When Tomb Raider first came out in 1996, gamers had never really seen a woman like Lara Croft. A little bit Indiana Jones, a little bit James Bond, the game had followed Croft as she solved puzzles, shot lions (don’t think too hard about how endangered they are), and discovered mutant abominations in Atlantis. It was a smash success, selling over 7.5 million copies and launching a franchise that would see a dozen games and two films starring Angelina Jolie. But along the way, Lara Croft became something of a parody of herself, with each successive entry enlarging her, ahem, assets, and increasing her objectification to ludicrous levels.
Then, in 2013, Tomb Raider rebooted itself. Instead of a crack archaeologist at the top of her game, the new iteration of Lara Croft introduced gamers to her at the beginning of her journey. What makes a person decide to chase after myths and legends? Crystal Dynamics — who now own the Tomb Raider IP — also wanted to ground Lara as a person, to make her into a fully-fledged hero in her own right and not just glossy eye candy. To do that, they needed a strong narrative, which they found by hiring writer Rhianna Pratchett. Throughout both Tomb Raider and its 2015 sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider, Pratchett’s storytelling was some of the best in the business. Pratchett and her team even won the 2016 Achievement in Videogame Writing from the Writers Guild of America for their work on Rise of the Tomb Raider, beating out both The Witcher 3 and Assassin’s Creed Syndicate. If you haven’t played the new entries, I highly recommend picking them up.
So it’s a blow to the franchise that Crystal Dynamics announced today Rhianna Pratchett will not be returning to helm the third installment of the Tomb Raider franchise. The decision was released in a statement released on their Twitter account:
Crystal Dynamics and Rhianna Pratchett are announcing today that Rhianna is off to pursue new adventures separate from the Tomb Raider franchise. Rhianna was instrumental in helping us find Lara’s voice in the 2013 origin story, and through Rise of the Tomb Raider she shaped Lara into the evolving heroine we know today. The entire team thanks Rhianna for her dedication and tireless efforts on the games. Please join us in wishing Rhianna the absolute best in her next adventure.
Pratchett also confirmed the decision on her own social media account:
So, I’m packing up my climbing axe plus a little venison jerky for the road, and bidding a fond farewell to Lara. Onwards to new adventures!
— Rhianna Pratchett (@rhipratchett) January 3, 2017
As for what this means for Pratchett’s career, I have no doubt there will be (and have been) offers pouring in. Pratchett is one of the hottest writers in video games right now and the world is her oyster. It’s just a shame she isn’t leaving the Tomb Raider video game to help write the upcoming Tomb Raider film starring Alicia Vikander.