Originally released in November of last year, Rise of the Tomb Raider was set as one of the biggest Xbox One exclusives alongside Halo 5. Sure, it didn’t have the Master Chief or horribly enticing cliffhangers, but it did have character — and that made it one of our favorite games in 2015.

As expected, Rise of the Tomb Raider shipped alongside a $30.00 season pass which promised heaps of new content in the form of Baba Yaga, new costumes and the addition of Endurance mode — one of the best survival experiences I’ve played on consoles.

Priced at $10, Endurance mode pits players against the harsh environment of the Siberian Wilderness — filled with bears, armed militia and trap-filled tombs. You’ll be working to find artifacts across a randomly generated map area in order to keep them from falling into the wrong hands while hunting and keeping warm in the snow to avoid death. You’ll only be getting one chance at it too — because once you’re dead? Endurance mode is over.

It’s a simple concept in theory, but one that takes a lot of patience and practice to master — incorporating all of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s most challenging elements into one hell of an experience.

Base camp areas give you access to your crafting, skills and upgrades while playing Endurance. 

Once you start up Endurance, you’ll have no supplies or weapons outside of Lara’s recurve bow and a few arrows — making exploration paramount to your survival. The goal here is to search for landmarks that you can use to navigate around the map while scavenging for wood, food, and various crafting components that you can use to upgrade your gear. At this stage Lara is quite weak — encouraging you to stick to the shadows while you establish yourself on the map and level up Lara’s abilities.

Eventually, you’ll run into armed militia and hostile animals, giving you the opportunity to attack in order to obtain guns, ammo, and rare materials needed for crafting weapons and gear upgrades. These encounters are challenging on the harder difficulties and charging into combat isn’t always your best option. Most of the time I stuck to the stealth approach, picking my targets off at a distance and taking advantage of the environment to get the drop on them. This strategy also let me conserve ammunition and resources too, in order to save them for more difficult encounters later on.

In many cases, stealth is your best option. 

Tombs, ruins and crypts are also present in Endurance, scattered about the map under rock formations and between mountains. Nearly every one is filled with ancient artifacts ranging from trinkets to the more valuable codices and sarcophagi — but also contain spike pits, traps, and enemies looking for the same thing you are. Each of these areas is randomly generated by the game as well, meaning that you’ll experience fresh tombs to loot as you continue to explore the map.

But these areas are the most dangerous, encouraging you to take your time and manage resources to navigate them. All it takes is one one wrong step and the gear you’ve been working to accumulate is gone forever.

Remember to always watch your step in tombs. 

Sure, Endurance has skills, resources, unlockable outfits, and more, which are all valuable parts of the formula — but the key component that makes it so damn good lies in the threat of death it consistently provides. Rise of the Tomb Raider forces you into danger in order to keep you alive, encouraging you to learn about your mistakes and dive back into the Siberian Wilderness for another go.

It’s great that Rise of the Tomb Raider provides this gameplay mechanic in an easily accessible way too, allowing players to pick up a game they’re familiar with and give the survival genre a go. All too often players don’t have a chance to get into survival-based video games because of the difficult learning curve. Fortunately, that slope is a little more realistic here — creating frustration to feed learning. While Endurance is no Bloodborne, it will kill you a lot; but every time you die? It will be because of your own actions, not a glitch in the system or at the hands of another player.

Endurance mode may have come straight out of left field, but it’s a piece of downloadable content that’s worth a look, especially if you’re a fan of the tried-and-true Tomb Raider formula. It’s going to be interesting to see how Crystal Dynamics adds on to the mode in 2016. Here’s to hoping for new locations.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is currently available on the Xbox One.

Photos via Nicholas Bashore