Archery Popshots | Tomb Raider (2013)
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Archery Popshots | Tomb Raider (2013)

August 9, 2019

For over 10 years, Lara Croft has been one
of the most well-known gaming icons, with her disproportionate figure and dual-wielding
pistols. In 2013, the Tomb Raider series was rebooted for a second time, introducing a
darker theme and a grittier universe where conspiracy and death lurk around every corner.
As part of this change, Lara’s signature weapon changes from pistols akimbo to a bow,
and it is this image of Lara Croft that is being used in the marketing of the current
series. And it isn’t just another ranged weapon. The bow is an integral part of the
gameplay, being used as both a weapon and a utility tool. How does Lara go from gunslinging
to arrow-flinging? Lara ends up being stranded on the lost island
kingdom of Yamatai with nothing but her wits. To survive, Lara finds a makeshift bow from
a long-rotten corpse and immediately puts it to use to hunt for food. While I normally leave the analysis for later,
I do want to point out that an old branch strung with an improvised string left in the
jungle for hundreds of years is probably going to snap the moment you pull it back. Avoid
ancient bows and lost kingdoms where possible. As the story progresses, Lara is able to obtain
better equipment and upgrade her bow. The makeshift bow is upgraded to a rather nice-looking
recurve bow. Later, Lara receives a compound bow, which is further upgraded into a competition
bow. With salvage parts, Lara is also able to improve
the stats and functionality of her bows, including strengthening the limbs for damage, using
a key ring as an improvised release, and other improvements to shooting speed and accuracy. While Lara soon acquires a pistol, the bow
never leaves her side. It is her weapon of choice in cutscenes. Even in gameplay, the
bow is used for a range of different purposes. By combining the bow with a lighter, Lara
can ignite her arrows, which can later be upgraded into a napalm arrow that spreads
flames on impact. The bow can be used with rope arrows to pull enemies from high ground,
form ziplines across vantage points and solve puzzles. Lastly, the player has the option
of crafting explosive arrows, coming in the form of a grenade-tip arrow. I don’t think
those are competition-legal, though it might make the Olympics a bit more interesting. While many games feature the bow as a long-range
weapon, Tomb Raider keeps the combat within close distances. Arrows have a limited effective
range, and from the player’s perspective the arrow flies perfectly straight. This allows
Lara to use the bow as an improvised single-shot assault weapon, but with rapid reloading.
In gameplay terms, the bow acts as a bolt-action rifle. Holding the fire button “charges” the
bow, with Lara drawing it further back for increased damage. This is largely unnecessary,
as headshots are instant-kills regardless of power, and you’re probably better off
shooting quick shots against enemies instead of slow power shots. The enemies do react
to being hit by arrows, so doing follow-up shots is smooth and instinctive. At some points, the bow can be used as a stealth
weapon. However, enemies who are killed will alert nearby foes. Lara can sense the threat
with her survival instinct and the player can pick off isolated enemies. Doing so in
some sections avoids firefights against numerically superior groups, though there’s never really
a sense of Lara being a stealth assassin that can win the game solely through long-range
shooting. The game’s cover-shooter mechanics and weaponry lean towards the action sequences.
The stealth advantage is negated by the optional silencer upgrades for the pistol and rifle,
making the bow mostly redundant in combat. Despite the availability of better weapons,
the bow still retains a place in combat if the player opts to upgrade it, with the most
useful upgrade being armour piercing arrows. This allows the player to bypass enemy body
armour and restore the one-hit headshots against helmeted foes. Lastly, Lara makes extensive use of arrows
as melee weapons. She is able to put a premature end to the ambitions of would-be adventurers
by stabbing them in the knee. Unlocking bow mastery, Lara can execute finishing blows
using viscous stabs through the throat. Lara isn’t the only one who is proficient
in combat archery either. Most of the inhabitants of the island are also armed with bows. The
AI tends to be pitch these as slow-shooting grunts, but getting hit by an arrow can take
a chunk out of your health. Now comes the part that many of you look forward
to: how much of it is real? While playing through Tomb Raider, nothing
really bothered me. It was a fun experience and the bow was incorporated into gameplay
without looking like something wholly fantastical. However, as Tomb Raider never featured a bow,
many players come out of the game with an assumption that the things Lara does are plausible.
In fact, nearly everything about archery in Tomb Raider is just outside the realm of possibility. The way Lara carries the bow on her back is
not very practical. While it is possible with a recurve bow, this would definitely not be
possible with a compound bow. Compound bows have more complex cable systems that you wouldn’t
stick your head through, not to mention that the pressure of the string and the blocky
riser squeezing your torso would be highly uncomfortable. The straight, fast flight of the arrow is
not possible from the bows in the game. It may be possible for modern compound bows,
but arrows do drop even at short distance. Pulling back further on the bow does indeed
increase the power, though a real bow doesn’t require a charge-up time to get full power. The stealth-kill ability is impossible to
pull off. The string phases through the enemy’s head, and somehow a smaller, weaker Lara can
use a bow to snap the neck of a large male gunman. You can’t hold a lighter in your bow hand
to shoot fire arrows. Arrow points don’t burn like that. If you have to know, you would
need a special arrow head that contains a flammable material, and there’s a high chance
of the flame being extinguished in flight. Grenade-tip arrows wouldn’t work. They would
be too front-heavy to fly far and would probably drop around ten metres in front of you. Even rope arrows wouldn’t work. Arrows are
extremely light, so having the weight of rope on the back would simply pull it out of the
air. In real life, a similar function is used in bowfishing, but you couldn’t launch an
arrow across a chasm to form a zipline. Most of the upgrades are nonsensical. Having
a plaited string or adding a stabiliser would not increase damage in any way. And if Lara shot a compound bow like that
in real life, she’d probably derail the string, rendering the bow useless. Generally
speaking, recurve bows are more practical in the field, as a compound bow cannot be
repaired without specialised equipment. The advantage of a compound bow is that it can
launch an arrow with higher velocity at a given draw weight. Everything you see in the game is a typical
action movie trope. And frankly, I didn’t mind. It was easy for me to distinguish the
liberties taken to make the bow an integral part of the game. The Tomb Raider reboot has cast a new light
on Lara’s character, and in doing so has made the bow the new signature weapon of a
gaming icon. While many sections of the game are better served by other weapon options,
it is perfectly viable to complete the entire game with the bow. It can be challenging,
but also offers some advantages. Being able to use the bow to navigate across the map
and access more areas makes it something that you never forget about, and to the testament
of the designers, it never really feels out of place. Tomb Raider therefore stands out
as a fan favourite for its inclusion of archery. As usual, shoot straight, and aim for your

