Genre: Action-Adventure
Year: 2013
Developed by: Crystal Dynamics
Published by: Square Enix Europe
Platforms: PC, PS3, PS4, XBOX 360, XBOX One, Linux, OS X
Feeling Like: Clueless Gamer

I thought I’d be really into Fire Emblem Engage. I like tactical RPGs, I loved Fire Emblem: Three Houses so much that I gave it my Game of the Year in 2019. January was relatively quiet, and nothing else was out. Seemed like a no brainer.

Didn’t click. I’m not sure if I’ll ever go back to it. I typically beat every game I start, but there are a few curious sheep that wander away from the flock never to return. Valkyrie Profile, Dragon Quest 11, Valkyria Chronicles, Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to name a few. It’s not necessarily that they’re bad games, but circumstances took place where I lost motivation, or there was another game that got my attention. Maybe that’s why I plough through games; once I put them down for even a short period of time, the odds are I’ll never go back to them.

There are even a few games that I outright dislike early on. I don’t subscribe to the notion that you should drop something right away if you’re not enjoying it. I know time is precious, so why stick with something that’s not providing any value?

Because movies like Aftersun, and games like Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter and Tomb Raider exist.

Aftersun is a terrific, heartbreaking movie about a father and daughter’s relationship on a vacation. The first 75% had Kyla and I stymied – what were people seeing in this? It was well acted, to be sure, but there wasn’t much plot to speak of and it felt glacially paced. Until a single scene in a hotel room – then I was hooked. What started as a mildly dreary, pointless movie turned into one of my favorites from last year. The last few minutes are stunning, an incredible combination of storytelling through music, visuals and melancholy.

Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter I’ll get to eventually, but Tomb Raider was far worse than I expected and I’m shocked I stuck through it. I hated the initial parts; it was rife with Quick Time Events (QTE’s) that felt brutally difficult and instant fail stealth sections and if you don’t know that I hate those, I hate those.

I nearly quit.

Cities: Skylines was on the horizon, as was Ori and the Blind Forest. It would have been so easy to justify un-installing it and moving onto games I knew I would love.

But then I would have missed out on a brutally satisfying game, an Uncharted title with teeth. Stealth became more of a weapon than a hindrance, the puzzles got progressively better, the upgrades felt meaningful and the more punishment Lara took, the more I wanted to see her through to the end.

I’m so glad I stuck it out.

What really got me interested was a segment with Conan O’Brien and Aaron Bleyaert. I love everything Conan does and I’ve probably watched this sketch at least a dozen times. I couldn’t pass up giving this one a try. It was also on sale on Steam; if there’s anything I’m a raider of, it’s cheap video games.

Lara really takes a beating in this one, she’s always tattered and dirty, or bruised and bloodied from a previous encounter. This is a delicate subject, but I think they did a good job de-sexualizing Lara compared to her general persona in previous games. I’m not sure how much of an issue in 2013, but I don’t recall hearing any criticisms in this regard. It’s not easy revamping a beloved video game icon, tenfold when it’s a female character. Props to Crystal Dynamics for sure.

The combat is better than expected. Once I learned the style and improved my stealth, I daresay it has terrific combat. Traversal is just as fun, with every area a potential playground of ropes, cliffs, structures and corners to use to your advantage.

Ten years ago we weren’t exactly in a “colorful” stage in video games, so the screenshots I’ve found are mostly greys and browns, but the game does have some spectacular looking areas. The island is not the most diversified of locations, but it still looks pretty damned great and it was outright brilliant ten years ago.

There were sequels, and I’m sorry to say I never touched them. I’m tempted to go back; looking at a few Let’s Plays on YouTube reminded me how Tomb Raider got better and better as the game went along. Upgrades meant more freedom in combat, traversal and stealth were encouraged and Lara herself was an intriguing protagonist. It doesn’t have the charm of an Uncharted, and those first few hours were terrible, but beyond that it’s a terrific romp.

Previous 216 Beyond Good & Evil

Next 214 Batman: Arkham Origins