It’s time for things to get a little crazy in Rise of the Tomb Raider, and I’m not just talking about the inevitability of Trinity going to war with the Remnants (and Lara). Lara’s beginning to come unhinged a little herself, and I’m not convinced it isn’t related to the massive amount of head trauma she’s taken this game.
As Lara heads up the hill, the sound of helicopters overhead passes toward the village, and Lara radios Jacob to tell him “helicopters are headed your way.” He responds, “Get here as fast as you can.” The sound of gunfire, and a loudspeaker telling them to “Surrender at once. Resistance will be met with deadly force.” By the time Lara arrives, Trinity has rounded up several of the Remnants, including Jacob. Lara starts to come out of cover. A Trinity soldier jerks Jacob upright, putting the gun to his head. “Where is it?” he demands. The second captive interrupts him, “Wait! Wait… there’s a map. The Atlas. It will show you the way!” Jacob grabs his gun and shoots him. Lara runs up and takes a shotgun as the scene transitions back to player control in the middle of the fight, with the Trinity loudspeaker ordering them to “Kill anything that moves.” Okay, buddy. You said it, not me. Admittedly, at one point I did run out of ammo, but then it’s just axing them all to death because I’m too lazy to hit X to reload. It does make me miss my chainsaw gun from Gears of War a little, though. So much more satisfying.
As Lara catches her breath, a Remnant crashes through some debris on fire, most likely due to the Trinity soldier behind him with a flamethrower. I want a flamethrower. I’m guessing I’m not going to get one, so shotgun it is. In fact, I have to shoot his tank instead of him to make him blow up (because that’s not at all macabre). I just want to shoot him normally. That flame-retardant suit doesn’t look that bullet-proof.
Just then, a helicopter flies over, calling for a retreat and regroup elsewhere. The scene shifts away from Lara then back to Konstantin, who kneels down to pray: “I have come so far. I have endured so much. These final barriers you have set before me…These sins you have forced me to commit… They must have a purpose. Only you can show me the way. Grant me strength to continue, for her. For you. For Trinity. Please… Show me the way.” Then his hands begin to bleed again (stigmata). He says, “Then blood it shall be.” I’m not sure that’s what God intended there, buddy. If it’s God at all.
The scene shifts to Remnants helping the dying and wounded, Lara among them. She asks about the Atlas and says she can help. Jacob replies, “Will you do this for us, or for that which you seek?” She answers, “Right now, they’re one in the same.” At this point, I’m starting to get a little annoyed at Lara for being so focused on the Source—to the exclusion of pretty much everything else, including basic human decency. I mean, okay, she is helping the Remnants fight of Trinity, but, as she says, that’s almost as much to help her get the Source as it is to stop them from getting to it… and not very much at all really protecting the Remnants.
Jacob sends her to the Acropolis to find Sofia and the others. Well, there are chickens, but no people. As Lara makes her way through to a valley on the other side of the door, there is shouting, although it is unclear what from. (There appear to be accessible stairs across a chasm, but experimentation suggests otherwise… and by “experimentation,” I mean various approaches to throwing myself into a very deep pit and dying repeatedly.)
As Lara approaches a submerged arch, a deep bell begins to toll (and my brain supplies, “Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee…”). Two more helicopters, and a ledge that overlooks the valley and the mountains. Lara says, “I hope I’m not too late.” The sound of gunfire in the distance. Lara says to herself, “I want answers,” but that she’s “crossed a line” and has to help the Remnants fight off Trinity: “If I fight with them, perhaps Jacob will trust me enough to tell me what’s really going on.” No, that’s not at all deceptive or manipulative or exploitative (particularly given that she’s coming in and using a native population… albeit a ‘white’ native population (who are actually Byzantine, but really don’t look very middle eastern at all). It’s kind of making me not like Lara very much right now.
In one of the tents to the side, there is a journal from Jacob that explicitly states that “Our ancestors came here as men and women fleeing Byzantium” who sought to “honor this gift from God” “By tearing the stones from the mountains and building a new Empire, a mocking echo of that which almost destroyed them. But like the tower of Babel, God saw fit to cast us down, and to make us humble. We learned to listen to the land, to become stewards, not conquerors. And in turn, the land has offered up its secrets. You only have to listen…” Well, now. If that’s not a scathing criticism of modern imperialism and industrial exploitation, I really don’t know what is. In the twenty-first century in the midst of a new industrial revolution—a technological boom in the West and a race in the East to reach modern standards without concern for the environmental consequences—Jacob’s reminder that we are responsible for being stewards of the land, rather than conquerors, is one that is largely unheeded. Yet at the same time, advice to live as the Remnants do—without modern medicine (such as one of the Remnants who needs to have his leg amputated) or the ability to connect to the outside world.
This is another of the Big Themes in RotTR, as a bit later on, there is a journal entry in a cave from a Byzantine man who went to listen to the Prophet, in which he talks about what the Prophet says about God: “No man speaks for Him, for His voice is the sky, the water, and the flow of the world.” So I guess the Prophet was an early environmentalist, which explains why the Remnants are so obsessed with living as stewards of the earth.
