The word is out: Lara Croft is apparently going to have a better game than Nathan Drake. The genius predictors cite things like her games originally innovating the genre itself and the beautiful new game she is set to star in, simply titled Tomb Raider, as proof of her triumphant return and domination of the witty protagonist from Sony’s blockbuster exclusive this generation. I agree with everything these people are saying…except for when they say it will be objectively “better” than Uncharted. Of course, just like this theory I am arguing against, this is simply one lone opinion. However, I hope that after reading this, you might see things a bit differently.
I have decided to break down this article into different arguments that people make for why Tomb Raider will be better and answer each of them individually.
Argument #1: Tomb Raider Inspired Uncharted.
Correct. Anyone that knows a bit of gaming history knows that the original Tomb Raider came out in 1996 for the Sega Saturn, eventually releasing for other platforms, such as the PS1. The Tomb Raider franchise has never really disappeared since then, seeing multiple releases throughout the years, but in the past decade or so Lara never really reached the same heights she did in her heyday.
Fast forward to 2007 and you have the release of the original Drake game, Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. Comparisons were immediately drawn – you were looking for treasure, there were puzzles, there was platforming, etc. They key difference though, was Uncharted’s focus on storytelling, action and large set-piece moments. This was at a contrast to the slower-pace of the Tomb Raider games and their focus on puzzle-solving for the most part. Now, just because something inspired something else, that isn’t really relevant to the quality of either product. Uncharted isn’t a copy of the original Tomb Raider games and the new Tomb Raider isn’t a copy of Uncharted. It’s called progression and innovation. Both franchises are different and have always been different.
Now, on to the fundamental argument here: Since Tomb Raider originally inspired Uncharted, that means the revival of Tomb Raider will automatically make it a better game than Uncharted. This is false, primarily because no one has played the final version of Tomb Raider yet. Just because that franchise has been around longer, does not mean a new entry will automatically be better than the Uncharted franchise. Developers innovate and franchises progress over time, you’re looking at the game industry with too narrow of a lens if you’re expecting it to work that simply.
Argument #2: It Looks Like a Better Uncharted.
This is another one of the more popular arguments I have heard on the topic and if you think this, then you aren’t really understanding either franchise. Anyone that picks up the controller and plays a bit of an Uncharted game will immediately understand that it’s a game full of action, cover-based shooting and epic adventures. You’ll fight your way across the top of a speeding train, battle ancient curses and tumble out of a plane in mid-air. While the game’s are beautiful to look at, the situations that Drake find himself in are anything but “realistic.”
This is compared to the new Tomb Raider. While I have not played the game myself, based off of developer interviews, gameplay trailers, demo footage and the like I can conclude that their focus is not on any of those things listed above. Instead, this new Tomb Raider is going to be about immersion instead of intense action, personal character development instead of epic adventures and gritty survival tactics instead of cover-based shooting mechanics. Of course, it will probably have hints of those things as well, but those things aren’t the focus. For those reasons, it would be foolish to simply say that “Tomb Raider is a better version of Uncharted.” That just isn’t the case – they are very different experiences.
Argument #3: It’s Style is Better.
The three focuses that I listed above (immersion, character development and survival) seem to be employed incredibly well. Stated as being similar to Batman Begins in that it’s an origin tale of an established character, the new Tomb Raider promises to be one of the stand-out gaming experiences of 2013. However, just because it takes some of the experiences that Uncharted made so successful and mixed them with a different focus on gritty realism and immersion, does not objectively mean Tomb Raider will be a better game. You can hunt for food in Tomb Raider. You cannot hunt for food in Uncharted. However, you can play multiplayer in Uncharted. You cannot play multiplayer in Tomb Raider. Does this make either game better than the other? No.
Look at it this way: Nintendo essentially created the 2D side-scrolling platform genre with Super Mario Bros. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of games have came out since then that employ a similar mechanic, but let’s look at Rayman Origins for example. That game is fantastic and is easily one of my favorite games this generation. Now, New Super Mario Bros. U came out recently for the new Nintendo Wii U – would you say that game is objectively better or worse than Rayman? Probably not. Everyone has their own preferences and tastes, just like when it comes to Uncharted and Tomb Raider.
Just Enjoy Both!
While this is PlayStation University and I think Nathan Drake is one of the greatest male protagonists to ever grace my television screen in a video game, I’m not going to sit here and blindly state that his games are the best ever created. Instead, I’m going to ask that you enjoy both franchises, or if you have to pick one, choose based on your personal tastes. Would you rather play as a witty treasure hunter that travels to all corners of the world on epic adventures? Or would you rather explore the personal side of a young and tough woman that’s in way over her head fighting for survival? These are two very different experiences, although they may have been born from similar ideas.
Let us know what you think in the comments below. Do you think one is just “better” than the other and I’m simply wrong?