The Average Gamer

Tomb Raider Interview: Meagan Marie

The new Tomb Raider game was on show at the Eurogamer Expo. I talked with Community Manager Meagan Marie about the story arc, the characters, the freedom you have to explore and the story arc again. Story!

I’ve heard this is a full reboot. It’s not going to be the same Lara. Can you tell me more about that?

Meagan Marie: It is a totally full reboot, as in the canon from the old games isn’t going to be carried over. She’s not going to have the exact same experiences, the same comrades and mentors in the future. That being said want it to remain spiritual – it’s obviously a Tomb Raider game, Lara is spiritually very much going to feel like the classic Tomb Raider at some point in time.

The difference is that we’re working really hard to make sure that we establish motivation in this game so you’re able to be there for the defining moments that are going to change her then you’ll the ripples of those as her motivation permeates through. It’ll feature in iterations that we do. She’s still gonna be a tough, admirable protagonist. She has to get to that point first.

You’ve done a lot of other female characters too. Can you tell me more about the other women?

MM: We can’t tell you much. Right now we’re trying to keep them on the down low so there’s Sam and you saw her. She is one of Lara’s very good friends. Sam is very pivotal in the fact that this expedition actually happened in the first place. they have this reading and you learn more about that through your interactions on the island. and then there’s also, you briefly met Reyes. She’s the mechanic on the endurance and we’re not gonna go too much into her until you experience that through the game.

There’s also, obviously the three primary characters but there’s some interesting mythology on the island. If you’ve watched our trailers, Queen Himiko has a strong female presence there.

There’s the portion of the demo where Lara’s walking in an area with Whitman. They see the statues and identify one as Queen Himiko, who is an actual person in lore. And so there’s something going on there. She’s also at the heart of the game.

So this ties into the Japanese pilot’s journal that I found [during my playthrough]?

MM: Yeah, the really interesting thing about the island is that it has a really kind of sordid interesting history. We don’t know why vessels are attracted to it. We’re not gonna explain that quite yet but vessels from all different cultures and time periods crash there. So there’s a lot of different people from different backgrounds and experiences that have been on the island and you get to discover that as you go. Stories and how their fates panned out – I think that’s really interesting, especially for explorers who like to go and find every little nook and cranny. It really gives a lot of additional context to the story.

Are we gonna go into time travel? Are we gonna find out they’re all in purgatory at the end of it?

MM: [laughs] I don’t think so. I think we can safely confirm no time travel. Or T-rexes. Or butlers. Or manors.

Rocket launchers?

MM: There is obviously mystery to the island. We’re just taking a hard stance on it. We don’t want ruin the mystery of the island but it is a very unique island.

So it’s VERY story driven, is that right?

MM: The narrative is extremely important. Not just the narrative of why Lara’s on the island and that mystery but also Lara’s character arc is extremely important. The team’s been working it very, very, very hard to make sure that character arc, from just trying to survive to being a survivor to being reactive to being proactive. That’s something that’s very organic and believable and its extremely hard to do. It’s extremely hard to balance.

You want it to be fun. You want to make sure the player’s constantly engaged and it’s difficult to make that arc progress in a way that things aren’t going too slow or too fast. It’s something that I’m actually quite proud of the team. Her growth and arc as a character is very much central to the game.

Do you touch on real-world themes in any way? You’ve touched on growing up.

MM: I think that the themes of just… it’s a very real human condition to not know what you’re capable of until you’re put to the test. I think most people can relate to that in not knowing what they can overcome until they try. That’s the theme that’s very central to the game. Lara is an exceptional human being. I know that we – you see some of the early footage and people are like, “This Lara, she feels weak. She’s not as strong” but she’s actually extraordinarily strong. She’s terrified because she’s in these situations that she never expected to be in, and to be fair I think any person, male or female or any age would be slightly afraid to be shipwrecked on an island with crazy hostiles.

But she pushes through that fear. I think that the sign of bravery is that she’s afraid but she overcomes it. She doesn’t know what she’s capable of but as the punches keep coming from he island, she eventually comes to the realisation that she needs to be proactive, that she needs to take the situation into her own hands. I think that growth is something that most people can identify with.

Is the story quite linear or are there character relationships that you can affect?

MM: The story itself linear because again, we’re laying the foundation for the future of the franchise and we need to make sure that we’re telling a very singular, carefully rafted story. But that being said, in the gameplay mechanics we are allowing for more openness than we have in the last Tomb Raider games. So we have this system called the basecamp and hubs.

Once you discover a base camp you can travel back to any of the other base camps. So if you want to just progress through the story in a linear fashion you can and that’s more for the people who are just interested in story and combat. The people who want to find journals, the people who want to go explore secondary tombs and do that sort of thing, they’ll be able to go back and revisit these areas.

The incentive to do that is what we call “gear gating”. Essentially Lara, as she grows in the story she’s also going to grow in her skills. She’s gained survival skills and she’s going to gain access to new equipment and weapons and upgrades. She’s able to access new areas and maybe an area she wasn’t able to get into or she didn’t have her climbing axe yet. So the fast travel system allows you to go back and revisit those areas.

So yes, the story is linear but the gameplay, we want to allow freedom of choice in terms of how people want to approach.

Any romance?

MM: I get that so often! I think Lara is very much fixated on the concept of survival. I don’t think she has time for romance on the island.

Well, Nathan Drake always seems to have time for the ladies.

MM: [laughs] Yeah, he has time for two ladies. I’m totally Team Elena all the way.

Thanks very much for your time.

Square Enix have just announced a Survival Edition, Collector’s Edition, and pre-order bonuses for the standard edition of Tomb Raider. You can find the details over on StickTwiddlers.