2013’s Tomb Raider Reboot Was Almost a Survival Horror Title

by in General | Oct, 22nd 2021

Reboots and Remakes of older IPs have been a constant in today’s gaming climate. Players who haven’t had the chance to play some of the older games of days gone have a chance to experience these IPs with a new direction. Games like Resident Evil 2, Resident Evil 3, Final Fantasy 7, and even Dead Space, are all being remade for new generations, changing the gameplay of the original, or telling a whole new story for new players to attach to. One of the first older IPs to get the reboot treatment was Tomb Raider. With Square Enix being the company that owns the Tomb Raider franchise, they decided to make a new game that fans of the series would love while reexploring the world, and the character of Lara Croft. This new game became known as 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot, which followed Lara on her first adventure, being shipwrecked on the island of Yamatai, Lara had to fight an evil PMC, the wild, and some supernatural entities to make her way out of the island alive. This game was a new start for the franchise, and a part of a new trilogy of Tomb Raider titles, with Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider being the two games to follow the story, and explore more of Lara’s backstory. However, before 2013’s Tomb Raider became the start of a new generation for Lara, there was another game, one that was something more horrifying. 

Tomb Raider Ascension

The game’s name was Tomb Raider Ascension, and its original plan was the same as 2013’s reboot, however, the genre was something completely different, and was a bold new step for the series, while games like Uncharted had the player taking control of a suave and charismatic hero much like Indiana Jones, this title was going to be a survival horror experience. 

Square Enix opened up about what could have been on the official Tomb Raider Youtube Channel, which showcased a lot of the scrapped concepts that we’re early in development for the game. Tomb Raider Ascension was going to follow a very similar story to the 2013 game. According to the description, the developers of the game wanted to focus on putting Lara in a survival situation on a remote island. Lara would then encounter supernatural terrors around the world, and then have to fight them to stay alive. “It felt closer to a horror game than a tomb raider title” the developers mentioned in their description, and over the past week, they’ve been showing concept art, early gameplay demos, and other content from their original idea for the reboot.

Monsters and The Island

Throughout the past week, the Tomb Raider Youtube channel has been uploading videos showcasing content from the scrapped Ascension game. While a lot of the content came into the rebooted series, it’s interesting to see what kinds of horrifying creatures Lara would Encounter on her journey through this remote island.

For starters, the first video shows off some of the characters Lara would mean, one of which being a small child capable of controlling Magic, some of the concept art shows that this character would be present throughout Lara’s Journey on the island. Another child was also shown in the concept art. It’s possible to assume that this story was going to have players take control of a Lara Croft that wasn’t young or on her first mission, rather, this would have been a version of Lara that was a seasoned explorer and adventurer. Some of the concept art in the video shows Lara holding the climbing axes, something that would become a staple of her loadout in the series, starting with 2013’s Tomb Raider. 

Things would then change from a normal Tomb Raider game to a supernatural horror title with the introduction of the monsters Lara would have to face. These creatures looked to be a mix of Stone and Plants, powered by some dark energy. In one of the concept arts, this creature towers over Lara even though it’s leaning on its hands like a gorilla. The creature’s seemingly mechanical and animalistic design is reminiscent of the E.M.M.I. in Metroid Dread. Another Concept Art shows the same creature overgrown with sticks and covered in moss, using the sticks attached to its back as quills like a porcupine. The concept art shows the creature walking on both its hind legs and crawling on all fours. 

Another Creature in the game is shown to be some kind of mechanical dog that’s built out of copper, and slowly rusting away, it’s face is reminiscent of the Lion statues found on Yamatai in the completed game. Its legs look like those of an insect, with this creature having three fingers. Other monsters like Men dressed as Oni wielding hand scythes, as well as some kind of Giant Creature that resemble the Chimera from Insomniac’s Resistance series appear in the game as well.

Gameplay Footage

On top of the concept art shown for Tomb Raider Ascension, there’s also some Early gameplay showing a lot of the concepts from the 2013 reboot series that were forged inside of this horror title. The footage is still extremely early, early enough for Lara to be a grey model running around these built worlds. However, it showed how some of the game was going to play differently compared to the title forged from this original idea. 

The game was still going to be a third-person title, however, with the game taking place in dark areas, monsters would be lurking in the dark. Lara wouldn’t fire from the regular third-person perspective and instead would have a lock on for enemies much like the original Tomb Raider titles. Lara did also have her climbing ax and Bow equipped, which have become staples of her character thanks to the 2013 reboot series. Some of the more open sections in the game showed that the island that Lara was on was going to be a fully open-world, something that was explored in Rise of the Tomb Raider as well as Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Lara was also shown equipping a bow and using it, which had the player use a reticle on the screen to free aim, rather than aiming the camera. 

Another section shown in the video was the introduction of fully destructible environments and the makeshift flamethrower. In the situation showcased by Square Enix, Lara is inside an ancient mansion, the mansion is also riddled with these long-fingered monsters with black hair, which if the theme is still set in Japan much like the 2013 Reboot, the game would have featured realistic versions of Demons and Monsters from Japanese Folklore. Lara can be seen rotating around independent of the camera, setting the monsters on fire, an extension of the previous aiming modes which were similar to the original titles. The building itself would have been fully destructible in certain areas, with a chandelier breaking into pieces, or Lara having to break down a wall with her flame thrower, all while being pursued by the monsters lurking in the shadows. 

The game also showcased some of the combat in the title, which had Lara fighting one of the monsters from the mansion one on one, using the climbing ax as her only means of close-quarters defense. She was able to block, dodge and roll from the enemies, as well as being able to them out if she managed to time her attacks right.

With the open world being an idea for the title, Lara was given a horse for a short amount of time, allowing her to traverse the island at greater speeds than running. The island was going to be a lot different from the island in the original game, while it still retained the rocky cliffs more of the island was going to be covered with dense forests, as well as other monsters. One of these monsters is a massive giant which is either made out of or is a hive for some of the other enemies. The video showcases a scripted sequence where Lara flees this monster, losing her horse and jumping off of a cliff where she’s followed by a massive amount of the monsters she fought previously. 

There’s also the introduction of some of the animations that some of the enemies did, with Lara getting her torso separated from her body, or decapitated. Some of these more gruesome death animations found their way into the reboot in spirit, with how quick and impactful the animations were Lara Met her demise in the game. 

There’s also more combat included in the video as well, showing Lara controlling similarly to a title like Dark Souls, however, it’s not the same design philosophy. The game also shows some enemies that haven’t been seen before, like an enemy that’s body is only moving due to the tendrils that hold it above the ground. The Ogre enemy from the concept art was also shown in the video as well, with Lara ripping out a tooth to slice its throat and take it out.


The most recent video from the channel shows some of the box art for the game, followed by a Voiceover from the current actress to play the character. This is after the game shifted into a new Origin story for the character, but the name Ascension had stuck around until it was eventually scrapped for simply, Tomb Raider. This was the last thing posted by Square Enix for players who were wondering about the fate of the title.

It goes without saying that a lot of developers don’t show a lot of their title’s early years. Games take a lot of time to develop, and the ability to see games in their earliest stages is always interesting, especially if they’re a completely different concept before the final game. However, due to Tomb Raider Ascension’s videos being posted. A lot of players have been lamenting that they wish this game was a reality, seeing what could have been. Perhaps Square Enix and Eidos posted these videos to gauge interest in a possible revival of this story, and players would be able to see this version of the Tomb Raider reboot in the future. However, this is unlikely, as the Tomb Raider trilogy is complete, and players haven’t seen much of Lara Croft since Shadow of the Tomb Raider was released in 2018.


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