2015 has been an emotional roller coaster of a year for Tomb Raider fans. We’ve had announcements about new spin-off media, seen the release of not one but three new games, and had to deal with the fallout (no pun intended) of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s console exclusivity deal.
It’s been a particularly trying time for Tomb Raider fansite admins, who’ve spent the better part of the year feeling torn between promoting a game half of the fan base wouldn’t be able to play until 2016 and doing their duty to keep their readers informed about all the latest news and developments. Not to mention dealing with all the misdirected anger concerning the aforementioned Xbox deal over on social media…
But despite the angry tweets and vitriolic Facebook comments, it’s been a pleasure running The Archaeology of Tomb Raider and connecting with fans from across the world. The overwhelmingly positive feedback from readers and followers has kept me from throwing in the proverbial towel and encouraged me to keep on seeking out interesting new ways to combine my love for the series with my passion for all things ancient.
So let’s take a look back at the past twelve months to see how everything turned out…
A Year in Review: 2015 Edition
The year kicked off with a two-part interview with fan artists Ana and Inna, who run the DeviantArt group Tomb Raider Empire, and I somehow found time between my job and co-op sessions of Lara Croft & the Temple of Osiris to chat with archaeologist and writer Jordan Jacobs to learn more about his Samantha Sutton series of archaeological adventures.
February was an exciting month as we got our first glimpses of Rise of the Tomb Raider when Game Informer announced it would be the cover story for their March 2015 edition. Game Informer’s month-long focus on this highly anticipated game detailed some of the game’s new combat and gameplay features, gave us a close-up look at one of Lara’s outfits and her new gear, and touched upon Lara’s new-found obsession with immortality myths.
On top of all that, we were treated to a preview of Dark Horse Comics’ third major story arc and learnt that a new mobile game, Lara Croft: Relic Run, was in the works.
After February’s flurry of updates, March turned out to be a fairly quiet month. This site celebrated its second anniversary with a special Q&A and the sudden slowdown of Rise-related news gave me time to try and figure out what role that mystery journal Lara found on Yamatai may play in the future of the Tomb Raider reboot series.
The last update before my Easter holiday was a summary of Franchise Director Noah Hughes’ comments on the mythology behind the Rise of the Tomb Raider, which was one of the main talking points of Crystal Compass Podcast#28.
In April, the Crystal Dynamics team reported that Tomb Raider 2013 had sold over 8.5 million copies worldwide and released a nice little batch of concept art to celebrate this milestone.
April was also the month that saw the soft-launch of the mobile endless runner Lara Croft: Relic Run in the Netherlands (where yours truly is currently based) so I seized the opportunity to put together a first impressions review as soon as I got home from work that day. Talk about a quick turnaround…
And, last but not least, this was the month I published a list of my favourite Tomb Raider Easter eggs, an article that, judging from the stats, has turned out to be one of the most-read articles on the site this year. Mmmm….Easter eggs.
May was another productive month over at The Archaeology of Tomb Raider. The first major publication was an account of a visit to Prague’s Strahov district, a place that may be familiar to fans of Angel of Darkness. Sadly, I missed out on the chance of visiting the monastery’s famous library as I had chosen to stop by on one of the few days of the year it’s closed (Easter Sunday). D’oh…
We also got confirmation that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be showcased at E3 2015. I have bitter-sweet memories of this announcement as I had to turn down the chance to be an E3 Ambassador due to work commitments… *sniff* Maybe next time?
The Archaeology of Tomb Raider’s Youtube channel was officially launched on May 24th (though I’d actually set up the account months earlier as part of my Extra Life 2014 fundraising efforts) and on May 29th, Relic Run was launched worldwide, which led to countless amusing tweets and screenshots of Lara’s ragdoll deaths.
And, finally, there was my first (and so far only) attempt to capitalize on an upcoming film release: this list of Lara Croft’s most memorable dinosaur encounters that I published in the lead-up to the release of Jurassic World.
Otherwise known as E3 Month, June turned out to be an intensely busy month that was chockablock with Rise of the Tomb Raider news and other franchise-related announcements. This included the release of three new trailers and demos clips - Discover the Legend Within, the E3 “Avalanche” demo, and the “Siberian Wilderness” demo - and a community interview with Noah Hughes, who took the time to answer some fan questions about the upcoming game.
This was also the month we learnt that Square Enix Montréal would be releasing a new mobile game, Lara Croft GO, in late August and that Dark Horse Comics would be publishing a new 5-part comic series, Lara Croft & the Frozen Omen. It was a good time to be a Tomb Raider fan.
While following and reporting on the news from E3 ate up most of my free time that month, I found some time to work on a new edition of Arte-Factual (which looked at the Golden Chinthe from Relic Run) and fangirled about the fact that language proficiency would be part of Lara’s skill set in Rise.
