Tomb Raider fans are very excited about new art that seemingly reveals long-awaited ‘Unified Lara’ design

Big news for followers of Lara Croft Unification Theory: Tomb Raider developer Crystal Dynamics has revealed a new piece of art for the character that may closely represent what she looks like in the series’ next game. This reveal has apparently been anticipated for years, as in 2021 Tomb Raider’s franchise director Will Kerslake said that Crystal Dynamics “envision a future for Tomb Raider unfolding after the established adventures” of the original Core Design games and its own prequel trilogy. “[We’re] working to unify these timelines,” Kerslake said at the time. 

With no new Tomb Raider game since 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it’s been a long wait; long enough for Tomb Raider fans to seize on the idea of “Unified Lara” as a big deal. As evidence, here’s the reaction from some members of the Tomb Raider subreddit:  

(Image credit: Reddit)

The new design, embedded above, does intuitively convey a mix of older and newer Lara Croft. Unified Lara’s face does resemble the hero of the recent games, but a bit older, with sharper features. Lara’s hair is longer and in a braid, a design she rocked most prominently in 2007’s Tomb Raider Anniversary. Also returning from the classic games are Lara’s dual pistols, turquoise top and brown shorts.

Unified Lara has seemingly ditched the reboot series’ bow as her go-to weapon, but there is one more trace of that modern trilogy: the jade pendant around Lara’s neck. It was introduced as part of her design in the 2013 game, and revealed at some point to be the first artifact she found as a child at an archeological dig. It’s become a significant enough bit of her character design that as a tie-in to 2018’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, WETA created a prop replica that fans could buy.

Unified Lara’s design looks pretty good to my eye, and personally I’d welcome a bit more of the brash old school Lara back. Late ’90s fashion is in right now, Crystal Dynamics—it’d be a crime not to let Lara have her sunglasses back, at least for a cutscene or two. It’s also not really totally new—outfit-wise, it’s very close to the Lara model from last year’s Call of Duty crossover and her recent Magic the Gathering card pack. The most significant thing about this seemingly being the true Unified Lara is that it may better represent her face going forward than the crossover appearances have.

Tomb Raider diehards have been waiting three years for this reveal, but it prompts just as many questions as it does answers. How closely will Lara’s in-game 3D model actually hew to this artwork? Will she still be voiced and motion captured by actress Camilla Luddington, who owned the role in the last three games? And how do you “unify the timelines” of all the Tomb Raider games? Apparently within the community the three Tomb Raider eras are referred to as:

Classic – Tomb Raider 1 – Angel of DarknessLAU – Legend, Anniversary, and UnderworldSurvivor – The reboot, Rise and Shadow

Some of the events of these games can be smooshed together into one sprawling legacy, but others definitely can’t. The backstory of “Survivor” Lara is completely different than the posh upbringing of “Classic” Lara, who was also a less heroic figure and more of a selfish thrill-seeker. Will the next Tomb Raider try to incorporate any characters from existing games, or directly reference any of the adventures Lara’s been on? I mean, she went to Atlantis and Area 51 at various points in the classic games; that’s pretty out there compared to the events of the reboot trilogy. 

Crystal Dynamics isn’t saying anything about Unified Lara for now, but a reveal for that next game feels like it must be on the horizon, five-and-a-half years after Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

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