Tomb Raider Reloaded Review
It’s no secret that I like Tomb Raider.
I have a Tomb Raider screensaver on my computer. There’s a Tomb Raider collection on my shelves. I drive a car with L CROFT plates.
So, I’m obviously playing Tomb Raider Reloaded, the recently released action arcade game developed by Canadian studio Emerald City Games and published by CDE Entertainment with input from main franchise developer Crystal Dynamics.
While Tomb Raider Reloaded uses the pre-2013 depiction of Lara — snark and style instead of seriousness and survival — the game embraces modern gameplay rather than getting stuck in the past. Its rogue-like mechanics propel Lara through temples of Maya-inspired temple iconography, aiming for Vampire Survivors by way of Temple Run.
I Hate Love Tombs
Its bright, stylized art style and endless menu seem like any other mobile game, but the comparison to Vampire Survivors isn’t glib; its one touch controls, rotating upgrade unlocks, and automatic firing resemble a licensed version of the explosively popular indie game, even if Reloaded began development long before Vampire Survivors’ launch.
I suspect the common thread here is the also-explosively-popular indie game, Hades. The 2020 title’s addictive take on rogue-like mechanics has quickly populated the genre, especially as enough time passes for games inspired by Hades to finish development.
Tomb Raider Reloaded is like both games in how it presents various weapon upgrades when players level up, allowing them to customize their playstyle with each run. This system is the beating heart of Reloaded. It allows for a compulsively fun mix ‘n match of weapons unlocks that turns fighting mobs into an adrenaline-fueled frenzy. It’s brought me joy waiting for prescription refills, in long grocery lines, and even had me staying on the toilet a couple minutes longer just to see what insanity my newest combo would bring.
One problem: You have to stop moving to shoot.
It’s a huge momentum killer to go stationary to do damage when Reloaded’s motion feels so good. In slower runs I’ve even found myself stopping for several seconds at a time as I let the automatic firing do its thing, leaving me disengaged and dissatisfied.
I Only Play for Sport
But Tomb Raider Reloaded’s biggest flaw is its monetization. I’m playing the Netflix version of the game, which has all its in-app purchases removed but without any of its structure altered. As a result, Reloaded is bogged down with out-of-combat upgrade systems. Just opening the app means seeing a half dozen different exclamation marks point to different icons.
It feels like Tomb Raider Reloaded has every progression hook known to man. There are daily tasks, timed crafting, active events, and a variety of weapon upgrades, each of which take a different manual type to upgrade. After upgrading Lara’s guns, backpack, amulets, bracelet, two different types of ammo, and mask, I’m surprised Reloaded doesn’t have me upgrading the bonuses on Lara’s belt buckle.
My only other explanation for this smorgasbord of options is a fear that people will fall off the game. There have been times I’ve opened Reloaded, seen all the notifications, and immediately closed the app to play something else. That’s a bad sign.
Perhaps Not Just Yet, Then
It’s frustrating that Reloaded leans into notoriously toxic aspects of mobile gaming. Overall, the gameplay itself is a lot of fun. Reloaded is challenging and varied, and the roulette wheel of upgrade options keeps the excitement going.
Best of all, Tomb Raider Reloaded autosaves players’ progress, holding your spot if you must return to whatever task you were waiting for that required you to whip out your phone to begin with. It’s a much-appreciated feature that understands the needs of mobile gamers, but it unfortunately didn’t always work.
I closed my phone after beating a boss, only to open the app later to find them restored to life. Lara’s health bar, though, was where it had been after the fight, not before — ultimately costing me a run.
Tomb Raider Reloaded has a lot of potential. Overall, it needs more focus on smoothing out the last of its gameplay issues and less on the progression hooks. Opening the app to that cluttered menu only reminded me that I can get the best parts of Reloaded elsewhere. The same goes for Lara herself.
- Stylish graphics
- Exciting upgrades
- Fun gameplay loop
- Well-designed layout
- Cluttered menu
- Too many choices!
- Momentum killer