Next Tomb Raider game: Unreal Engine 5, and everything you need to know

Tomb Raider 2013 Key Art
Tomb Raider 2013 Key Art (Image credit: Square Enix)

Lara Croft is coming back in a new adventure, but some things may be different this time.

The next Tomb Raider game is currently in development. While there's little we know right now, the developers have shared a few bits of information that'll help us glean clues moving forward. Lara Croft is one of the biggest icons in gaming, so it's fair to say hopes and dreams are high with the knowledge a new entry in the Tomb Raider series is on the way. Here's everything you need to know about the next Tomb Raider game.

What is the next Tomb Raider game?

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

Square Enix-owned Crystal Dynamics officially revealed that development on a new Tomb Raider game was taking place at the State of Unreal April 2022 event. To close the event, the developers also shared that the next Tomb Raider would use Unreal Engine 5. This is a shift from prior games in the franchise, which used the proprietary Crystal and Foundation engines.

"Crystal Dynamics is proud to be a part of the launch of Unreal Engine 5. This new engine translates into next-level storytelling and gameplay experiences, and that's why we are thrilled to announce today that we have just started development of our next Tomb Raider game, powered by Unreal Engine 5," said Dallas Dickinson, general manager of the Tomb Raider franchise at Crystal Dynamics. "Our goal is to push the envelope of fidelity and to deliver the high-quality cinematic action-adventure experience that fans deserve from both Crystal Dynamics and the Tomb Raider franchise."

The Tomb Raider franchise has a long history, beginning with the launch of Tomb Raider in 1996, which was developed by Core Design and published by Eidos Interactive. Core Design would continue to develop games in the franchise until the 2006 title Tomb Raider: Legend, which was led by Crystal Dynamics after the failure of Core Design's prior game, Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness.

In 2013, Crystal Dynamics released Tomb Raider, the first in a series designed to reboot the franchise. A greater emphasis was placed on realism and survival gameplay, as well not sexualizing Lara Craft to the extent seen in prior games. A critical and commercial hit, this 2013 Tomb Raider has sold over 14 million copies, the highest sales of the entire franchise so far. It's also commonly seen as being seen as one of the best Xbox games of that year.

Crystal Dynamics followed this game up with a sequel in 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider. The reins were then handed to Eidos Montreal for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, closing out the reboot storyline. While it was still commercially successful, Shadow saw criticism of its story and more mixed critical reviews than the prior two games.

Will the next Tomb Raider follow the current story?

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

Right now, we don't know what the story of the next Tomb Raider game will be or if it will even be set in the same timeline as the reboot games. The story of Lara Croft has been reset before, so it's not impossible that Crystal Dynamics could decide to wipe the slate clean yet again.

With that said, it's also possible that the next game will follow the current storyline. We could even see the story skip ahead a few years, as a more experienced Lara Croft is taking on more and more jobs.

Back in January 2021 during a celebration of the franchise, Crystal Dynamics noted that the team saw a future where Lara's past and present would be brought together, where the different timelines of games could be fused into one. It's currently unclear if this is still the plan and if it is, how the studio will go about organizing this endeavor.

Rhianna Pratchett, lead writer for Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, told Eurogamer that while she's not involved with this new game, she'd like to see fewer "father issues" with Lara. "And that's coming from me!" she added.

"I like seeing her striking out on her own and really taking some joy in what she does. Because when we wrote the reboot game, she was really on her way to becoming a tomb raider. So she was like proto-Tomb Raider. And all the the traits that you associate with Tomb Raider like tenaciousness, bravery, resourcefulness, were kind of bubbling to the surface with her," Pratchett added. "I want to see that full fruition, I want to see the sassy one liners and things that I would have loved to have written. But, you know, she wasn't at that stage yet, she didn't have the confidence yet.

Is the next Tomb Raider coming to Xbox Series X|S and PS5?

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

Given how late into the lifecycle of the newest consoles this game will be releasing, it is overwhelmingly likely that it'll only be available on current-generation platforms. This will allow the game to take advantage of higher-end features in Unreal Engine 5. While platforms haven't been officially announced, it'll likely be available on Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, PC, and PS5.

When is the next Tomb Raider game's release date?

Source: Square Enix (Image credit: Source: Square Enix)

The next Tomb Raider game doesn't have a specific release date or release window. Crystal Dynamics noted that development using Unreal Engine 5 had "just started," indicating that the game won't be done for at least a few years. Given the general uncertainty of AAA game development at the best of times, as well as the fact that the world is still struggling in places with remote development, it could conceivably be 2025 or later before we see this game arrive.

Notably, Crystal Dynamics is also currently supporting Perfect Dark development, partnering with Xbox studio The Initiative in order to complete the reboot of another video game heroine. Crystal Dynamics has also expanded in recent years, establishing support studios Crystal Northwest in Seattle and Crystal Southwest in Texas, adding to the roster of support and number of projects the studio can take on.

Samuel Tolbert
Freelance Writer

Samuel Tolbert is a freelance writer covering gaming news, previews, reviews, interviews and different aspects of the gaming industry, specifically focusing on Xbox and PC gaming on Windows Central. You can find him on Twitter @SamuelTolbert.