2014 has been one rollercoaster of a year for Tomb Raider fans. The year kicked off with the release of Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition for the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, giving new-gen console owners the chance to relive Lara’s ordeal on Yamatai in all its high-def glory. Tomb Raider fans have also been treated to a wide range of new Tomb Raider merchandise, including a brand-new comic series penned by Gail Simone and Rhianna Pratchett, the novel The Ten Thousand Immortals, and a slew of branded clothing and accessories.
And let’s not forget the E3 2014 event back in June, where they announced that not one but two new titles were in the works: Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris and Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to last year’s reboot. Sadly, the euphoria was short-lived. A few weeks later, Microsoft and Crystal Dynamics announced that Rise would be a timed exclusive for the Xbox, prompting a new round of “Console Wars” and sparking outrage from long-time fans of the series (myself included). But despite these setbacks, the Tomb Raider fan community has proved that it’s still as dedicated, welcoming, and creative as ever. And don’t just take my word for it. Even “Lara Croft” herself has nothing but praise for the fanbase.
Now that the year is drawing to a close, I think it’s a great time to look back at some of my favourite Tomb Raider moments and memories of 2014. So here, in no particular order, are 10 moments that made me proud to be a Tomb Raider fan. 🙂
1) Extra Life 2014 – Perhaps one of my favourite and most rewarding experiences of the past year was taking part in Extra Life 2014. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this annual event, Extra Life is a charity gaming marathon that raises money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals across North America. Last year I helped support Team Tomb Raider Community’s efforts by donating and sharing links to the team members’ fundraising pages but this year, I joined in the fun and spent most of that weekend streaming Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Tomb Raider: Definitive Edition gameplay via my Twitch channel, raising a grand total of $585 in the process. It was a fantastic, yet humbling, experience and I want to thank everyone who donated, shared my fundraising page, and/or watched the livestream from the bottom of my heart. It’s moments like these that make me proud to be a gamer.
2) The Rise of the Tomb Raider E3 trailer – The teaser trailer for the upcoming sequel to Tomb Raider 2013 made its debut at E3 2014 and boy did it make a splash. Not only were we treated to short snippets of Lara’s next adventure (erm, I guess it’ll be somewhere that has bears, a forest, and mountains), the trailer also sparked numerous discussions on how mental illness, specifically post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, are depicted in video games. Having struggled with anxiety and depression myself, I’m all for anything that helps break down the stigma of mental illness. It’ll be interesting to see how the Rise of Tomb Raider writing team approach this issue. But, wait. Hold your horses…
3) Stella’s online petition – Then we found out that the upcoming game would actually be a timed exclusive for Xbox. And all hell broke loose. Tip: If you want to know how to anger and alienate a fanbase, take a beloved game franchise, preferably one that has been multiplatform for much of its existence, and make it a console exclusive (timed or otherwise). Much vitriol, such anger. Long-time fans were threatening to boycott all future Square Enix games until the deal had been overturned and some even went as far as cancelling their Temple of Osiris pre-orders in protest. You’d think this incident would be rated as one of my least favourite Tomb Raider moments of the year (and you’d be right) but every cloud has a silver lining. In this case, it came in the form of Stella’s online petition. Within hours of the Gamescon announcement, Stella had started a petition urging Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix to reconsider their decision and to consider releasing future Tomb Raider games on all platforms simultaneously. The response to this petition was staggering (there were over 15,500 signatures at the time of writing) and it was heartwarming to see thousands of Tomb Raider fans around the world rallying together for this cause. You can’t say us TR fans aren’t a dedicated and passionate bunch. 🙂
4) José’s Tomb Raider wedding sketches – Now, the most important and significant event in my personal life this year was my wedding, which was held on September 1st. Amid all the last-minute panic, one of my dear friends José created some wedding-themed Tomb Raider sketches as a pre-wedding gift. Unlike Ms Croft, however, I wasn’t able to get away with wearing some comfy hiking boots under my dress…
5) Dr John Oakland’s Tomb Raider #FF photos – OK, not quite a moment but a series of moments. My good friend Dr John Oakland has been posting (almost) weekly customised #FF photos on Twitter and his commitment and creativity never cease to amaze me. Over the past year, he’s promoted my Twitter account, @TRArchaeology, with photos taken at the Natural History Museum, St Paul’s Cathedral, Lara Croft Way in Derby, one of the old entrances to Aldwych Tube Station, and outside Hatfield House (aka Croft Manor in the Tomb Raider films). There’s also this one that he made for my birthday. And then there’s this one that he created with virtual LEGO. I lack his creativity but I’d like to return the favour by asking you to follow him on Twitter: @DrJohnOakland. Who knows? Maybe he’ll even create some special #FF photos for you someday. 🙂
6) Pfangirl’s Tomb Raider fan fiction – I don’t normally read fan fiction but “Pfangirl” Noelle’s Tomb Raider fan fiction really caught my attention this year. Her stories are all set in the reboot universe and explore Lara’s psyche and her complex relationship with Sam, but Noelle has skillfully brought some old-time favourites from the Core Design universe (and some Classic Lara snark) into her ongoing epic, Easier to Run, to give Tomb Raider fans the best of both worlds. With its well-written action scenes, masterful character dialogue, and captivating plot, Noelle’s Easier to Run is everything the canon Ten Thousand Immortals isn’t. Younger readers should note, however, that this story contains adult themes and strong language. If you’re looking for a more family-friendly story, I recommend Noelle’s 3-part Christmas special, A Croft Christmas, which is set before the events of Tomb Raider 2013 and looks at how this archaeology student deals with being all alone on this family-centric holiday.