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  1. In first person that scavenged bow looks a bit whip-ended tiller wise, I'd complain to the bowyer.
    It doesn't surprise me that another game treats bows as single shot guns but I would love to see a game treat the bow like what it is, advantages and disadvantages included. Some thoughts that spring to mind is that a bow kills by bleeding not, colossal trauma and shock so you need to hit vital organs for quick kills, not anywhere at all. There is the bows ability to cut through body armour (bullet proof vests) as if it's not there – but is stopped by a stab vest or hard armour.
    I just think that it could add interesting gameplay when done correctly, you would train a player to aim for vital organs such as the heart/lungs etc. much like a modern hunter does instead of the standard videogame headshot (which is done basically never.)

  2. Fire arrow won't work with bows with high draw weight, because the velocity of the arrow will extinguish the flame. Even with low draw weight bow there is a high chance that fire would be extinguished. Sorry for my english, i'm not a native speaker.

  3. The bow recovered from the corpse is not “hundreds of years old”. There wouldn’t be much left of a body hanging from a tree for that long. I wouldn’t be surprised if that bow had developed quite a bit of string following though..

  4. "For over ten years…" well, I suppose, technically, 22 years is more than 10 years, but it seems an oddly understated way to put it, if you're going for emphasis.

  5. Grenade arrows probably wouldn’t work, but ballistic arrows actually exist. Our American friends have made arrow heads that contain a firing pin and casing to hold either a shotgun shell or pistol cartridge. When the arrow hits something it sends the firing pin into the back of the round and causes it to got off.

    One use only and completely stupid, but also a little cool.

  6. I must a agree with almost everything you say in this analysis. There is only one comment I will expand upon. I often carry my recurve on my back like they have Lara do in the game. This leaves my hands free to carry other items such as the parts of the animal I've harvested for food and measuring.

  7. Hope you do a Rise of The Tomb Raider version too! It's a extremely fun game and a major step up in gameplay from the first one, I highly recommend it. Great review though, I'm a huge Tomb Raider (reboot) fan so thumbs up from me.

  8. Not a gamer, but a fun video review to watch, thanks! She makes Rambo's archery skills  look like an amateur.

  9. Even in Dark Project ("La Guilde des Voleurs & L'Age de Métal) the bow and arrow's flight is more realistic !
    fatigue is managed and if you keep your bow open too long in time, you need to close it (before closing, your arm move a lot 😉 )
    The arrow's flight is curved (not for gaz and fire arrow, du to the game resriction (calculation, i think) )

    And the first game (La Guilde des Voleurs) was realsed in… 1998 ! (Thief: Studies in Archery – Part I [TheEyeOfStone] )

  10. Archery feels great in VR games, though I haven't shot an arrow in a long time. Would be interesting to have your opinion on it especially with Skyrim VR out on PC now.

  11. i think mythbusters tested burning arrows and found that it is impossible unless you use the stuff from the candles that you cant blow out

  12. Loved this game, played on PC where my bow skills were insane (unlike real life where I'm a beginner). I refused to upgrade to the compound bow and instead just kept the recurve, I don't like compound bows they're nowhere near as cool. Can't wait to play the two sequels after I get a new monitor.

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