Uncharted vs. Tomb Raider?

Originally published on Trevor Trove on December 17, 2015

When Rise of the Tomb Raider recently launched on Xbox One (and Xbox 360), a common refrain I heard was “Rise of the Tomb Raider is so good, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has a lot to live up to when it comes out next year.” The first time I heard this sentiment, I thought, “What does that even mean? They’re vastly different games even if they do share the Indiana Jones sense of pulpy action-adventure.” So as I kept hearing it, I just grew more and more confused. Maybe it’s because I just replayed through the Uncharted games and the differences seem much more clear as a result?

The Google Image search for Uncharted vs Tomb Raider

The Google Image search for Uncharted vs Tomb Raider

Uncharted is, I would argue, a story- and character-driven linear game. The player takes Nathan Drake from point A to B in each level, occasionally stopping for some light platforming puzzles and gunfight arenas. The second and third games of the series also leaned much more heavily into the cinematic big action set pieces (fighting in a collapsing building or a capsized ocean liner). The Tomb Raider reboot and its sequel fit much more in the realm of 3D Metroidvania games where the player direct Lara Croft through larger open areas, collecting various items and building up experience to upgrade Lara skills and weapons. If anything, I would say Tomb Raider is far more like a Batman Arkham game, substituting Batman’s hand-to-hand combat with Lara’s weapons, than an Uncharted game.

Having spent a couple days with Rise of the Tomb Raider now, I’ll certainly cede that it is a beautiful, fun game. But I still don’t see how Uncharted is supposed to “one up” this game. I don’t expect Nathan Drake to suddenly be scouring his exotic locales for scrap and resources to upgrade a bow or pistol. Naughty Dog has certainly tackled that idea in The Last of Us but it’s never been a component of the Uncharted series. The Uncharted games are much more akin to the Halo series where you’re limited to a couple weapons on your person and whatever other ammo and weapons you can scrounge from your fallen foes.

The only collectathon component of the Uncharted games are the Treasures and those only affect the PlayStation Trophies acquired. Compared to Lara’s collection of relics, documents, strongboxes, etc. in Rise of the Tomb Raider, all of which provide the player with experience points that level up Lara and her skills, and you have another example of two very divergent approaches to game design.

Ultimately, I’m very curious if these two titles would be pitted against one another if Rise of the Tomb Raider hadn’t been an Xbox timed-exclusive. Yes, comparisons were made when the reboot came to the last generation of systems, but only so far as they both influenced each other in terms of telling an action-adventure story with archaeological and historic flourishes. But now that the games are effectively on competing platforms (until Rise of the Tomb Raider comes to PlayStation in Fall 2016), it would seem that the fanboy/console wars are bleeding over into these games, with each side feeling the need to defend “their” game.

I, for one, say “to hell with that! I’m gonna enjoy them both!”

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