Tomb Raider Reloaded is simultaneously a rock-solid mobile experience and everything that’s wrong with smartphone games.
Instead of being a curated premium title like the excellent Lara Croft Go, Reloaded is a free-to-play top-down action roguelike. This means that Lara will clear out procedurally-generated areas while avoiding traps and collecting loot.
That all works surprisingly well — which isn’t too surprising, considering it hails from Burnaby, B.C.’s Emerald City Games and Montreal’s Onoma (formerly Square Enix Montreal), in partnership with main Tomb Raider studio Crystal Dynamics. Now, I’m not normally someone who enjoys the “start over each time you die” nature of roguelikes, but it actually fits in Reloaded. Here, Lara will always start out with her signature dual handguns, and you’ll collect upgrades after each stage to affect everything from their rate of fire and damage to one-time health-replenishing bonuses and permanent gear upgrades.
And at the centre of that gameplay loop is a simple Vampire Survivors-esque one-button control scheme in which you control Lara’s movement while she shoots automatically. In this way, it feels natural and well-optimized for mobile. At times, Lara’s auto-targeting can frustratingly snap to an unintended enemy, but ultimately, it’s a smart way to streamline the action. There’s an undeniable thrill in avoiding incoming attacks in bullet-hell-like action.
The game also uses the Tomb Raider license in subtler but nonetheless effective ways. Keeley Hawes (Tomb Raider: Anniversary) returns to voice Lara, while series familiars like Winston and Werner Von Croy and the City of Vilcabamba and Lost Valley make appearances. I could do without the Chibi-style aesthetic, though, which feels like an odd fit for Tomb Raider.
The biggest issue with Tomb Raider Reloaded, however, is its monetization. This is a problem for many mobile games, to be sure, but it’s especially troublesome here. In particular, Reloaded has an egregious ‘energy’ system that limits how much you can play unless, you guessed it, you spend real money. It feels extremely dated in a 2023 game, creating needless friction to an otherwise fine experience.
In fact, there are over 10 types of currencies (including Coins, Gems, Tokens and Manuals) that are used for miscellaneous upgrades, gear unlocks, bonuses and more. Considering the appealing approachability of the core gameplay, it’s frustrating that everything surrounding it has become so muddled by monetization.
That said, there is a workaround. The entire experience, sans all of these in-app purchases, is available through Netflix Games. In other words, anyone with a Netflix subscription can download Reloaded at no additional cost. If you haven’t been planning to cancel the service due to its recent password-sharing crackdown, it’s far easier to recommend. That way, you can enjoy the simple-yet-engaging gameplay without the annoying monetization.
Tomb Raider Reloaded can be downloaded for free on Android and iOS or through Netflix Games.
Image credit: CDE Entertainment