What Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition Says About the Future of the Series

For better or worse, Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition suggests that there will be more where that came from.

Preview by Kat Bailey, .

Listening to Tomb Raider executive producer Scot Amos talk about the latest generation of consoles brings to mind a kid in a candy store. He describes each new technological trick in Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition with barely restrained glee.

"You wouldn't believe the looks on our faces when we got to play with all of this," Amos says as a flock of 2,000 seagulls rise into the air from Tomb Raider's beach. His excitement says all that needs to be said about Crystal Dynamics' priorities, which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Say what you want about the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider -- and we've said plenty -- but it's an undeniably beautiful game. It's a credit to the art, the character models, and the extremely detailed environment that Tomb Raider looks as good as it does on the Xbox 360 and the PS3 -- two systems that definitely show their age. The visuals do much to make what would otherwise be an average third-person shooter memorable.

Given how good it looks on older consoles, Crystal Dynamics might have been able to get away with a quick and dirty next-gen port, but of course they're taking it much further than that. In essence, Crystal Dynamics is rebuilding Tomb Raider from the ground up, starting with its protagonist.

Amos ticks off the changes one at a time: completely new mesh; every strand of hair individually simulated; new head and face; clothes and gear that move independently while she runs. And really, that's just the tip of the iceberg. Tomb Raider features new physics, a new lighting system, and "10 to 15 times more particles."

"This is an engine that won't run on current-gen," Amos says. "This is a next-gen engine. Even the multiplayer engine has been rewritten; we put in a whole new backend for it." 

As a result of Crystal Dynamics' efforts, it's fair to say that Tomb Raider looks as good as any game currently available on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Taken as a whole, the effect is quite impressive. And it will be arriving right in the crucial window when newly-minted Xbox One and PS4 owners will be looking for something to play.

Unfortunately, all of these bells and whistles do come at a price. While the "Definitive Edition" will include all of the DLC released to date -- weapons, multiplayer maps, characters, and The Tomb of the Lost Adventurer, among other things -- it will not have any new gameplay content. No additional sidequests, no epilogue, and no new tombs to explore.

"This is an engine that won't run on current-gen. This is a next-gen engine. Even the multiplayer engine has been rewritten."

Scott Amos, Crystal Dynamics

The explanation that Amos offers for omitting new content is a bit strained, but also somewhat telling: "We thought about developing new missions. The best way I can describe it is... in Batman Begins, adding an extra 10 minutes of deleted scenes... would that make it different? We didn't think so. We really loved the story and the feel of it. We didn't want to break it."

Quite frankly, even if Crystal Dynamics had wanted to build new content, they probably wouldn't have had time to do it. Faced with essentially building a next-gen engine from scratch, they've had to bring in not one but two other studios -- long-time partner Nixxes Software and Sleeping Dogs developer United Front Games. Given Amos' repeated comments about the studio's "lack of horsepower" for the project, new content might have been a bridge too far.

But even if they had the resources at their disposal, there's reason to believe Amos when he says that he's perfectly satisfied with what Tomb Raider has to offer. It seems that as far as Crystal Dynamics is concerned, Tomb Raider has been a complete and total success. And for better or worse, that says a lot about what we can expect from future installments.

As for the Definitive Edition, while returning fans can justifiably grouse about spending $60 on a somewhat prettier version of a game they've already finished, they also aren't really the primary audience. While Crystal Dynamics wouldn't mind a few extra sales from fans willing to double dip, they're mostly hoping to ensnare those who never got around to playing Tomb Raider the first time out, and are now looking for something to play on the Xbox One and PS4.

In the end, the point of the exercise is to get Tomb Raider on the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 -- period. With their foothold established, Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix cans go ahead with what are clearly big plans for the franchise.

Amos hints as much when talking about their decision to focus on graphics to the exclusion of new content: "We have a very tight package, and that's the one we want. The rest of our energies are devoted to telling future stories."

With that, Crystal Dynamics will soon be closing the book on the first chapter of its Tomb Raider reboot. As ever, there will be plenty of debate as to whether it was successful or not (for what it's worth, it did end up turning a profit), but as the Definitive Edition demonstrates, Crystal Dynamics is quite comfortable with its vision for the series. For that reason, it seems safe to say that we can expect more where that came from... and soon.

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 12

  • Avatar for sethmacy91 #1 sethmacy91 4 years ago
    Dammit. Looks like I'll be double-dipping.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for Funny_Colour_Blue #2 Funny_Colour_Blue 4 years ago
    Back in March of 2013, Square Enix declared Tomb Raider as one of the many titles that "failed" to reach their sales expected target.

    Now they're combining their studios in order to help create the "definitive edition".