7) Helen’s Ten Thousand Immortals tweets – Anyone who has been following me on Twitter has probably figured out by now that I was less than impressed with the novel Ten Thousand Immortals. While it had the potential to be something special (the story of the Golden Fleece is one of my personal favourites), the novel’s complete lack of tomb raiding, its shoddy writing, and its shaky characterization of Lara herself were completely off-putting and, like The Amulet of Power, I finished reading it out of some odd sense of duty. In fact, the most fun I got out of the novel was reading Helen’s Ten Thousand Immortals Twitter review, which made me grin like a loon on more than one occasion and led us to coin the term “arse nuggets” (don’t ask). You can find an archive of all of her tweets over on her blog. And if you’re looking for an alternative review of this TR novel, check out John T’s review over on his revamped game blog.
Helen Baubles (@Lady_Scion) November 13, 2014
8) Dropping in on GamerManMark’s livestream at the perfect moment – This one is a case of “you had to be there” but I thought I’d give a shout-out to my good friend and fellow Raider fan GamerManMark for his Let’s Play videos and online streaming sessions…especially that one time I happened to drop by one of his live sessions just as he started impersonating me. Nothing scares the living crap out of people quite like making your presence known at an opportune (or inopportune) moment, hehehe. Mark, you still haven’t really got my voice or accent right but I appreciate the effort… 😉
9) The launch of Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris – One of the highlights of the year was the release of Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris. Despite the backlash from the Microsoft/Crystal Dynamic announcement, it’s been wonderful to see people embrace and enjoy this game and it’s been even more wonderful playing it for myself on the PS4. While I’m not a huge fan of the isometric view, I found the game’s puzzles nicely stimulating (though not particularly complex) and was chuffed to have Keeley Hawes back in her old role. If there’s one thing that was sorely missing from the reboot, it was light-hearted humour. Thankfully, Temple of Osiris more than makes up for it. Can’t wait to play the game in co-op mode alongside some other fansite owners. That’s something to look forward to in 2015. 😉
10) Tomb Raider’s 18th birthday – And last but not least, 2014 was a milestone year for the Tomb Raider franchise as it marked the 18th anniversary of the first Tomb Raider game, which was released in Europe on the 25th October 1996. I was 16 when the game came out so, needless to say, this made me feel pretty old. It’s incredible how far the franchise has come in the past two decades and while some may think Tomb Raider died with Core Design’s departure or with the release of the 2013 reboot, Lara Croft continues to inspire and entertain millions of gamers across the world. Just think of all the cosplayers, artists, fan fiction writers, archaeology students, Youtube broadcasters, walkthrough writers, fan site owners, and bloggers who have devoted so much of their free time, talent, and energy to the cult of Croft. Few other game series can match the long-lasting and widespread success of Tomb Raider and I’m honoured to have met so many wonderful people through our shared love for the games and films. Long may Lara’s reign continue!
So those were my 10 favourite Tomb Raider moments and memories of the past year. An honourable mention goes out to all the Tomb Raider fans who took part in my series of fan interviews throughout the year. It’s been a real pleasure getting to know you all a little better and learning how the Tomb Raider games have influenced your personal or professional lives. Thank you all so much for taking the time to answer my questions and share your fondest Tomb Raider memories with me.
All that’s left now is to wish all of my readers and followers on social media a healthy and happy New Year! Let’s see what 2015 has in store for us. 😉
What were your favourite Tomb Raider memories of 2014? Feel free to share them below!