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Rise of the Tomb Raider's 20 Year Celebration DLC channels Gone Home in a mediocre nostalgia trip

Rise of the Tomb Raider's 'Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration Pack' is the awkwardly named DLC released in celebration of Tomb Raider's 20 year anniversary. Inside you'll find a new combat challenge mode, a bunch of 'classic' skins, and Blood Ties - a standalone story chapter. Blood Ties is something of a departure for Tomb Raider, in that it foregoes the combat and platforming in favour of a Gone Home style exploration of Croft Manor.

It's an obvious setting for the 20th anniversary package. Croft Manor is one of the defining locations of the series. I still remember the hours I spent exploring the place across Tomb Raiders II and III, finding secrets, finishing obstacle courses, racing quad bikes, and locking an old man in a walk-in freezer. Blood Ties offers none of that. This version of Croft Manor is decrepit, neglected since the death of Lara's father as a consequence of her reticence to face her past (or future).

She's drawn back by a legal threat from her uncle, who, appalled that Lara is following in her father's footsteps, is making a claim on the Manor. This sends Lara on a hunt for something that can establish herself as heir to the building – a hunt that involves listening to a lot of audio diaries from Lara's family. Some mild puzzling aside, the diaries are the focus of Blood Ties – shining a light on her parents, their initial love affair, their fraught dealings with extended family, and, ultimately, their deaths. It's decent in a Radio 4 afternoon drama sort of way, (think Everybody's Gone To The Rapture, but posh).

More interesting is the nature of exploration. Even in its unmodified, sans-obstacle course state, the manor is full of secrets. Mirroring Gone Home's progression, Blood Ties is all about finding the first few hints of the story, and using the clues gained to open previously inaccessible area. For the most part, it's simple stuff: you need a torch to descend a dark staircase, Lara having left her infinite supply of glow sticks in Siberia. But some more interesting puzzles present themselves, requiring Lara to find specific clues that decode a secret message. It deftly creates a linear sense of progression out of what is, ultimately, just a very big house.

We don't look back at the past of the series as a whole, because, in this timeline, none of it has happened yet.

As in Rise of the Tomb Raider proper, this is prequel territory. Lara is only just becoming the woman we know from the original games, and that means the story is designed to move us closer to that point. Where Rise's story is about Lara Croft becoming Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, Blood Ties is about Lara accepting Croft Manor as her home. The problem with this is it makes for a weird 20th anniversary package. We don't look back at the past of the series as a whole, because, in this timeline, none of it has happened yet.

Yes, there's a letter from Winston lampshading the freezer thing, but that's one of only a few rare instances that nod to the original games. Otherwise, this '20 Year Celebration Pack' takes place in a mansion I don't recognise, featuring a story that hasn't yet caught up to the majority of those last 20 years. As a story, Blood Ties is effective, albeit certainly not important to Tomb Raider as a whole. But it's certainly not a celebration of two decades of history.

Elsewhere, Lara's Nightmare is a zombie-based combat mode. It is exactly as interesting as the words "zombie-based combat mode" imply. If you're big into the Expeditions aspect of the game, it might prove a passable diversion, but I bored of it pretty quickly. There's also a new difficulty mode for the game proper, as well as the chance to make Lara look more triangular. All of which is to say the 20 Year Celebration Pack doesn't feel very celebratory. Blood Ties is fine if you want to dig into the history of this specific timeline, but, for those wanting to reminisce over the series in its entirety, you're better off just playing the old games.

Phil has been writing for PC Gamer for nearly a decade, starting out as a freelance writer covering everything from free games to MMOs. He eventually joined full-time as a news writer, before moving to the magazine to review immersive sims, RPGs and Hitman games. Now he leads PC Gamer's UK team, but still sometimes finds the time to write about his ongoing obsessions with Destiny 2, GTA Online and Apex Legends. When he's not levelling up battle passes, he's checking out the latest tactics game or dipping back into Guild Wars 2. He's largely responsible for the whole Tub Geralt thing, but still isn't sorry.