Looking back, I don’t think I got much sleep that month…
July was a relatively quiet month after the chaos that was June. I took advantage of this lull to put together a list of real-life female explorers who made their marks in Siberia as well as compile a list of all the E3 Ambassador blog posts for easy browsing.
The biggest news we received that month was the revelation that Rise of the Tomb Raider would be released for the PC and PlayStation 4 in Q1 2016 and “Holiday 2016” respectively. While this meant PlayStation owners still faced a long agonizing wait for the game, the announcement was a clear confirmation that Rise wasn’t doomed to full Xbox exclusivity as many had originally feared.
Silver linings and all that…
The previous month had clearly been the calm before the next storm as August was another month that put my time management skills to the test.
Over the course of the month, we got three new demos: the combat-heavy Gamescom stage demo, a stealthier version of the Gamescom demo, and the tomb-tastic Syria demo, which gave me faith that the developers really were putting the tombs back in Tomb Raider.
There was a slew of game-related news, including details of Prima Games’ Rise of the Tomb Raider strategy guide, details of the Rise Collector’s Edition, and a confirmed release date for the highly-anticipated mobile puzzler, Lara Croft GO.
The last few weeks of August were particularly trying as I struggled to juggle preparations for a three-week holiday in Japan with updating the blog and getting through the last few days at my former job. Thankfully, a guest blogger, Rurik, submitted his piece on how the Tomb Raider reboot helped reboot his life, which gave me some leeway to focus on packing and other chores.
How I managed to churn out a few more articles in those hectic weeks before my holiday is beyond me. Between my last day at work and me stepping into the plane, I put together a piece on the golden trident from Relic Run, a review of an early copy of Jordan Jacob’s third Samantha Sutton novel (one which takes place almost entirely in Cambodia), a list of ways for readers to entertain themselves in my absence, and a review of the brain-teasing (and occasionally frustrating) Lara Croft GO.
By that point, I was more than ready for some much-needed R&R…😉
After two months of regular updates, things got very quiet on the blog in September, largely due to my three-week holiday.
I did find some time during my holiday to take some photos and make some notes for an article for the blog: an account of my visit to what is believed to be the real-life tomb of Himiko, the Hashihaka kofun tomb just outside of Sakurai, Japan.
This wasn’t published until a few weeks later, though, so only two new articles appeared on the blog in September: a preview of Lara Croft & the Frozen Omen #1 and an opinion piece on the ‘Descent into Legend’ trailer.
It was back to business in October. As we approached Rise’s release date, more news started heading our way and I put together a spoiler policy to reassure my readers and social media followers that The Archaeology of Tomb Raider (and its associated social media channels) would remain as spoiler-free as possible.
Game-related news came thick and fast over those few weeks, which included news of an Xbox bundle, details about the game’s Expedition Modes and season pass, the launch of the Rise of the Tomb Raider Instagram Experience., and the first episode of a three-part series, Woman Vs Wild. We also learnt that a new novel set in the Lara Croft universe would be out in early November, though its publication date has since been pushed back to January 2016.
In addition, three pieces of original content were published: my review of Lara Croft & the Frozen Omen #1, the aforementioned account of my visit to Himiko’s tomb, and a list of blog posts and academic articles on the Tomb Raider franchise as seen from an archaeologist’s point of view.
And, last but not least, October was the month I did the bulk of my Extra Life fundraising as I wasn’t going to be around for the official event. You can find an archive of some of my Extra Life live streams over on my Youtube channel.
After months of waiting, Rise of the Tomb Raider was finally out. And, boy, did I thank my lucky stars that I’d held onto my old Xbox 360! Otherwise I would have had to wait another year to play this outstanding game on my PS4. My sincere apologies to anyone who’s still waiting for this game to hit their PC and/or PS4. The wait will (hopefully) be worth it.
The month began with Team Tomb Raider’s Extra Life fundraising extravaganza. Although I was away for the official game weekend, I did my part to support the rest of the team from afar and wrote a piece to try and persuade Tomb Raider fans to support our efforts. If you didn’t get the chance to watch the live streams but still want to support our fundraising efforts, donations for this year’s event are being accepted up until December 31st.
A good part of the month was devoted to playing Lara’s latest adventure…and writing about it. First, there was my spoiler-free review “Why You Need Rise of the Tomb Raider in Your Life”, shortly followed by this list of Easter eggs and other fun in-game references. The latter is a “work in progress” so if you discover any Easter eggs I may have missed, let me know!
Finally, since many of us may not get the chance to visit Siberia due to financial or physical limitations, I put together a list of Siberia travelogues that should satisfy your curiosity. Explore the Russian wilderness from the comfort of your sofa.
And before I knew it, it was December. Honestly, where has the year gone? It seemed like only yesterday that we were desperate for news (any news!) on Rise of the Tomb Raider. While the game’s release date has come and gone in the blink of an eye, there’s been no shortage of Tomb Raider news or activity on this blog over the past few weeks.