    Very telling indeed.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for d0x #3 d0x 4 years ago
    I will also be buying this game again lol. It was fantastic. Not only that it was one of the games to get my gf into gaming. I'd been trying for years but skyrim and tomb raider sealed the deal. I never finished the last gem version I was close but I traded it in. While I wish there was new content I can't be mad at them selling this at full price. Its a all around excellent game and I think the comment of attracting new fans looking for a game in this current drought is honest.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for d0x #4 d0x 4 years ago
    @Funny_Colour_Blue all their very good selling highly reviewed games made by western studios were failures but the horid games coming out of Japan were AAA winners!
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for #5 4 years ago
    If any one game out of last year can get away with doing this, it's Tomb Raider.
    Any other game might have sounded like an excuse, but I agree with Crystal, they shouldn't add content, unless it was multiplayer.
    I don't agree at all this would be an average 3rd person shooter outside of the visuals.
    From plot, to pacing, to acting, to controls this was top quality. It took what a 3rd person shooter is, but upped it to the highest quality version of those types.
    I didn't even have to mull this over. Tomb Raider with next gen graphics even though I own it on PS3? Pre-ordered.

    I love where they took the series, I'm certain the older fans will get plenty of tombs in the sequel.
    I'm a violence and horror movie loving guy. For me, this is one of the best games I've played.

    Here's hoping any PS4/XB1 owners who missed out buy this so the developers get appreciated for the passion they have for their game.
    A lot of developers could learn from Tomb Raider when it comes to polish.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for barren_sky #6 barren_sky 4 years ago
    This sounds like a very wordy way of saying that they're porting last years' high-end PC version to the consoles.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for orient #7 orient 4 years ago
    Maybe I didn't play far enough, but I didn't find Tomb Raider to be undeniably beautiful. Even on a high-end PC I thought it looked kind of rough, like your average mid-generation Unreal title. Arkham Asylum looked better on PC to me, albeit with its smaller environments. It has nothing on Uncharted 2 & 3. I guess what I'm saying is, I don't blame them for wanting to improve the graphics, but you won't catch me buying it a second time.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for DiscordInc #8 DiscordInc 4 years ago
    I'm a little annoyed that they are willing to spend a lot of money to completely rebuild the game for Xbox One and PS4, but they couldn't scrounge something together to release it on the Wii U originally.

    I mean, yeah I know that the Xbone and PS4 already have bigger install bases than the Wii U has even now, but it seems like it wouldn't have cost that much more to bring it to the Wii U and sell enough copies to make the cost. Whereas they seem to be banking heavily that there are a lot of Xbone/PS4 owners out there that are starved for games and didn't play Tomb Raider the first time around.

    I'll also find it very ironic though if after all that time where we made fun of the Wii U for relying on ports of year old games at launch window that the same thing happens to the Xbone and the PS4.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for brionfoulke91 #9 brionfoulke91 4 years ago
    Can we stop using words like "beautiful" for graphics in games like this, and instead call it what it is: "realistic"? I don't think more realistic graphics are necessarily "beautiful."
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for TPoppaPuff #10 TPoppaPuff 4 years ago
    "The visuals do much to make what would otherwise be an average third-person shooter memorable." Gimme a break. The combat and movement are better than Uncharted 2/3 combat. The mechanics and controls are more functionally sound. Yes, it is a third person shooter. Yes, it does the big action sequences and looks great for 360/PS3, but even if you strip away the graphics, the game is far above average. The mechanics are exceptional and among the best in the third person shooter genre. You can throw all the art and polys you want at a game like Army of Two and it will still play like ass because it is not as good. This game you can replace all the graphics with the original Tomb Raiders graphics and you still have one of the best playing third person shooters out there. That's better than average, Kat Bailey.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for TPoppaPuff #11 TPoppaPuff 4 years ago
    @DiscordInc It's a lot easier to remaster a game on advanced hardware to create something better looking because you have more power to work with and can scale up. Porting to the Wii U would take much more effort as you have to scale down. Yes, it would have better textures than 360/PS3, but it hard to take a game that already tried it's damndest to maintain 30fps and ask it to do it again on an underpowered processor. The shortcuts they would have to make could be pretty big to squeeze it on to the Wii U. The alpha effects would need to be paired down dramatically since those are processor intensive as well as cut down the number of enemies in certain parts of the game (which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing). The fire level would have to be revamped due to the fire or it would likely run at half the framerate. They would possibly even have to fake the physics puzzles in the tombs, since again those are processor intensive operations. Probably would have to make here hair canned (as in static animations) instead of physics based like on 360/PS3. It would likely take a lot of changes.
    Sign in to Reply
  • Avatar for rhondastewart30 #12 rhondastewart30 3 years ago
    GPU mostly determines frame rate not cpu, the wii u gpu is capable of 60fps 1080P And is the only console that has all of its games run at 1080p unlike xo and ps4 which for some reason seem incapable of maybe due to bad frame buffers there cpu is more than capable but for you it is me to inform you it is gpu that dictates and both xo and ps4 cant manage 1080p on all their games.
    Sign in to Reply