going. We know that Lara grows up to become a tomb raiding, gun-toting posh girl with a global network of adventuring chums that can help her out when she’s in a bind. “You’re a Croft, Lara,” says her mentor Conrad Roth in the last trailer, in a nod to her adventuring (what’s the word?) nobility that’s only really been touched on a little over the past 16 years. Clearly her experiences on the isolated Pacific island in the Dragon’s Triangle (it’s just south of Japan, if you’re interested in the approximate real-world location) are shaping her future abilities. In the relatively brief playable demo she shows her athletic abilities by climbing up a crashed plane, her skills with weaponry when she grabs a bow and arrow from a corpse and starts shooting at animals, and her tremendous tolerance for pain well pretty much all of the time. Throughout the game, it seems apparent that we’ll see nods to actions that we know she takes in later episodes, but at what point will we know it’s really her? We know that she kills for the first time in this reboot, but is that her defining moment? Surely she’s much more than a badass killing machine, and our interview with both new Lara Croft actress Camilla Luddington and Crystal Dynamics’ Karl Stewart (embedded below) certainly indicates that this is the intent.
So, will the game have a “suiting up” sequence, and if so what do we consider to be Lara’s “suit”? Is it simply the double gun holsters? Or is it the full 1996 Tomb Raider ensemble with the teal tank-top, shorts, braided ponytail, and big boots? In the first episode of Tomb Raider: The Final Hours, Luddington says “the shorts are gone,” perhaps acknowledging that the old style is gone for good. So are we going to see (and this is certainly my hope) that Lara is defined by much more how she looks and what she can do physically?
What do you think makes Lara the character she really is? Is she more than an image? Is she unique in that she can be recast with a different face, a different voice, a different body, and a different look but still maintain her true self? Is she becoming a character like Batman, where her look can be tweaked and changed with successive tellings of her story? Let’s get a conversation going about this. Let us know what you think of this, and the possibilities for other important gaming characters in the comments.
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By John Davison