This Tomb Raider survival horror prototype almost became the 2013 reboot

Tomb Raider: Ascension prototype footage showing Lara Croft holding a gas canister flamethrower and setting supernatural wraithlike enemies on fire.
(Image credit: Square Enix, Crystal Dynamics)

When Lara Croft got her origin story reboot in 2013, Crystal Dynamics took her through a story that definitely put her survival to the test. Before landing there though, Lara nearly wound up in a proper survival horror game. 

This week, Square Enix dug out and shared seven minutes of development footage from Tomb Raider: Ascension, the game that later became simply Tomb Raider. Ascension had a big focus on horror, complete with freaky boss fights and setting gnarly inhuman monsters on fire. Lara's reboot journey wound up on a different, more action-oriented path, but the survival horror version looks pretty neat.

Square has been celebrating Lara's 25th anniversary with all sorts of events and details on its blog this year. It's now also shared a video showing some of Tomb Raider: Ascension's progress through prototyping. Square says that although Crystal Dynamics did explore taking Lara deep into survival horror territory, "it was through Ascension that the team honed in on telling an origin story through the lens of survival."

You can watch up there how Lara starts out as a grey test model carrying a torch and equipment through flooded underground caves, eventually progressing to a more recognizable version of herself fighting against some creepy, wraithlike enemies.

This isn't the first time that Ascension footage has surfaced. A shorter version of different prototype footage was shared by the Planet Lara fan channel back in 2013. It claimed that Ascension was taking inspiration from the likes of Resident Evil and Shadow of the Colossus. Whether or not that was Crystal Dynamics' exact intention, I’d say you can definitely see shades of both in this new early footage video. 

Those almost open world horseback sections certainly call to mind SotC, especially what with being chased by that rather large troll-like creature. Then there’s the bit of setting monsters on fire with a gas canister flame thrower which definitely screams survival horror. 

There's even more Ascension over on the Tomb Raider YouTube page: a concept art video showing a young girl that would have been Lara's companion and a branding video showing some potential box art and voice acting.

As for the reboot that we did wind up with, our Tomb Raider review scores it a 75% saying that Lara's origins are "visually stunning and meticulously staged, but hindered by limited depth and stifling linearity." She also turned up on our list of every Lara Croft ranked—in position 12 out of 19. Sorry, origin Lara. 

Lauren Morton
Associate Editor

Lauren started writing for PC Gamer as a freelancer in 2017 while chasing the Dark Souls fashion police and accepted her role as Associate Editor in 2021, now serving as the self-appointed chief cozy games enjoyer. She originally started her career in game development and is still fascinated by how games tick in the modding and speedrunning scenes. She likes long books, longer RPGs, has strong feelings about farmlife sims, and can't stop playing co-op crafting games.