Square Enix Reboots: Tomb Raider

Collin Kelly

Last week, Tomb Raider came back to the big screen with a full reboot of the film franchise. In collaboration with Square Enix and based on the 2013 video game, Tomb Raider stars Alicia Vikander in what will solidify a new age of Lara Croft. Both the film and game franchises will have been fully rebooted with a new reinvigorated energy that Square Enix will only continue to improve and deliver on. On top of the film release, the rebooted game franchise has just announced its latest Lara Croft adventure with Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Square Enix has received critical acclaim for their new Tomb Raider franchise. But this isn’t the only franchise that they have rebooted for the modern age. In honor of the new film reboot, USC Games takes a look at the hit reboot franchises of Square Enix and the success each has received.

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider as a franchise has a long history behind it. The series started in 1996 with Tomb Raider, a game considered by many to be one of the greatest games of all time. Eidos Interactive would publish 4 more titles in the series up to Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness. Along the way, there would also be a Game Boy Advanced spinoff series that started in 2000 confusingly with the same title, Tomb Raider. The series was also given a semi-successful film franchise starring Angelina Jolie as the titular tomb raider, Lara Croft, which ended after 2 films. The series became stagnant and was handed off to Crystal Dynamics to reboot for the PlayStation 2 with Tomb Raider: Legends. The series had overall good reception, but eventually the series would become stagnant once again, seemingly unable to stick. But Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics did not give up on the franchise, and were very concious of its current and potential future value. Crystal Dynamics was given the opportunity to reboot the series one more time, this time on the next-gen PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 consoles.

When the new title Tomb Raider was announced in 2013, the game was hit with a slew of questions from gamers. The game was touted as a new origin story of the person who would become the Lara Croft we all know today from the vast media empire surrounding the character. However, this time Square Enix was promising a new take on Croft that would make you “forget everything” that came before. This is further exemplified by the tagline trademarked for the game: “A Survivor is Born”.

However, when the game was first shown off, much of the gameplay was based on the typical form that gamers expected out of contemporary action titles such as Uncharted, with linear adventure platforming and a focus on cinematic quality. But how it would actually capture the rise of our survivor adventurer was yet to be seen. Thankfully, this worry was answered with an exhilarating narrative of a young inexperienced woman who finds strength and becomes extraordinary through her harrowing experiences.

Penned by Mirror’s Edge writer Rhianna Pratchett, the script still had big action set-pieces like Uncharted, but the focus on survival as the key catalyst of Lara’s character made Crystal Dynamics’ adventure distinct. “Seldom do we get the opportunity to re-imagine and reinvent a legend, so getting my narrative hands on Miss Croft was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Pratchett in a Eurogamer interview. From visceral action to satisfying stealth scenes, the game was grittier and built to achieve Square Enix’s goal of creating a more real-to-life hero. In 2013, Kotaku’s Evan Narcisse said, “The truth here is that this game is a finely crafted reboot, one that ensures that Lara Croft herself won’t become a relic of the past.”

Spawning a three-game series so far, it seems that Croft has truly solidified her place in relevancy.. According to Crystal Dynamics’ global brand Manager, Karl Steward, over one million people were playing Tomb Raider within two days of its launch. Compare this to the sales of Tomb Raider: Underworld, which had trouble selling 1.5 million units within the first month at retail.Thankfully, the Tomb Raider franchise is now incredibly healthy and poised to continue into the future.

As Mike Splechta of Gamezone said, “Reboots can be risky. On one hand, you run the risk of alienating long-time fans of the original franchise by changing it too much, only to appeal to a larger audience. However, if you don’t change the game enough, you’re left with the same crowd who enjoyed the previous games, but also criticized it for the lack of innovation. Luckily, Tomb Raider does everything right.”

Tomb Raider (2013) has the best week one sales for the franchise to date, and by March of 2013, Tomb Raider sold almost 3.5 million copies. Despite some controversy regarding its sales numbers, Square Enix was invested in Crystal Dynamics and the franchise and continued to support the series. By 2015, with the 2014 re-release for next-gen consoles, Tomb Raider (2013) became the most successful game in the entire franchise with over 8.5 million copies sold.

This success continued onto the sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, which sold nearly 7 million units even without being on the current market-dominating console for a whole year.

Square Enix is tight-lipped on details for now, but USC Games looks forward to learning more about the recently announced sequel Shadow of the Tomb Raider during the full reveal on April 27th. The game is set to release for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on September 14th.

For more on Square Enix and their rebooted titles, come back tomorrow as we talk about the beloved and experimental reboot of the stealth assassination game, Hitman!

And look forward to our coverage of Square Enix’s next great titles, Octopath Traveler and Kingdom Hearts 3 later this year!