Interview: Rhianna Pratchett on her 'reboot' of Tomb Raider's Lara Croft

Rob Waugh
Tomb Raider games have sold 30 million games since launch in 1996 - earning $1.5 billion in game sales, cinema sales and merchandise.

“She’s still very recognisably Lara Croft - but some of her, ah, attributes have been reduced,” says Rhianna Pratchett, scriptwriter for a ‘reboot’ of the hit game franchise this year.

“She’s more realistic, more in proportion - and much younger.”

The new Tomb Raider game reinvents a character who is one of gaming's biggest hit machines.

Tomb Raider games have sold 30 million games since launch in 1996 - earning $1.5 billion in game sales, cinema sales and merchandise.

The new Croft is voiced by actress Camilla Luddington, who rose to fame playing Kate Middleton in an American TV series. 

Croft is 21, no longer wears hot pants - and no longer has a deadly gadget for every occasion. Luddington had to spend an entire day recording death scenes to capture the number of ways the young Croft can meet her end.

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“In film, there have been successful reimaginings of James Bond and Batman,” says Pratchett. “We wanted to rewind Lara Croft to the point before the guns and the gadgets - show her humanity a bit more."

Pratchett is daughter of hit fantasy writer Terry Pratchett - who announced in an interview last year that he would hand over the rights to his 70-million-selling Discworld series to her on his death. Pratchett has written for hit games such as Mirror’s Edge and Heavenly Sword.

“Perhaps we’ll spark a trend for rebooting game characters," says Pratchett. "Most of them were conceived at a time when there were no game scriptwriters.”

Lara Croft rapidly became one of the games industry’s first sex symbols.

When the first Tomb Raider launched in 1996, female game characters were rare - and her creator, Toby Gard said that her hotpants and T-shirt were a reaction against the chainmail bikinis common at the time.

The Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie were seen as among the first successful game-to-film adaptations.

So many models and actresses have attempted to fill Croft’s skin-tight vest in the past two decades that she holds a Guinness World Record for ‘most official real-life stand-ins’.

Not all have been impressed.  Writer Germaine Greer described her as “"a sergeant-major with balloons stuffed up his shirt - a distorted, sexually ambiguous, male fantasy."

“Perhaps the way we’ve worked with her will attract more female players,” says Pratchett. “It’s not like we’ve scrapped the old Lara - we’re just looking through a different lens. She’s shipwrecked on an island, but we’ve deliberately avoided making her vulnerable simply because she’s female.”

“She’s held a gun before - so had I at that age. I learnt to shoot a gun and a bow and arrow. She’s capable. But there’s a line she crosses - what does it mean to take a life?”

“We took a bit of a risk - there’s a whole hour where she doesn’t shoot anyone. It was a careful balance between making the character interesting and making the game entertaining."

"In later games, she’s Teflon Lara - she’s got the guns, the gadgets, and can deal with any situation. We hope that this might bring in players who haven’t necessarily played a Tomb Raider game before.”

Critical reaction has been good so far. Review aggregator site Metacritic has given the game 86% based on 33 reviews.

Gaming site IGN says, “Tomb Raider is well-written, sympathetic, exciting, beautiful and just incredibly well-made. It is a superb action game that brings a new emotional dimension to one of gaming's most enduring icons.”

The ‘new’ Croft, Luddington, is signed up to portray the character in further titles - and says she is keeping her “fingers crossed” that she will get the call to play Croft in a new film, based on the younger, more vulnerable character in the game.