The month kicked off with the world premiere of the new Rise story DLC, Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch, at The Game Awards and was soon followed up with an announcement about all the planned DLC for the next couple of months (which includes the aforementioned story DLC, two new game modes, and more).
I took a brief break from reporting on game-related news to work on a new edition of Lara’s Travels, taking a look this time at the Old Library at Trinity College, Dublin, before putting together a piece about Mariko Tamaki’s upcoming series of Tomb Raider comics and sharing news about the gorgeous (albeit pricey) Play Arts Kai figure, which is now available for pre-order.
And then there was my ambitious attempt to piece together a fictional history of Kitezh based on the documents, relics, and references found in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The hours of work paid off when the article got a signal boost from the Rise writing team on Twitter and gave me the chance to fact-check my timeline with the game’s narrative designer, Cameron Suey.
All in all, a Tombtastic month…and year. Can’t wait to see what 2016 brings!
Top 10 Articles of 2015
One of the things I tend to do on a regular basis is check the blog stats to see which articles have proven popular with readers and use this information to learn from my successes…and failures.
Here were the most popular articles of 2015 ranked in order of popularity:
- 15 Awesome Tomb Raider Easter Eggs
- 10 Fantastic Free Resources for Learning Egyptian Hieroglyphs
- Lara Croft: Relic Run – First Impressions and Screenshots
- A Beginner’s Guide to “Rise of the Tomb Raider” Cosplay
- 5 Female Explorers Who Made Their Marks in Siberia
- Meet the Cast of Rise of the Tomb Raider
- Rise of the Tomb Raider Art Book and Play Arts KAI Figure Announced
- 10 Biographies of Early Female Archaeologists & Explorers
- 7 Egyptology Blogs You Should Be Following
- Arte-Factual: Minoan Dolphin Fresco (Tomb Raider 1)
I guess if there’s one thing that can be learnt from this is that people *really* seem to love numbered lists. Expect more of those next year…
Other Fans’ Memories of 2015
When I was putting this retrospective article together, I asked my social media followers and readers to share some of their favourite Tomb Raider-related memories of the past year.
Here are some of their replies:
- Lady_Scion - Being one of the London Laras for Lara Croft GO. Little me dream come true
- F8tebringer610 - Discovering Team Tomb Raider; Rise of the Tomb Raider on the XBone; Lara Croft GO; joining Twitter and chatting with Raider friends.
- Corey - My favourite moment was being selected as one of the lucky people to get the Agent 47 outfit in Relic Run.
- Jasonraidstombs - Cosplaying as Lara at EGX and getting to meet so many amazing TR fans and cosplayers!
- LodairJunior - Going to Brasil Game Show, where I got to know @MeaganMarie and @koonthul and had the opportunity to play the Rise demo. Besides joining a fantastic community dinner, where I could personally meet all the Brazilian fansites owners.
- LeleMJCroft - Cosplaying Lara for the first time with @tombraiderit, meeting @MeaganMarie and sharing my passion with the Tomb Raider family
- VMadkey - Playing Tomb Raider 2013 with cousins 13 years after we played Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones together. It was nostalgic. And winning the digital copy of Rise of the Tomb Raider in Melonie Mac’s giveaway.
- Luke A - Playing Lara Croft and the Temple of Osiris. Showed me just how diverse the franchise could be.
- Carla L - The trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider that came with the “I Shall Rise” song. I tear up every time! Not to mention the animation and intensity take me back to when I played the classics.
- Sonicphoto - A lot of great memories! I was able to get Temple Of Osiris for free thanks to PS Plus and I played with 3 other friends online. It was an absolute blast! Though I was pretty strict that only I could play as Lara. But it was great to talk with other 3 people together on how to solve a puzzle live in person. Another great memory (and a more recent one) is that I did my first “let’s play” ever with Tomb Raider 2013. I think it was the best choice as I always feel very engaged with all Tomb Raider games and I wanted to refresh my mind for Rise. And, of course, being able to play Rise of the Tomb Raider on 360. The game is amazing as it really makes me feel that magic of Tomb Raider I felt when I first played the series with Legend and it’s definitely my favourite game of the year.
Well, folks, that’s all for 2015. It’s been a year of many highs (and some lows) and 2016 promises to be another exciting year for Raider fans: the PC and PS4 releases of Rise of the Tomb Raider, new comics and novels to entertain us on our boring commutes, and, perhaps the greatest event of them all, the 20th anniversary of the original game’s release.
Time to start brainstorming ways to celebrate this milestone, I reckon…
For now, I just want to wish all of my readers and social media followers a very Merry Croftmas…I mean, Christmas and wish you and your families all the very best for 2016. May it be the year you make all your dreams come true. Or, at the very least, may it be a healthy and happy one.
* Kelly M *
So, folks, what were your favourite Tomb Raider memories of 2015? And are you planning to do anything special to celebrate Tomb Raider’s 20th anniversary? Feel free to share your thoughts below!