Rise of the Tomb Raider: Interview with Lead Designer Mike Brinker

Rise of the Tomb Raider: Interview with Lead Designer Mike Brinker

With the highly anticipated sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot - Rise of the Tomb Raider, releasing in just a few short weeks, Luke and Ben were able to have chat with Crystal Dynamics’ Lead Designer, Mike Brinker, while at Microsoft’s XONZ event in Auckland this week.


Luke Batt: Hi Mike, thanks for speaking with NZGamer.com today. So starting things off, for those who are unaware, what is Rise of the Tomb Raider?

MIke Brinker: Rise of the Tomb Raider is the evolution of Lara Croft from her reboot of the last game. We’re evolving her character to be someone who is more than just a survivor.

In the last game she was thrust into all these situations that she had no control over. She was fighting to survive. Now she’s prepared; she’s becoming the Tomb Raider she was always meant to be. And really, that revolves around her want to uncover these ancient mysteries, and to reveal these secret truths that she just got a bit of a taste of in the last game.

Now that’s her driving force, so we see that throughout her whole character in this game. It’s something that really brings Rise of the Tomb Raider to become what we know and love from Lara Croft and the Tomb Raider franchise as a whole. So we’re taking a lot of those core elements that we liked from the old games, and thrusting them into the lens of our new game as well.

Luke: So what’s the McGuffin? Why is Lara actually going on this adventure? Is there a particular driving force? Did she find something that spurred her on this quest?

Mike: Yeah actually, so what you’ll see today [in the hand-on demo at XONZ] is a bit of the start of that. She’s looking for something called the Immortal Prophet's Tomb, and she starts by having a clue from her Father’s research. You’ll remember, on the island of Yamatai she started to get into the myth of this immortality, and she only scratched the surface of that.

So, going through her father’s research she uncovers a clue, and that clue leads her to Syria. That’s the level you guys are going to play today, and it’s what actually starts her on her journey to find this Immortal Prophet’s Tomb. So that’s the McGuffin she’s chasing.

Luke: In the last game, it all took place on one enchanted island, Yamatai, and it was broken up into a collection of open world maps that we were able to jump back and forth between. In Rise of the Tomb Raider, will we be able to go back and explore previous levels and to find collectables, tombs, and secrets that we may have missed the first go round?

Mike: I am super glad you asked that question. As the lead designer on the project, I was like, “you must be able to go back and find secrets, and find treasure!”. So most, I’d say all of our spaces, yes, you’re available to go back, search through, look for things.

We’ve upgraded our fast travel system to be able to go to any camp. It’s really about exploring those spaces, and not just because it’s the sequel. If you look at our hub spaces, they’re three times larger than the last game. So, combine those spaces together along with all the storytelling we’re doing, and a 100% completionist is  looking at 30 to 40 hours, minimum.

So there’s a lot of content there, and if we don’t let players go back it’d be frustrating. So yes, we are definitely letting you explore and find all those things.

Luke: Awesome, great to hear. So throughout the different types of trailers and gameplay footage we’ve got deserts, beautiful tropical-type settings, ice and snow, you just mentioned Syria. Is this all happening in the same area like the first game, or is this more of a globe spanning adventure?

Mike: Not exactly; remember, Lara’s adventures take her to different places. We’re really focusing heavily on the Siberian front, which involves some of the snow and ice, and that adventure part. But, I think you’re going to find that when you play through the rest of the game that it’s not just that. There’s also Syria, so you get the desert stuff, but then Siberia also has a lot to it. It’s not just the snow and ice, so keep an eye out for some of the diversity of the world as you go through Siberia.

Luke: Alright. I’ve seen something about translating texts that you find. What’s happening with that feature?

Mike: One of the new systems that we created for this game to go deeper into Lara becoming that Tomb Raider is the translation system. It’s basically a way for her to learn several different languages in the game, because if you’ll remember, she’s still learning and becoming the Tomb Raider.

She’s able to translate certain murals, documents, and other things in the world, and by doing this she gains a little bit of language experience, and as she does that she can then level up, which unlocks other things. So, you have this sort of depth to the system that is not only growing her as a character, but also allowing you to do more things as a player.

Ben Wilson: Okay, so the progress is measured by a meter?

Mike: It’s measured by experience that she gains through each of these elements that she finds. Once she gets to a certain level, which is based on a percentage (and there will be a graphical representation of that in the game) you’ll be able to go and unlock these monoliths that allow you to go find other things in the game that are really valuable to you for your upgrade paths and for becoming a better character.

Continue reading on page 2.


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Comments Comments (3)

Posted by ReaperCrew
On Thursday 1 Oct 2015 4:54 PM
Still looking forward to this, especially after playing the last game. Not sure if I'm getting it day one, but not getting it, is not an option.
Posted by LukeB
On Thursday 1 Oct 2015 5:12 PM
1 October 2015, 04:54 PM Reply to ReaperCrew
Still looking forward to this, especially after playing the last game. Not sure if I'm getting it day one, but not getting it, is not an option.
Yeah, with my loving the 2013 reboot, not getting this was never an option - especially after getting some hands-on time with it at XONZ.

Even with Fallout 4 releasing on the same day, due to the fact that it's like 12-15hrs to get through the main campaign, I think I can afford to devote a good 20+ hours to it before diving into the multiple hundreds of hours that will be lost to that game :)
Posted by KatalystaKaos
On Thursday 1 Oct 2015 5:16 PM
Oh yeah looking forward to this, gonna be ending my year on Halo 5, Just Cause 3 and this new adventure with Lara. Good times ahead!