When it comes to resurrections of ailing video game franchises, the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot is one of the better ones. It successfully took the innovative (but clunky) platforming and tank controls of the original series and translated them to a more cinematic blueprint, of the kind first established by the Uncharted series. However, as part of the series' 25th anniversary celebration, publisher Square Enix has revealed some test footage that shows that the reboot could've gone in an entirely different direction.
On the official Tomb Raider YouTube page, you can check out three videos that show off what the 2013 game might've been. In its early development, the project was apparently called Tomb Raider: Ascension, and while it seems to feature the same remote island setting as the final game, the particulars are pretty different. In a lengthy compilation of early gameplay footage, we see series protagonist Lara Croft ride a horse, muck around in a scary tomb, and battle some monsters that wouldn't look out of place in Bloodborne.
Deep and dark — In general, it looks like Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics were testing out a new vision for the series that had more in common with survival horror games like Resident Evil than Uncharted. While there are definitely some horrifying elements in the final game - particularly the gory player death scenes - you end up fighting generic soldier dudes for the whole game, which is very Uncharted.
The above video shows off some early concept art that reflects the darker aesthetic, as well as some nice shots of the tree monsters that Lara apparently would've fought throughout Ascension. There's also another (unlisted) video that features some of the game's branding, as well as an edgy voiceover from Lara where she talks about how flawed and vulnerable she is compared to her idealized, too-cool-for-school persona in the first few games.
Roads not travelled — As a whole, the more cinematic direction was probably the better one for the Tomb Raider franchise to take, at least in terms of copies sold. That said, this would definitely have been quite a departure compared to the bright, colorful environments of games like Tomb Raider: Anniversary, and it might make for an interesting spin-off in the future.