On Death and Tomb Raiding

death and tombraider

I recently read this article on Polygon about the violent/gory death scenes in Tomb Raider and how they’re unnecessary. Some comments even tipped into suggesting it’s torture porn and/or uncouth because of Lara’s gender.

First of all, Lara Croft does not need your protection.

I’ve wanted to talk about her death scenes for some time now, because they have been so impactful on my playthrough experience. Truthfully, I had no idea these scenes were so controversial because they’re so meaningful to me.

I think these scenes serve as a grim reminder of Lara’s own mortality. In the vast majority of video games, the death of your character is inconsequential. You just reload and start from the last checkpoint. While that’s also true in Tomb Raider, watching my horrible death FEELS more like a consequence. It matters. And yes, a few seconds later you do restart from the last checkpoint, but those few seconds are a time of mourning and reflection. It’s not just about shock value. It’s a moment to replay what went wrong.

I’d also like to add that in Lara’s character, I am viciously, violently murdering people – from slitting throats underwater to stringing them up in a tree with an arrow. There’s even a scene in a side quest where Lara murders a little girl’s father immediately after telling the girl to run back to her mother. Presumably, the girl is within earshot of her father’s death if not totally able to witness the whole thing.

So why, in this world of gratuitous violence, should Lara be exempt? At the very least, her death scenes seem pretty reasonable to me. And at most, they really enhance my experience by helping me get further into her character, understand the extend of her risks and appreciate the limitations of her athleticism.

How do you feel about graphic character deaths in games?

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Welcome to Camp Sinderthorne

October is my absolute favorite month. Time to break out the cozy things, ramp up my rituals, make copious amounts of chili and enjoy the playfully spooky energy. When Animal Crossing Pocket Camp announced a Halloween themed event, I was beside myself with excitement (and determination to complete all the tasks for once).

Finally, my campsite feels worth sharing, loving, and spending all my time in. Join me on a tour of the spooky and mysterious Camp Sinderthorne!

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp Halloween

At the center of a haunted wood, beyond gnarled trees and occasional bones of poor lost souls, lies a clearing known as Crow’s Hollow. Here, the smell of burnt earth intoxicates the senses, preventing nearly all growth, except for a garden of poisonous lollipoppies and mutant pumpkins. Ruins of an old shrine and mausoleum cast shadows over a small graveyard.

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A mischievous witch makes her home in a battered old Airstream trailer among the rubble. She keeps watch over the lost spirits and creatures who wander in and out of camp.

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For those brave enough to step into her trailer, she offers tarot readings and her spell-casting services. Positive results, not guaranteed.

She’s been known to raise the dead on full moon nights, lighting incense and casting a circle to welcome them back to Earth. Ghostly and sometimes skeletal spirits of campers lost may appear!

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Happy little ghosts often flit around the graveyard, sometimes taking her broomstick for a ride.

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She’s always sure to tend to her garden. Jack the Pumpkin King loves lollipoppies and is always pleased with the little witch’s extensive crop.

I SO hope the new core Animal Crossing game will find ways to connect our campsites. I’d love for all this decor to transfer over in some way. Since Pokemon Go connects with Let’s Go, Eevee/Pikachu, it must be possible. Like many fans, I’ve actually spent real-world currency on ACPC and I’d like to see the content lifespan lengthen.

What does your campsite look like?

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider might be the best game of the year. I preordered it after Day 1 of E3, and since it arrived Friday afternoon I haven’t been able to put it down. My PS4 has seen more action in the last 5 days than it has all year.

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Lara is more real than she’s ever been. She’s always been a badass to me, but watching her struggle with her physical limitations and express real emotion, I couldn’t be more impressed. In this game, she’s grappling with her accountability and guilt after taking a dagger that triggers a Mayan apocalypse. Those feelings seem to be a driving force in every side quest she undertakes to aid and preserve South American indigenous cultures. She pushes through her discomfort and fears, which is more than I can say. I’ve had to take breaks because I’ve been too scared to go on for a bit! Also, the way she expresses her frustration and sheer wonder makes me feel like she’s an extension of the player.

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My usual play style tends to be run-in-guns-blazing, but that’s not working for me here. Shadow of the Tomb Raider almost forces me to be strategic. In one particularly challenging scene, Lara needs to get by eight Trinity associates. Running in when there were even half left still killed me and over. But I stayed patient, practiced new tactics and picked them off one by one as soon as they wandered out of each others sight lines. Between BRUTAL stealth kills and tossing flammable objects to distract enemies, I was able to corral the remaining few into ideal position for annihilation.

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Overall, it’s been way more exciting to camo myself in mud and sneak up behind enemies to silently slit their throats and drag them into the brush. Or hide on a tree branch, shoot them with a roped arrow and string them up in the tree. Or tread water near the edge of a dock until the target gets close, pop out of the water and drag him under to slash or drown him.

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The horror level in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is much higher than I anticipated. It took me 2 nights of playing to get through the tomb with these horrifying ancient zombie(?) creatures led by the queen pictured above. That photo STILL gives me anxiety. It was dark. They were fast. The sounds they made were a blood curdling mix between a hiss and a scream. At one point, one pops out to attack me and I screamed in real life. By the end, I was shaking but I felt so satisfied that I completed it.

