An Interview with Tomb Raider’s Noah Hughes
The biggest worry for most long-time Tomb Raider fans is whether or not the re-imagined Lara Croft captures the essence of what made the character so iconic in the first place – or if perhaps her rebirth is too much of a departure. We chatted to the game’s creative director, Noah Hughes, to put those fears to rest – and chat a little more about the gritty origin story.
What sort of process did your team go through to get Lara Croft’s character to still feel like Lara Croft, even though she has been stripped of so many of the elements that we’ve become used to?
From a thought process, we wanted to do something really fresh this time, and at the heart of that was the idea of really bringing out Lara as a character. This had come from a point where we felt that she had just become an icon, where people would describe her more for her attributes than for her human characteristics. So right from the start we wanted to shed light on Lara as character, we wanted to bring out her humanity. That was kind of our thought process at the start of this, and then going through the steps to do that (we didn’t actually start with an origin story) it became clear that by starting her at the beginning it would be the BEST way to do that. Then we could bring her to a point where she was closest to you or I. Someone who had aspirations and dreams, someone who is passionate and driven and who ends up in a situation that forces her to evolve as a character. So then we could start in the most human place and we could take people on a journey of becoming a Tomb Raider.
And then finally, on the execution side, we looked quite a while for writers and luckily found Rhianna Pratchett who has done a great job of giving Lara texture and complexity, and making her feel real.
Obviously I noticed in the game that that there was only one pistol, I’m assuming that this is one of those “all will be revealed later in the game” situations, but is there ANY information you can give us on that?
We can’t really talk about that but the one thing I can say is that it’s not specific to the pistols but part of the fun of an origin story is to see the character, in many different ways, become who you expect her to be. That’s exciting for fans who know what’s coming and also for people who haven’t played the game before.
The one thing that stuck out the most and reminded me of previous Tomb Raider games is the use of fire as natural light and the way in which she had to use the fire to complete her tasks. Is this an intentional drawback to previous games or did it just fit with the new setting?
Not necessarily but we did try to celebrate the things that people have enjoyed in the past. Things like the animals and the fire are cool for me because they are signature in some ways but also fire has a certain thematic relevance to survival, it’s a very base human element of surviving in the wild. And also, in our puzzle systems we really tried to use the aspects that have understandable cause and effect. We challenge people to put them together in different ways but we tried to start with the understandable, fundamental building blocks.
In previous games I felt it was more adventure first then action second, but this game felt more like a level split? Even with the puzzles, it was more real life puzzles than it was solving historical puzzles in a tomb – quite a jump from previous game play?
A lot of times, because it’s a change people feel that we put an emphasis on action but really for me it was more about making each aspect of game play that I loved about Tomb Raider be able to stand on its own. So we could can a puzzle space, we can do a traversal space, we can do an exploration space, we can do a combat space… but more importantly we don’t have to rely on any one of these, we can go from one game play experience to the next.
I feel a nice way of making the action feel more adventure orientated was by introducing the bow. That type of weapon is more adventure driven and I was surprised that I ended up using it more that the pistol or the shotgun (which is usually my weapon of choice). I found the bow slightly easier to use and more impactful than the other weapons. Is that something that was intentional?
Each of the weapons has its own value but we tried to make the shot gun more universally valuable, for this story at least. The bow was her signature weapon – although this weapon is a bit more common now it’s just a bit different to the guns which you get in most games these days. You were right in saying it’s more of an adventure weapon, we tried to give you something that felt a bit less like a pure action, shoot you in the face, sort of weapon.
Another new thing I really loved was the Axe. I felt that was quite different and I’m hoping it’s going to stay a strong tool throughout the game? I didn’t really kill with the axe because it was a bit too brutal for my liking but climbing with the axe was great fun.
For me the axe just symbolises the adventure and traversal and all that you would expect from Tomb Raider, it just made so much sense. I think we actually put the axe in before we put the bow in, it was one of the first tools that just felt right.
I only stumbled across one hidden tomb, are there more that I missed maybe or is there only one tomb in this segment of the game?
There are only two tombs in that segment of the game but only one was available as you will get a piece of gear on your way back to that hub that will allow you to get to other areas around the statue. Then you will be able to find the second tomb in that area. We tried to do a couple of tombs per hub and then one or two for good measure.
As a girl playing as Lara Croft, I was a bit worried after reading a few previews and watching the trailer that I would feel threatened or uncomfortable. It ended up not being the case for me but are you worried about other girl gamers feeling threatened by the vulnerability of Lara in certain situations?
It’s hard in a trailer to give context to the action, and my hope is that when people see everything in context that they will realise that it’s not about vulnerability but more about strength. You can’t show bravery without fear, and you can’t show victory without adversity. For me it’s really about challenging Lara and seeing her overcome those challenges. She’s a strong character, she’s an amazing character.
The new open style of the game seems to consist of relatively small hubs, I don’t feel like you could be getting lost for hours. Do these hubs grow throughout the game or can we expect areas of similar sizes as you progress?
The hubs do get a little bit bigger, but generally the map is all continuous and it adds chunks about that size, and the fast travel system is intended to get you back. The main thing we wanted to make sure of was that there was enough room to explore, like when you talk about the second tomb, what’s exciting to me is actually being able to not have to find a tomb but have a space that’s big enough to discover something. But at the same time we didn’t want this to bog the pacing down of the game, obviously pacing is fairly important in the game. So if you want to explore you can take the time but if you want to move forward I want you to have a new thing every 20 minutes. So it’s trying to cater to both of those places.