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Tomb Raider Reloaded Review: A Simple But Fun Spin-Off

EDITORS' RATING : 7 / 10
Pros
  • Fun, bite-sized combat that fits perfectly on mobile
  • Monetization that doesn't pressure you to spend money too much
  • Tons of content
  • Good variety in weapon types and approaches to combat
Cons
  • Overwhelming number of currencies and systems
  • No reason to mix-up Lara's build after finding your preferred approach
  • No real story

An Android code was provided to Zaaz for this review. "Tomb Raider Reloaded" will be available on February 14, 2023, for iOS and Android mobile devices.

"Tomb Raider Reloaded" brings Lara Croft and her globe-spanning adventures to mobile platforms with a rogue-lite twist to boot. While fans of the "Tomb Raider" franchise have been waiting for a new mainline release since "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" and its lengthy post-launch support in 2018, "Reloaded" is at least well positioned to help tide fans over for now. 

The set up in "Reloaded" is exceptionally barebones, so players shouldn't go in expecting a full-on "Tomb Raider" story or for Lara to feature much at all, in fact. New players are greeted with a brief cutscene establishing that Lara is heading to Peru with her crew in search of a relic related to Atlantis. That is all that is offered for story in "Reloaded," at least until you complete the Peru chapters and moves on to Greece. Ultimately, that is fine, as "Reloaded" instead puts an emphasis on its bite-sized gameplay that is more at home on mobile devices. 

A new kind of tomb raiding

The most immediate change made by "Reloaded" is its approach to gameplay. Rather than featuring third-person action with platforming and intricate puzzles aplenty, "Reloaded" is an isometric rogue-lite. Each level is made up of numerous rooms, with higher level chapters boasting 50 rooms on their own. Each room features a different layout, a procedurally generated smattering of enemies, and occasionally quick puzzles that challenge you to solve them within 30 seconds to avoid losing their reward. 

There is a decent variety in the enemies that Lara has to face on her adventures, with different combinations of them pushing you to adapt your playstyle accordingly. This helps combat in "Reloaded" stay engaging and keep you involved despite its simple design. The game is played vertically, with Lara's movement being controlled with an on-screen analog stick. Lara attacks automatically, but only does so when she is not moving, so you only have to worry about her positioning and movement through the array of enemy projectiles. 

"Reloaded's" rogue-lite elements also include Lara being able to receive randomized upgrades throughout a level. The upgrades include effects like adding projectiles to Lara's attacks, allowing her to throw grenades intermittently, leaving mines when she stops moving, and increasing the chance of getting critical hits. Some of the upgrades are significantly more impactful than others, but adapting to the options received during any given run adds a fun layer to the gameplay.

It's all about gear

Outside of upgrades during levels, you improve Lara's capabilities by customizing and upgrading her gear between runs. The most important part of Lara's gear is her weapon of choice. There is a solid number of options that all play differently, including shotguns, chakrams, and pistols, to name a few. Each type of weapon is different enough to really push you to tackle encounters differently as well as figure out the optimal upgrades that you're looking for on runs. 

On top of Lara's weapons, you can also equip two types of ammunition to boost her damage against certain enemy types, different backpacks to improve Lara's health, a mask to give her a different ultimate ability, an amulet to grant buffs when entering new rooms, and a bracelet to give Lara abilities when she is hit by an enemy. Each piece of gear is categorized in a different rarity level as well as having their own levels that can be improved through the spending of gold and manuals. 

Keeping Lara's gear upgraded and leveled enough to tackle harder levels is the core progression of "Tomb Raider Reloaded." The sheer number of currencies and resources at play in doing so can make it feel overwhelming, and it is disappointing how little changing Lara's gear matters in the long run. Once you find your preferred loadout there is no reason to ever change it, and instead keep upgrading the items to get bigger numbers.

The elephant in the room: monetization

Many gamers are hesitant to get excited for mobile tie-ins to their favorite franchises because of the genre's propensity for predatory monetization. It wasn't too long ago that players were irritated at the monetization present in "Diablo Immortal," but, thankfully, "Tomb Raider Reloaded" does not fall into the same trap. The game does have premium currency and loot boxes available to purchase, but you receive currencies and new gear frequently enough that there is very little pressure to spend money. 

You are also able to combine identical pieces of gear to upgrade them to a new rarity level, which helps keep it from feeling as though you have to spend money to continue progressing or skip a massive grind. "Reloaded" also features numerous progression and challenge systems that always give you something to work toward, although the sheer volume of them can be overwhelming at times. 

All in all, "Tomb Raider Reloaded" manages to be a worthwhile mobile spin-off for one of the most iconic franchises in video game history. While its dozens of menus and systems can become overwhelming, the game's fun and quick combat makes it great to pick up and pull off a run whenever you have a bit of downtime. 

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