Back in the plot of the game, Trinity has yet again taken Remnants prisoner, this time they execute them. When the player takes over, Lara kills them all and searches through the ruins for more Trinity and any survivors. She gets hit by an explosive (concussion number seven, although it’s now been a few days at least since the last one) and falls through the floor. After killing a few more Trinity, she finds Sofia and a few more alive, then releases her. Sofia says that they’re losing too many, and Lara says, “Maybe your people have sacrificed enough.” (Wow, you manipulative bitch. Way to play the daughter off against her father. I hope she hits you.) Sofia answers, “It’s all we’ve known.” Lara says, “Tell me how I can help you,” and Sofia tells her to open the entrance to the catacombs.
Sofia thanks her, then says, “I know you seek the Divine Source, but my people will die to protect it.” (Good for you, Sofia.) Lara says, “Your people are already dying. You can’t protect it forever.” (Jesus, really, Lara? Probably worth giving up on it at this point. Not worth genocide. Just let it go, woman.) Sofia answers, “We’ve lasted this long. But for now, I’m glad to have you as an ally.” (Passive-aggressive guilt-trip for the win.)
Lara heads back to rendezvous with Jacob, radioing him to tell him that “It looks like we’ve got the upper hand.” And then the Remnants somehow blow up a helicopter. Lara says, “We did it.”
Sofia radios, saying that they’re now trapped in the catacombs. Lara says she’ll go after them. Probably because she thinks she can convince Sofia to tell her how to find the Atlas. Heading deeper in, Lara kills more Trinity, including one particularly amusing incident when Lara crawled under a door and I immediately killed three of them with a grenade arrow. Elsewhere in the room, one yells, “She’s here!” and Lara yells back “Damn right I am!” After killing them, the scene shifts to Jacob’s arrival in the room. Now that she’s saved the people in the catacombs, she asks Jacob if he’ll tell her “more about this place.” (Good, lord, woman. Enough with the manipulation, already.) He answers, “Of course. You’ve earned that much. Come with me.”
He leads her to the top of a tower, and begins to tell her the story of how his ancestors came to the valley and built Kitezh in order to protect the Divine Source. He says that “with the Source, their soldiers would be unstoppable.” Lara says, “Then help me find it, before they do!” He says, “This is not your burden,” and she replies, “Of course it is! My father died for this.” Jacob is hesitant.
Lara begins to leave, and Sofia (who is coming up the stairs) stops her, saying that she “wants to help.” Lara says, “You know where the Atlas is.” Sofia answers, “The Cathedral.” (My god, woman. Not only is she willing to manipulate both Jacob and Sofia about this, she’s willing to turn daughter against father for it, essentially recreating her own messed-up, dysfunctional relationship with her own father.) Then Sofia warns her about “The Deathless Ones” (probably the guardians from the accounts Lara found in the Soviet mines), who “will kill any who trespass. My father believes they will kill Trinity.” Lara replies that “They can’t take that chance,” and Sofia replies, “I know.” She gives Lara a Wire Spool which will help her reach the Cathedral.
The Wire Spool, as it turns out, creates a Grapple Axe (kind of like a grapple gun). Along the way down, there is another journal that concludes by saying that “Living in harmony with the land rarely means living in harmony with our fellow man.” That’s a nice happy thought about humanity versus environmentalism. Of course, right now I’m rooting for the bears and cougars.
At the next Base Camp, Lara says in her journal that she sees “a people who desire to live in peace,” and concludes (in a really convoluted way) that it is therefore her duty to take away the Source so that they can live the way they want to… except that it’s entirely because of the Source that they’re even there in the first place and they probably won’t stay there if there’s no Source to protect… In other words, Lara’s bizarre justifications for why she’s better than Trinity are essentially her version of White Man’s Burden. Lara Croft, you are giving white women a bad rep, here. Let’s stop with this crap.
As Lara continues along, she finds a journal from Sofia, talking about her father being missing and Elias being dead. She asks what good faith is “against an enemy that grows stronger with every passing generation? If we survive this time, I fear our children will not survive the next,” which would explain her willingness to help Lara now, but doesn’t actually justify Lara’s manipulative attempts to coerce her into doing it.
The only thing Lara can do at this point is climb up to the Cathedral—after killing yet another mountain lion, although the recent acquisition of grenade arrows makes that a much less arduous task than it was before the arrival of explosives. Once Lara gets inside, she can overhear Ana talking about how they have to continue excavating the ruins, arguing with the commander who wants to have caution. He says that they’ve “reached the lower level, but we have another problem. We’ve lost our rear guard.” Ana tells him to “proceed without them,” and they argue about whether or not “we’re alone down here,” and she tells him that “If you feel you’re being pursued, then I suggest you move faster.” A warning to Lara, as well.
Around a corner, Lara is able to look down on Ana and the excavation process. Ana says, “It’s got to be down there.” Some of the men come back up, and Lara, otherwise trapped, rushes forward and puts her gun to Ana’s head. Ana says, “Kill an unarmed woman? That would be cold, even for you, Lara.” As Ana keeps talking, Lara spots explosives around the room, then coils her foot in rope. (This is not a good idea, Lara. Really, I promise it’s not. Aaaaaand, she does it anyway.) Lara shoots one of the explosives, blowing out the floor and dropping all of them down. Lara is caught by the rope (and… blurry vision-ringing ears, concussion number eight) before crashing to the ground, and Ana catches a beam above her and tries to get Lara to “reconsider before it’s too late.” Lara shoots her (WHAT?!), although not fatally. Ana tells her that “Something is slaughtering my men down there, Lara,” to the sound of shouts and gunfire from below, “If they can’t find it, neither can you.” Lara very politely tells her to “Go to hell!” Ana radios the men to kill her, “and bring me that goddamned Atlas.”