Set the World on Fire: As-I-Play Rise of the Tomb Raider (Part Six)

We’ve now been following Lara long enough that it’s time for things to start to get on my nerves, but the game—as good games will—throws in some curveballs to keep me entertained. Fire, for what it’s worth, is one of those things that will never fail to amuse me as a mechanic. (Note—spoilers follow.)

Lara’s logging house friend in the Soviet Installation immediately needs more help once I turn in the last quest: I apparently need to track a confused crow carrying a message to the wrong person. Okay. Sure. Why not? Why not is apparently because there are a million bloody crows in this level, and only ONE of them is the crow I’m looking for, and that crow looks exactly the same as all the other crows, even when I use my survivor sight (which turns all killable and usable objects gold). Also because I’m supposed to shoot it, not catch it, and I just spent a lot of time trying to catch one. Well, I shot the blasted thing, so it’s done.

There’s also a new cave and a door I can’t yet open (now I need explosives), so I’m going to keep going with the mission quest for a bit. Inside one of the little huts in the mining area is a hard copy of a game of Tetris (which was actually invented by some former Soviets about the impossibility of continuous conformity in the USSR and smuggled out to be produced in the US), although Lara doesn’t explicitly identify it (The Game in Gulag Possessions). This may be my favorite artifact. (Sorry, there aren’t any screenshots of it I could find, and I don’t have the dongle to take them myself… but if one of you buys it on Steam and takes one, you should paste it in the comments!)

In one of the barracks (in which the prisoners lived in “Cages. Like animals.”), Lara finds another journal from a Trinity soldier. He says that he doesn’t “think Ana shares our faith,” then goes on to talk about how he killed a Remnant “with my hands, so I could see the light in her eyes go out. Stayed with her until she went cold. Magic.” I suppose it’s nice to be able to justify that the enemy is either religious fanatics (Konstantin) or traitors (Ana) or insane (this guy), but part of me wants the narrative to be a little more complex. Of course, on the other hand, if Lara were killing normal people, then she would have to be the crazy one, and nobody wants to fantasize about being a homicidal maniac. Okay, most people don’t want to. There’s always someone, I suppose.

Upstairs, Lara gets to learn how to make Molotov cocktails. There are also propaganda posters in this area, although since Lara can’t carry things and jump, she can’t burn them yet. I’m guessing the fire arrows will come soon so that becomes a bit easier (since there is no torch in this game—glowsticks are much better most of the time). There’s a door with funny markings Lara can open by hitting a big green glowing button. The markings tend to mean “tomb,” so of course I’m going to do that.

These are mine shafts leading into a tomb. Lara remarks of the first trolley of artifacts that, “My god these are ancient. What did they find down here?” Well, “water” is one answer. There’s always water. Clearly there’s a parallel thing going on with the oasis in Syria (and someone figured out the swimming mechanic, so I have to use it all the time). This water is green, which is kinda gross, but whatever. Not like Lara can get botulism. The tunnels keep going down, and in a makeshift office Lara finds a Red Army flask that’s “still half full. I may need this before I’m done here.”

This is the sketchiest mine ever. It also appears to be rather bottomless in some places, which I’m sure it isn’t, but it is really haphazard, in addition to falling apart. And Lara keeps having to set things on fire, which doesn’t help any.

On the way down, there’s another journal entry from a Remnant, talking about how the Soviets have desecrated the tombs: “We thought at first the old guardians would emerge, and punish our tormenters, but now I see we will have to be the instruments of God’s retribution.” I’m wondering whether the guardians will be disturbed at all—TR2013 obviously had some supernatural creatures (the Oni or Stormguard), but there have been relatively few in this game, although I’m not quite halfway through. I just can’t decide if the game would be more interesting if the guardians awaken or if they’re actually dead (or in stasis or statues or something equally useless). Part of me really wants them to not be real, just because that’s a much more interesting statement about how we shouldn’t rely on others to save us, but I have the feeling that’s not where this is going.

Once the tomb is done, Lara explores some more, and I manage to light one poster on fire with a well-aimed cocktail. With some fancy maneuvering, I even manage to get cocktails to all three posters and set them on fire, even though there’s some really weird angles involved in trying to jump with a bottle on fire without dropping the bottle and accidentally setting Lara on fire. Or falling off the building. Or both at the same time.

Eventually, Lara discovers that she can make a rope swing out of her arrow (fun!) which leads further toward the mine and where she’s supposed to meet Jacob. Near the top of the building, Lara finds a recording from her supply-selling friend, who may in fact be talking directly to her (or possibly someone else), who is afraid that Trinity is not only onto him, but that they want him to know about it, and are “Waiting to see what my endgame is. I wish I had an endgame. I’m gonna die just because I was nosy and stupid.” I like it when the game is truthful about things like that. There’s also a pillbox with a Soviet insignia, which smells of “Some sort of… amphetamines.” So booze and drugs were popular pastimes in the gulag. I guess I can’t really blame them.

Eventually, Lara reconnects with Jacob, who leads them down into the abandoned mines. Trinity is using massive drills to continue excavation, and Lara predicts that they’re going to bring down the whole tunnel, which then proceeds to begin happening. Lara then has to run full-tilt past the giant drill (because that seems like a great idea), leaving Jacob stuck behind a rock-fall (he tells her to find Sofia).

