When it was announced back at Gamescom 2014 that Rise of the Tomb Raider, the sequel to the popular reboot of the action-adventure franchise, was going to be a timed Xbox exclusive, PlayStation fans were raging. Of course, it turned out that the exclusivity period was only for a year, and the time for PS4 owners to embrace Lara’s new adventure is nearly upon us.
The PlayStation version of the game, which launches on October 11 – appropriately in Tomb Raider’s 20th anniversary year – will ship with all DLC released to date, including the Blood Ties single player mission, VR support and co-op play for the survival Endurance mode, amongst a new difficulty setting and new outfits and weapons. Endurance, released as DLC in December 2015, has quickly become a popular addition to the game, with over 600,000 in-game days having been survived thus far.
At EGX 2016, we were lucky enough to try out the newly added co-op version of Endurance – which will release simultaneously on Xbox One with the PS4 launch of the game for all season pass holders – and were impressed with how much depth it provides.
After selecting a difficulty level out of Adventurer, Tomb Raider, Seasoned Raider or Survivor, you’re thrown into the wintry Siberian woodlands alongside your partner with little resources other than your basic backpack utilities. Your overall aim is to discover secret artefacts but, beyond that, you need to keep yourself well fed and warm in what is a cold, harsh environment, especially when the sun goes down. Hunting animals and breaking trees down to uncover mushrooms are the most common sources of sustenance, with larger animals like boars and deers providing an opportunity to split meat and other valuable resources with your partner.
You don’t automatically regain your health over time so it’s important to plan ahead, and to store enough food before venturing out. Should your health reach zero you can be revived by your partner – another reason to stay together – provided they get to you within a minute. This will, however, use up one of your shared lives that can be found by discovering a sarcophagus or a codex. When your hunger meter is full, depending on the storage space you have available in your current equipment, you can preserve a few extra precious morsels that will be automatically consumed when Lara’s stomach starts to rumble.
Not all animals are as tasty as squirrels and rabbits, however, as we witnessed first-hand what happens when you come across the majestic but terrifying sight that is a snow leopard. There were also wolves chasing us across the map that tend to hunt in packs, as you’d expect, making them harder to pick off; you’ll quickly find the best option is to literally run for your life. Caves and underground crypts ostensibly provide a level of comfort from these foes, but come with their own perils and pitfalls: various sinister spike traps are likely to kill you if malnourishment doesn’t set in first.
There’s a gauge in the top-right corner of the screen that not only shows your health level but also that of your partner so you know if they require food or warmth. As an additional hint to the ‘your partner isn’t going to survive’ meter, the conversation between your two explorers gives subtle clues as well. For example, if one player needs to find a campfire then the other may proclaim, “I can hear your teeth chattering from here,” as in our demo.
Much like the main campaign, campfires provide you with a safe point to upgrade your weapons, spend skill points and generally regain your strength before heading back out. You’ll need to find wood from trees and the like to forge these fires or raid an enemy campsite to find petrol tanks and other invaluable items to ensure your survival.
If you discover something interesting, such as a base, an enemy or food that you want your partner to find, you can simply aim at it and hit the X button to place a marker that will appear on both of your screens. For further assistance, you can use your survival instinct that will highlight useful items and areas and also mark where your partner is, as it’s definitely better to stick together rather than wander off alone.
As previously mentioned, campfires give you the opportunity to upgrade both your skillset and your arsenal. The best use of this is to balance out your skills with your partner to prepare yourself for all possible situations. Skills are split into three key areas: Brawler for fighting and healing, Hunter for hunting and scavenging, and Survivor for crafting and exploring. In the demo, one player purchased Thick Skin to increase the amount of damage Lara could take and combined that with powerful bow upgrades. With this player toughened up substantially, the other could spend their points on crafting more valuable items and seeing rare animal footprints for the best food.
This mode could easily have been a stand-alone game in itself with all there is to do and discover; combining it with being able to play it co-operatively makes it all that more exciting. Endurance mode has been Rise of the Tomb Raider’s most popular DLC and with the addition of co-op mode, and the imminent release on PS4, the game’s critical trend will no doubt rapidly continue.