There’s a new Tomb Raider game out today, and I’m not talking about the one from Amazon. Instead, Tomb Raider Reloaded is the latest attempt to bring the franchise to mobile phones. And this time around, Lara Croft finds herself in a roguelike dungeon-crawling adventure with smart controls, fun combat, and some not-great in-game microtransactions. But Lara’s biggest enemy in this adventure isn’t a giant dinosaur, but an energy meter that feels like it fell out of 2012.
This isn’t the first Tomb Raider game to show up on phones; Lara Croft GO for example was a fantastic puzzle game starring everyone’s favorite rich adventurer. But Tomb Raider Reloaded, unlike the past attempts, feels the most like it’s trying to be a Tomb Raider-like experience, complete with various monsters to kill, cool guns to use, and even some light puzzle-solving. I was given early access to the iOS version of the game ahead of its release.
Unlike in the bigger console and PC Tomb Raider games, in Reloaded you have limited control over what Lara does. Sure you can move her around as much as you want, but you can’t jump and she only shoots when you stop moving. That might sound weird, but it simplifies the controls in a smart way and means you aren’t fiddling around with multiple virtual thumbsticks or buttons.
These simplified, mobile-first controls also mean that this game can end up feeling like the indie mega-hit: Vampire Survivors. That’s because she targets enemies herself, so you just watch her kill stuff if you don’t move Lara around. At first, this isn’t a viable strat. But as you get deeper into dungeons, you’ll get more power-ups between each level. And eventually, after I had collected a good amount of power-ups, I was reminded of my best runs in Vampire Survivors. I would just place Lara in the middle of some areas and watch as she murdered everything around her with bouncing bullets, multiple critical hits, explosives, and more. Witnessing her become a murder machine that can destroy entire armies of bats, spiders, and guards never got old in my time with Reloaded.
What did get old, fast, was nearly everything else in this game. It’s a shame that such a fun, simple and well-designed game is saddled with some of the worst microtransactions and mobile game nonsense I’ve seen in some time. I mean, this is a mobile game released in the year of our lord 2023 that features an energy system that limits how often you can play. (Unless you are willing to spend some extra money of course.) Reloaded also features multiple currencies, crafting, and timed chests, all of which feed back into a system built to suck up money, waste your time with ads or make you grind for resources.
When I play Tomb Raider Reloaded, it’s a blast. It’s truly a lot of fun dodging enemy attacks, fighting big bosses, and creating a super-powerful Lara Croft that can auto-kill entire rooms of enemies. But once I stop playing and have to engage with the rest of Reloaded, my eyes start to glaze over. Then I run out of energy and the game won’t let me play anymore, so I start to wonder if I want to keep going anyway...