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The Best Tomb Raider Game of the Past Decade Is Back on Game Pass

Rising to the challenge.

Rise of the Tomb Raider key art
Crystal Dynamics

The 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider helped bring Lara Croft back into the spotlight, giving players an exciting new take on the character. That was the point, it was supposed to breathe new life into a classical icon. But despite its fresh take, much of the game didn’t feel like Tomb Raider. This version of Lara Croft lacked some of her adventurous charm.

Luckily, 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider — the second entry in the reboot trilogy — kept what worked from its predecessor, while folding in some of the fun of the older games. Now that it is back on Game Pass, it is the perfect time to revisit the best Lara Croft game of the past decade.

Rise of the Tomb Raider starts with a bang, as Lara scrambles up the side of an icy peak. Lara’s bright jacket set against the whites and icy blues of the snow and sky stretching out below her makes for a startling first image. The game only intensifies from there.

Where its predecessor had a forested island for a setting, Rise of the Tomb Raider puts Lara into the tundra in Siberia. The browns and greens of the 2013 reboot make way for harsher greys and whites. While it's a new environment, it contains the same challenges of the old, as Rise of the Tomb Raider retains the reboot trilogy’s light survival elements.

What’s more interesting, however, is Lara’s own personality as she approaches these challenges, which is something new that Rise of the Tomb Raider explores. Where Tomb Raider (2013)’s Lara was a protagonist in the middle of being molded into a survivor — constantly driven only by the need to remain alive — Rise’s Lara has grown in the year since the events of the previous game. Now she is more experienced, more prepared, and hungrier for adventure.

Whereas the first game in the trilogy feels like it uses the Tomb Raider name purely because it is what the franchise has always been called, Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game that truly embraces Lara as the Tomb Raider. She is driven to surmount new survival challenges and fend off countless grunts because she has a thirst for knowledge, some ancient mystery she wants to uncover at any cost. Even when it could cost her life, she puts herself in danger. It’s a stark contrast from who she was in Tomb Raider (2013), a woman only out to survive.

The return to Croft Manor in Blood Ties is a twist on one of the franchise’s most loved settings.

Crystal Dynamics

The game then gives her a far more interesting treasure at the end of the journey. Tomb Raider (2013) lacked a truly stunning end set piece, but Rise of the Tomb Raider lets the game’s last hours unfold inside a sprawling ancient city. It feels truly wonderful and harkens back to the original Tomb Raider games.

The dessert to Rise of the Tomb Raider’s filling main course is the Blood Ties DLC. One of the best parts of the original Tomb Raider games was Croft Mansion, which acted as a playground for players (or a torture chamber if you locked the butler in the freezer — you sicko). Blood Ties gives players the first real return to the setting in the reboot trilogy, but there is a twist.

Blood Ties is somewhat of a horror game. No, there aren’t monsters waiting to attack Lara inside her home, but the vibes of the DLC are very haunted house. Perhaps a more accurate comparison is Gone Home, which is all about spooky ambience but no real danger. Blood Ties expands on the interesting story of Lara’s family while making Croft Mansion into a stage for platforming and puzzle-solving.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is the complete package. It retains what fans loved about the 2013 reboot, a smart decision, considering that the game brought Lara back to life. But it also revives a more adventurous spirit from the franchise’s early years, a spirit that makes exploring that much more interesting.

Rise of the Tomb Raider is now available on Xbox Game Pass.

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