I have to admit I didn’t really know how to start this review. With art books, I can’t think of a single time where I would suggest it for those who haven’t played a particular game. Not only for the sake of possible spoilers but so often the images they display don’t really have much context, limiting the value to the reader. Would this book require you having played the most recent entry of Tomb Raider? Would “Tomb Raider: The Art of Survival” be worth your money even if you were just a fan of the series in general?
While I realise their current selection of art books is a bit limited, Tomb Raider and Borderlands 2 being the only two, I have to say BradyGames has done an impressive job in lovingly crafting an art book for the latest chapter in the Tomb Raider franchise. And I don’t mean comparatively to pre-order bonus offers, as those are generally just terrible, but really good in its own right.
From the Press Release, they stated that the book was clocking in at the standard letter size of 8.5” x 11”. So either I have smaller letter pages around my desk or the staff at Bradygames are attempting to be humble as the book is actually around 11.5” in length. While that doesn’t sound significant, it comes in 270+ pages and just feels very meaty. The paper quality is solid heavy stock, allowing the lines and colours of the various pieces to feel as if they were translated to your hands fresh from the printer.
Text throughout the book by Brian Horton (the game’s Art Director) and John Stafford (who helped author the Tomb Raider strategy guide) helps guide the reader through the various segments of the game. It starts out with characters and enemies- commonly with the backstory, the final character models, and different clothing concepts they considered for them.
The environments take up the largest portion of the book but are not simply the set pieces. Rather, the book tries to follow through the pacing and general story of the game that provides renders, action shots, and various tidbits on what they took to try and create a world for the player to inhabit. If you haven’t finished the game, going through too deeply in the book would be ill advised.
The book winds down with various weapon renders, marketing material, and unusual material. With a similar amount of pages devoted to them as the characters, it bookends the content neatly. Now all isn’t perfect with the book- 3D models and textures take a considerable backseat to the concept art. They are present but not nearly to the degree that other pieces take up. If it seems like I’m struggling to find something negative to say about it, I am. There isn’t really a lot I find off putting in the book. There might be some who may balk at the price of $40. Which is a bit on the higher end for a soft cover but not something terribly uncommon. As with much of printed media, sales on books are quite frequent and there should be a more manageable cost for those who are price conscious.
Fans both new and old can enjoy the book. It has an extremely heavy biased towards the 2D assets of the game and readers and aspiring artists will really enjoy each page as long as they know what to expect. The layout ensures that you’ll want to be well acquainted with the game before digging too deeply but well worth the time for those looking to further explore the world inhabited by Lara Croft.