On her own, Lara has to fight through a lot of Trinity (who have become very liberal with the grenades, which is really irritating), multiple times while also trying to solve the “how do I open the door puzzle” at the end of the “room,” which is less a room and more a series of rock islands floating over a giant chasm, occasionally interspersed with stake pits. It is not my favorite area in the game.

Once the puzzle is solved, taking the floor with it and forcing Lara to run and jump like a madwoman to avoid the bottomless pit below, Lara enters a near-pristine temple. Inside is a statue, whom Lara says “must be the immortal Prophet,” along with a mosaic mural that tells the story of their Exodus and the foundation of Kitezh. It’s a nice break to not be shot at—although now I’m staring at yet another submerged tunnel leading to who knows where. Well, no time like the present.

More water—a submerged tunnel from the temple to a Geothermal Valley (no snow!), through some ruins, then a zipline down to where Sofia and some Remnants. Lara tries to argue with them that Jacob sent her, but since he’s not there, they seem disinclined to believe her (aka. Sofia is about to shoot her). Fortunately, Jacob appears suddenly, and it turns out that Sofia is his daughter (parallels, much?). Lara tries to confirm that “we must be near the Prophet’s lost city,” but no one answers her. One of the Remnants sends the signal for others to go “into the catacombs,” and they crest a hill, revealing a vast valley settled by Remnants.

Lara is able to explore the village, and has the options to catch and throw chickens (ideally, back into the chicken pen, although there is no technical limit as to where she might throw the chickens… and furthermore, there’s an achievement for hitting a chicken with an arrow mid-flight, which I attempted but failed to actually get), which provides me with a brief amount of entertainment until the blacksmith suggests that Lara should help build the guard towers.

As she heads toward the towers, Lara finds a side path that leads to a tomb. A tomb with wolves, oh, joy. And, yes, of course there’s also water, because apparently in this game no tomb exists without water (even when that water is almost entirely useless to the puzzle). This tomb has knee-deep water (with algae) and “predates the rise of Eastern Orthodoxy,” according to Lara, which dates it prior to the 11th century (presuming she’s referring to the East-West Schism). The tomb is called the House of the Afflicted, as the whole thing was apparently an infirmary for lepers.

Back outside, I find another bear. Poison arrows are really useful for killing bears. In another cave, a huntswoman’s lesson asking for a bird (preferably buzzard). And a cougar. Buzzards and bears and cougars and wolves, oh, my.

There’s a woman who asks me to help take down some drones. Okay. Time to hunt down drones. Well, at least the drones are noisy. Now let’s just hope I don’t get eaten by a cougar while hunting drones…

The drone thing is of course more commentary on mechanized warfare, on how we’ve come to rely on impersonal machines to do our fighting and our killing for us because we—Western civilization—have the luxury to step away from the kind of warfare that gets our hands bloody. That Crystal Dynamics gives the drones to Trinity in a clearly one-sided technological war against people who are functionally from the Byzantine era (who do happen to have the Divine Source on their side, admittedly, as they have a rather impressive track record of victory against Trinity, the Soviets… pretty much everyone) only serves to emphasize the imbalance between the soldiers who fight for first world countries and those living in third world nations, many of whom are victims rather than militants, but who end up being targeted by the impersonal machines of war nonetheless.

With the drones gone, she asks me to help gather mushrooms (weirdly, the deathcap mushrooms are also apparently food mushrooms, which I find a little lazy on the part of the developers) and a boar. Because I need to go hunting down more animals with my nonexistent ammunition. As she searches, she finds another lesson from the huntswoman (who I believe is my quest-giver), this one about clean kills and deer, as well as one about hunting boar (how useful) and how awful it is: “None of you, not even I want to deal with that cursed razorback…” Oh, goodie. I can’t wait.

And in the meantime, I have found another bear. It’s really too bad that “bear” can’t be on the menu. In the back of the bear cave is another passage, with more water. Which I’m not allowed to access because I don’t have a rebreather yet. Okay. So there are more things for me to acquire. I guess I’ll just go do some more main mission quests.

As I head back through the village, one of the Remnants asks me for help scavenging supplies. Bonus—I’ve already gathered everything he needs. So I drop off those supplies, then head after the boar… which go down with a single arrow, not even poisoned. Okay, so that was a bit overblown. Return to the huntswoman, give her the mushrooms and boar, and move on.

At the bottom of the hill, Sofia is giving a speech encouraging her people to survive, and Lara begins to fret because she has led Trinity to this valley and is holding herself responsible for the deaths that are about to be visited on the Remnants. Then she reminds herself that Trinity was looking for Kitezh, and would have found them sooner or later. Just then, Jacob radios Lara and asks her to light the signal fire—and there is a convenient box of alcohol bottles for molotov cocktails nearby.

I guess my only real option is to set the beacon on fire, since everything else in the immediate area is either blocked or requires a tool I don’t yet have (rebreather or wire spool). So I grab a bottle of alcohol, which I immediately drop upon trying to ride the zipline over there. Well, they wouldn’t leave me here with no way to do it… so I climb up anyway. And, lo and behold, FIRE ARROWS!!!! Yay!! Setting the beacon on fire triggers a series of other signal fires (a la the beacon sequence in Return of the King), and Jacob says that his people can now evacuate. And I have fire arrows.

Completing this task has also opened up another part of the map. (Dear god, I’m only 41% of the way through this game. I’m going to start cutting these posts down to drive both you and me a little less crazy.)

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