I know I’m late, but I recently finished playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider recently and thought, “Hey, Lara Croft is a terrible person!” It felt like the game developers went out of their way to make her a terrible person.
I’ve played the whole rebooted trilogy starting with Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The gameplay was fun and refined though I hated the quick-time events that keep showing you Lara Croft getting hideously impaled when you failed.
Warning: major story spoilers, if you care about that in a game.
It’s nice that Lara Croft has been a hero for girls in gaming since the 1990s, and the new Tomb Raider from a few years ago tried to reboot her as a more realistic character, giving her an origin story as a normal posh English girl who goes through her crucible to become the tomb raider we all know. The writing suggests she gets a boatload of PTSD for her ordeal as she ends up killing hundreds of crazed cult members on the island. But she comes out stronger and more determined.
So far so good. Until the next two games. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara is off chasing artifacts before a secret organisation called Trinity gets it. Trinity killed her father to stop him from exposing them and are now tailing her. She’s a bit obsessed here, and in the fights, she’s now an unstoppable killing machine. When she starts fighting, she doesn’t talk about hesitating or backing down. She kills whoever comes after her. The animations for her close-up kills are merciless and more vicious than in Tomb Raider.
By Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third game in the trilogy, Lara Croft has become all-out dislikable. She’s so obsessed with thwarting Trinity that even her friend Jonah thinks she’s become dangerous to herself and people around her. Within the first half-hour of the game, she triggers a flood the destroys a town and kills hundreds of people. and unleashes an apocalypse where hundreds of innocent people die. She just moves on and spends the rest of the game chasing after Trinity and the artifact they’re after to prevent the apocalypse.
Here’s the problem: a hero doesn’t come back from causing the deaths of hundreds of people early in the story. The game goes on to show that Lara Craft is now a full-blown monster. She’s more than an unstoppable killing machine – she’s the Predator now. She now stalks the bad guys and kills them more viciously than she did in the previous games. She says she’s out to save the world, but she kills like a total psychopath.
Most people don’t play games for the story. The gameplay is refined and fun, but the devs want to make Lara Croft more nuanced. They want to give her the complexity of a cable TV antihero. Unfortunately, the writing falls short. Lara Croft is just an awful person.
Now, I don’t have a problem playing an unlikable character in games. There are plenty of them, like the characters in the Grand Theft Auto series. In Bioware games, you can choose to make your character be a jerk. The problem with the rebooted Lara Croft is the flawed writing. She suffers no consequences from the deaths and destruction she causes. In this game, she embodies white privilege and colonialism – she slums it in the Third World and gets poor people killed, then plays white knight to prevent the end of the world that she set in motion in the first place.
In the original games, Lara Croft wasn’t exactly a nice person either, but she was fun. She was more honest about being a posho who galivanted around the world wrecking ancient sites in search of priceless artifacts in silly pulp adventures. I don’t know why writers these days think “mature” writing is to insist on making their heroes joyless and grim. Is it a symptom of our grim times that the heroes of all our AAA entertainment from cable TV series to video games have to be horrible people who cause harm to innocent people as a sign of how edgy they are? Is that really necessary?
It’s weird that Nathan Drake from the Uncharted games comes off as more likable and sympathetic than Lara Croft, and he kills hundreds more people than she does.