And then I couldn’t sleep because I was traumatized.

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I don’t play a lot of games like Far Cry or Uncharted, or actually ANY games where you kill human enemies, so the level of violence in this game was actually pretty shocking at first. But it’s so insane that I kind of love it. At one point, I dragged three enemies – one by one – into the brush with me after silently slitting their throats so no one could help them. The (probably) hundreds of deaths I put Lara through are so graphic they feel personal and the things that happen to her almost balance the horrific things she does to her enemies.

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I don’t want to go too deep and spoil the absolute pleasure of this game for anyone. There’s enough surprise, wonder and adventure for anyone to enjoy this game, whether you’re a Tomb Raider fan or not. GET IT!

How much do you love Lara Croft and/or Tomb Raider? Drop your favorite Tomb Raider moments in the comments.

 

Which Octopath to Travel – Olberic

We’ve come to the end of our travels. You can find my thoughts on all the characters with the Octopath Traveler tag in my search bar. This week, we’re getting to know our final character.

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Olberic is your typical soldier/knight with a classic RPG story. He’s strong and easy to play as if you’re somehow new to RPGs. OR if you want to relive the nostalgia of early Final Fantasy games without too much of a struggle.

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Like H’aanit, Olberic can fight people for no reason. His Challenge path action is handy for removing NPC from doorways and completing the odd side quest requiring a swift beating. Olberic values honor above all, which is why he’s on a quest to bring an old colleague, Erhardt, to justice for treason against their King.

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I quite like how polite and noble Olberic is. He seems the most reasonable and level headed of all the characters. At any moment he could turn this whole caravan around if the others are acting up. Total dad vibes. Predictably, he’s strong and has some incredibly useful moves – like a slash that deals broadsword damage to all enemies at once.

Choose Olberic if:
dads do it for you
you want to play, but don’t want to work for it
you’re all about that noble life
in your dreams, you’re a valiant knight
 

Which Octopath to Travel – Tressa

We’re almost at the end of our journey through the 8 protagonists of Octopath Traveler! Let’s walk with my penultimate character.

Tressa

Tressa is a merchant from the bustling seaport town of Rippletide. Despite exotic ships and goods pouring through her home and her parents’ shop, she hasn’t gained an ounce of culture. As she journeys out into the world to test her limited skills and fill the pages of her travel journal, she remains naive and irritatingly optimistic.

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I’m just going to say it: Tressa is really annoying. She has a high-pitched, whiny voice and I’m pretty sure she’s 12 years old. She’s not particularly strong in battle, but her wind abilities come in handy from time to time. Sometimes when you enter another area of the map, she will find a few thousand coins, but that’s the biggest perk she offers. Her Purchase action is a more ethical version of Therion’s Steal ability, but rarely as lucrative.

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Choose Tressa if you:
live for a bargain
have never traveled outside of your hometown
enjoy shopping
crave adventure in the great wide somewhere more than you can tell

Which character will YOU choose?

Monster Hunter Etiquette

Monster Hunter has finally come to Nintendo Switch! Before you head out in pursuit of glory, consider the following:

Don’t attack the monster while a team member has mounted it. The mounted player can bring the beast down and allow the full team to RAGE on that bitch. So wait for the monster to fall to maximize your impact.

Eat before you hunt! Eating a hearty meal boosts your stats and adds some useful abilities for the hunt ahead. Sit down to a meal with your team before you rally for a quest.

Watch your health/sharpness and retreat to heal/sharpen as needed. Your whole team only gets three KOs before you fail the quest. Sometimes fatigue can sneak up on you so run to another area for a quick potion or sharpening session. You’ll be back in the battle in no time!

Don’t spam the chat. It’s distracting. Communicate with purpose (or use discord).

Take care of your palico buddies. Don’t forget to upgrade their armor and weapons too. Send them for training and the occasional catnap.

What are your best Monster Hunter tips?

Which Octopath to Travel – Ophelia

If you haven’t gotten sucked into Octopath Traveler yet, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? With 8 characters to choose from, it can be overwhelming. After all, your main character is the only one you can’t switch out over the course of the journey. Let’s jump into someone else’s shoes.

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Sweet, innocent Ophelia was abandoned on the doorstep of the Church of the Order of the Flame and taken in by the Archbishop. She was raised as his own alongside his daughter, Lianna, who is preparing for a ritual and pilgrimage known as the Kindling.

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But whoops. Archbishop falls deathly ill and Ophelia starts her sister’s ritual by procuring the spark of the Sacred Flame… so now she has to finish it. So she travels to towns with churches to share the spark and reinvigorate the Sacred Flames on their altars. She spreads peace and calm everywhere she goes.

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In battle, she’s surprisingly not weak for a healer, especially if you equip her with a secondary job like Warrior. Her battle cry (“OH, Sacred Light!”) sounds a bit like she’s mid-orgasm, but Her Guide ability is a more pure version of Primrose’s Allure. Ophelia can guide townspeople to complete side quests and summon them in battle to fight alongside her.

Choose Ophelia if you:
enjoy Catholic Guilt
have religious hang ups
steal your siblings’ glory
like playing with fire

Who will YOU choose?