Rise of the Tomb Raider: Endurance Mode

After you beat ROTR's main campaign, Endurance mode is here to help feed your unhealthy TR addiction
Friday, April 20, 2018 - 8:45pm
"It's then that I realize that I am, in fact, dying: starving, the hypothermia now (literally) freezing over the corners of my eyes, narrowing my vision to a myopic tunnel of blurred double-vision, I have maybe 10 seconds to get back to the fire and its life-saving warmth before I will fall to my knees, immobilized by the sheer cold."

Dying of hypothermia, I finally relent, choosing to light the signal fire, but it's bad juju on top of bad timing. Night is about to fall, and the rescue helicopter isn't the only thing that will see the fire, especially under the cover of darkness. It will draw the bad guys, and draw them in force.

It's been seventeen days since the Soviet-era snowcat that was my ride finally quit on me, leaving me stranded here in this, the frozen hell of Siberia, and each day has offered me ample time to reflect (in Dampier-esque despair-courage) on the idiocy of waving off the evac chopper right then and there.

As I contemplate the fucked series of desperate decisions that have led me to this dire moment (and the universe of bad options they have opened), my radio crackles to life as if awakened by the popping cinders of the beacon.

"We see your signal, Lara. Stay close to the fire."

Damnation; he's right: I should have stayed next to the fire in order to fight off the hypothermia that is now like a demon's grip of pure numbness on me, but I had no choice: the second the beacon ignited, I could hear opposition calling out to each other as they encircled the bonfire, readying for the killing stroke. At least, from this remove, I can spot them. Or so I thought.

Full-throttle night has descended, with a white-out blizzard rhythm section accompanying it. I watch the pitiful remaining dregs of my warmth meter as they rapidly drain, staring hopelessly into the futile white-out, searching for any trace of targets.

That's when I hear the shooting.

Reflexively, I pull a full draw on my compound bow, aim down the sights, and pirouette 360 degrees, looking for incoming tracers (and the paramilitary security forces firing them), but I can see nothing. Shouts now, followed by screams serve as a contrapuntal theme to what is now a steady stream of fully-automatic gunfire.

"Why aren't they shooting at me..." I wonder, for half a second before I hear it.

There is a bear. There is a bear and at least half of a platoon here. Like a love-connection gone wrong, they are fighting each other.

I drop from my perch, and circle around the signal fire, just long enough to absorb some of its life-saving warmth while catching glimpses of the snowy-horror-show unfolding around me.

There are at least 8 soldiers here, with at least one flamethrower. I watch the bear rip through a group of four of them, like snapshots spun subliminally through a shadow show.

I flank around the stand of trees between us, the snow and darkness and howling wind blinding me. I re-orient myself just in time to realize that the bear has seen me on the edges of its peripheral vision, and have less than 2 seconds to pull my bow, reaching for poison arrows that are no longer in my quiver. There isn't even enough time to shout "SHIT," before the bear is upon me, and I am juking and diving, insane and blindly, anything to get away from its terrible claws and horrifying teeth. The soldiers continue to open up on the creature from behind.

It's then that I realize that I am, in fact, dying: starving, the hypothermia now (literally) freezing over the corners of my eyes, narrowing my vision to a myopic tunnel of blurred double-vision, I have maybe 10 seconds to get back to the fire and its life-saving warmth before I will fall to my knees, immobilized by the sheer cold. Under these circumstances, the 5-10 seconds it will take for me to get back on my feet would provide an ample window for my many pursuers to shoot-and-or-eat-me. I either get to the fire, or I will die.

I try to aim during my pathetic flight back to the warmth of the beacon, but it's pointless; the parts of my vision that aren't straight navy-blue-black are impenetrable snow-white. I don't even know which gun I actually have in my hands as I try to bandage my ragged, bloody, death-limping self towards the orange blur. Just a few more feet...

And then, the claws. From behind. Slamming me face down like a quarterback sacked from behind by a Volvo. My head and face bounce off the rocks beneath the snow. I scramble to my feet, dodging the next volley of teeth and claws by inches, bandaging again, and reach the fire.

That's when it gets insane.

There are only 3-5 soldiers left, and their panic-firing draws the bear's attention back to them. A grenade they threw at my position moments before explodes only meters from me. I can't hear anything for a moment. "I am going to die here," I think, knowing it for a certainty.

I counter-flank the soldiers from the right this time, and draw a bead on one of the soldiers towards the back of their ruined squad, and release the arrow, my aim guided only by his shoulder-mounted flashlight (which telegraphs his position at this range, illuminating the fog and snow like a halo of death). The arrow hits him squarely in the back of the head. The fire has begun to warm me, as I hear one of the three remaining soldiers scream something like "OH GOD IT'S ON ME," cut off by my own walkie talkie.

"30 SECONDS!" It barks.

My one thought is "I have so much treasure..." just as another half platoon of reinforcements arrive, along with a several of the Deathless (and at least one more bear). "I am going to die here," I whisper, disgustedly, as the grenades begin to rain down around me, accompanied with the blue streaking napalm of the Greek fire arrows.

The bears are a wrecking ball between all of these guys, and everything is exploding around me, rounds whizzing to my left and right, everyone shooting at everyone now. I kill as fast as I possibly can while ducking from futile cover position to (equally) futile cover position, trying to circle the fire. It's now long past the dry "click click click" of my pistol; long past the "THICK THICK THICK" of my empty silenced AK47...

"Ok! Lara: We're here; grab the line!"

I shout (quoting an old episode of MST3K) "MARINES: WE ARE LEAVING..." as the flamethrower guy (who has been patiently stalking my six) opens up.

"Oh no... no, no, no..." I think, bandaging and rolling away from the roiling sea of flames consuming me, desperately trying to see anything in the sky through the smoke and the fire and the snow and the burning and the explosions and the white-out. I can't see the sky. I can't even see the fucking trees. I can't find the fucking rope.

I scramble towards nowhere, desperately, now more certain than ever that my run is going to end here, with me dead, when, bam: there is the rope, 6 meters in front of me. I run towards it, forgetting the horrifying sounds of carnage erupting behind me. There is another bear behind me, and I am full-sprinting now, no time to dodge, I focus on one steely-eyed objective: if I am going to die, I want to at least die doing something sensible, like grabbing for the... where the fuck did it go? Where is the rope? I must have ran past it somehow.

"Fuck it," I think, pulling a 180, keenly aware that there is a bear immediately behind me. I roll around and past the giant creature, inches away from death, and see it: THERE IS THE ROPE. And I grab it, half a second before the bear can swat the line away from my hands and... I AM ALIVE. I AM ALIVE AND UP AND AWAY AND I HAVE ALL THE TREASURE! I AM GOING TO LIVE!

Thus is the world of "Rise of the Tomb Raider's" Endurance Mode. Long after you've finished the main story campaign, endless hours of procedurally generated, unscripted, extraordinarily difficult rogue-like gameplay waits to test your skills to the limit. Fortune and glory, kids; fortune and glory.

-Seth "Fingers" Flynn Barkan is the author of "Blue Wizard Is About To Die," and is the host of the Best Linux Games Podcast, a weekly audio podcast covering only the best games available for the GNU/Linux Operating System. Which will own you, SUCKAH! (he can be contacted via twitter @Vegaswriter or by sending a message directly through Steam to "skookiesprite")