Welcome back to Survivor Reborn. In this opinion piece we cast an eye to the future of Tomb Raider, with the departure of Rhianna Pratchett, as one door closes, another must open.
This week, Rhianna Pratchett announced her departure as a writer for the Tomb Raider series. She joined during the production of 2013’s Reboot, and helped bring new life to Lara by exploring parts of her character that we, as players, had not seen before.
I write this post in the hope that Amy Hennig will read it, and perhaps lend some of her particular brand of awesome to Lara Croft at some point in the future.
Something present in Tomb Raider III, Tomb Raider IV: The Last Revelation, Tomb Raider: Chronicles, and Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness – and then again separately in Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld – were storylines that linked together, and stretched back into forgotten histories.
For example, Tomb Raider III teased the introduction of the Iris artefact, and its story was explored in greater detail over Tomb Raider IV and Chronicles. Lara’s personal story-arc continued to grow throughout her adventures in the fourth, fifth and sixth games.
In the Crystal Dynamics games Legend, Anniversary, and Underworld, Lara dealt with the Ancients and their artefacts. The Atlantean queen Natla featured in each entry (spoilers), and became the villain for that trilogy.
All of these stories helped to ground the series in its own mythology, and tied everything nicely together. We enjoyed a continuous, but ancient, story that delved a little deeper with each new game – unlocking a little more of the mystery each time.
Why do I bring this up?
I feel like the current trilogy of games – 2013, Rise, and Shadow(?) – are somewhat lacking in their own mythology. Or at least, that the main mythology we do have is simply heavy emphasis on Lara’s life and her parents’ adventures. These are stories about Lara trying to stay true to her legacy, while simultaneously attempting to pick-axe her own name into the history books.
Aside from the story threads in 2013 and Rise, we have the growing threat of ‘Trinity’. However, after two games we still know next to nothing about this shadowy group, and they are currently about as threatening as a distant grey cloud.
However, one thing we do know is that Trinity stretches back at least as far as the Crusades. Something Angel of Darkness did very well was to explore a story that was rich in mythology, and had characters that stretched back in time. This helped to set up a wonderful story that Murti Schofield has kindly now shared with us (see the book ‘20 Years of Tomb Raider’, page 153+).
It’s with this in mind that I reach out to Amy Hennig.
Amy doesn’t just create games – she creates worlds. This, in my opinion, is what Tomb Raider needs. The world that Lara currently inhabits is, unfortunately, pretty thin on the old ‘continuing-ancient-story’ front. With her wealth of experience, Amy could help pile this on by the bucket-load.
If you are unfamiliar with her works, then please dive into the Soul Reaver games. For this series, Amy Hennig helped create a world – indeed, an entire mythology – worthy of an epic anthology. With each new game, the story deepens and grows more exciting and complex. This is a story of vampires and ancient gods, of a world on the brink of chaos, otherworldly dimensions, time travel, and ancient weapons of immense power and untold purpose. This is a game developed by Crystal Dynamics and one that they’re still immensely proud of, as evidenced by the many Soul Reaver easter eggs within Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider games.
We’ve had our reboots, but what I think we now need is a re-invention within the games themselves. The series could benefit so much from having its own unique world history – one with enough material to fill a bookshelf. We could have a concrete mythology of magic and technology, of wars and monsters, and not merely allusions to shadowy antagonists with murky pasts.
The main story theme that the games currently seem to be following is that of immortality. It is the hunt for proof of life after death – a hunt which Lara had inescapably drilled into her due to her relationship with her father, and his relationship with his wife. This drive has been tied to Lara so intrinsically within this current story that she is doomed to continue their quest, and not follow her own path.
From a writing perspective, ‘immortality’ allows quite a lot of freedom, because writers can just whip up another historical artefact said to bestow eternal life, and bam, there’s the new MacGuffin, independent of any previous story ties. But if Lara isn’t joining any of the dots after each game, what does it contribute to any potential overarching storyline?
With a whole pre-written ancient mythology for us and Lara to delve into, the story can instead develop and grow with each new game, with deeper twists and turns happening all the time. It lets Lara actually dig up the past. It lets us see the past. Let’s see those Atlanteans. Let’s see those ancient wars for magical artefacts. Let’s see those gods, angels, ancients, and mysterious cultures lost in the mists of time. Let’s develop the mythology of Tomb Raider.
Yes, Lara is the Tomb Raider, but Tomb Raider is about the past of the world, not merely Lara’s hunt for the truths sought by her parents. I have no doubt that an adventure dreamt up by Amy Hennig would be so full of ancient mystery and wonder that even the current incarnation of Lara Croft would crack a smile.
So, how do you feel about the series having a richer, deeper mythology that ties Lara’s adventures together in a way other than loosely linking to her parents wishes? Feel free to share your thoughts with us here, or over on the Survivor Reborn forums.
Article written by Chris Jones
Images Courtesy of Core Design and Crystal Dynamics
Featured image and Great Wall by http://feareffectinferno.deviantart.com/
Additional imagery by http://blufan.deviantart.com/
Mythology of Tomb Raider: An Open Letter to Amy Hennig by Chris Jones / Survivor Reborn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.