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Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition holds up for Easy Mode gamers
Take It Easy Mode is a bi-weekly column on the unsung hero of video games, the Easy setting, for casual and new gamers, parents, and people who generally find higher difficulty modes frustrating.
Right now, we're in that weird lull between console versions, as the PS5 (and Xbox Series X, if you prefer that console — we'll have one of each most likely, because my husband is an Xbox gamer and I am not) is almost here. There aren't a lot of new games coming out, which makes it the perfect time to revisit older titles. Because I skipped the PS3 entirely — I didn't play games for a long time because Easy Mode was not as ubiquitous as it is now — there are quite a few I have to catch up on. When I found the Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition remaster of the 2013 game on sale, I knew that it was time to finally delve into this franchise.
My memories of playing Tomb Raider when I was younger consist of (a) the Angelina Jolie movies and (b) playing for approximately five minutes on a PC, being eaten to death by wolves, and never picking up the game again. As a result, I was a little hesitant, but I'd heard so many good things about the new (or, "new to me," considering this game is close to a decade old at this point) iteration of this game, so I wanted to give it a try.
Right off the bat, I was taken in by Tomb Raider. There is an Easy Mode option from the start, so once you select that, you're plunged into the gameplay.
The combat is pretty simple for the most part, but until you get a good weapon, it can be quite difficult. I found it better to run (especially from the wolves) and avoid as much battle as possible until I had the bow and arrow in hand. I'll be honest, in this game, I was a real bow and arrow fan. You get plenty of other weapons — a rifle, a shotgun, a handgun — but the bow and arrow were my preferred weapon as an Easy Mode gamer.
There's a few reasons for this. First, the ammo is plentiful. While the game doesn't restrict ammunition much (a byproduct of Easy Mode — ammo drops are frequent and plentiful), there were definitely long firefights where I ran out of ammo in one (or more) of the guns. However, because you can carry a lot more arrows than firearm ammunition, I very rarely found myself running out of arrows. That made me start defaulting to the bow and arrow, especially because I found it much easier to be precise with these than with the guns.
Second, while it did take a few arrows to kill an enemy (unless you perfected the headshot, which has never been my forte), leveling up your archery tools makes a big difference. Specifically, if you feel the same way I do about the bow and arrow, then plan on upgrading this weapon in particular. My first priority for any weapon was ensuring I could carry as much ammo as possible, even if it wasn't my go-to (I'm nothing if not an anxious gamer). After that, I worked on upgrading my archery tools to be able to use fire arrows.
Once I acquired fire arrows, I found that instead of four to five arrows to secure a kill, it was more like two or three. Two quick shots in succession were enough to dispatch most enemies, which made things much easier. After that, I upgraded even further to napalm arrows, which, as you can imagine, were an excellent choice. This is not a hand-to-hand combat game, and you can get pretty far by being stealthy and killing quietly. The bow and arrow were, by far, the easiest way to do that when you're operating in ranged mode.
In terms of leveling up Lara herself, I didn't really do much animal hunting, so a lot of the survivalist skills were useless to me (eventually you get to a point where you have to unlock these skills in order to progress to the next level, but I recommend saving them until the end). If you're gung ho on getting as much salvage as possible (which is how you upgrade your weapons), though, then you may want to purchase some of these skills earlier. "Survivalist" in particular helps you get more XP quickly, which is always useful. Personally, I highly recommend getting Arrow Retrieval and Scavenging as early as possible. Pain Tolerance, Ammo Capacity, Orienteering, and Cartography are also very useful.
One note about Tomb Raider: If you're squeamish about animated gore, this may not be the game for you. Many games these days have the option to turn off blood. This one does not, and Lara is covered in blood for much of the game. Additionally, the death scenes when you fail at something tend to be particularly gruesome (one memorable one is a spike through the head, the image of which will haunt me for a long time to come).
This isn't a game where you'll never die — some battles are hard (but never impossible on Easy Mode), and there's a lot of climbing and jumping that makes falling a big risk that a lower difficulty level doesn't help with. But it's absolutely doable, and the respawn points are super convenient. I never found myself replaying more than a few seconds of the game, so dying never seemed overly stressful or frustrating, even when it happened over and over again.
Despite Lara's terrible choices in this game (I know she suffers incredible trauma, I'm not saying that I'd make better decisions in this kind of situation, but it's pretty easy to judge her when I'm sitting in my comfortable chair watching her poor choices onscreen), Tomb Raider was a lot of fun. It's one of those games that doesn't take 100 hours to beat — I think I spent maybe 20 hours on it — and it's satisfying both in terms of story and gameplay. I'm excited that I have two more installments to play.