Who Ya Got: Lara Croft vs. Nathan Drake
One of my favorite pastimes in video games is taking characters from separate games and worlds and matching them up against each other to see who is the better choice. Of course this is completely subjective but the conversations and debates that spring up from these topics are always lively and enjoyable. Today we are looking at two of the best explorers in video game history: Lara Croft of the long running Tomb Raider franchise and Nathan Drake of Uncharted fame. It's easy to make a case for both characters as they are now revered as icons in the adventure genre of games. Lara Croft has been exploring for over two decades while Nathan Drake has made a deep footprint in just ten years. Today we will look at some pros and cons for each and I'll render my final verdict of who I'd choose as the go-to explorer.
Over the many different Tomb Raider installments Lara's backstory has changed but there have been a couple details that remain the same no matter which story you've experienced. She is born into a wealthy English family and, going off the most recent reboot, her parents were renown archaeologists. Lara spent time with her parents on their expeditions which sparked a desire in her to do the same. On one of their many expeditions Lara's mother vanished which led to her father presumedly taking his own life a few years later. Though she was left a fortune she never took the easy road as she grew to become a young adult. Even with the money left to her she worked multiple jobs while attending University College of London. Lara never comes across as arrogant or as if she believes she's better than anyone because of how she grounded herself.
What turned her into the explorer we all know today varies depending on which installment you look at. If you're going with the older games it was a plane crash in the Himalayas at the age of 21 which stranded her for weeks. Lara was forced to figure out how to survive fighting off the likes of natural and supernatural enemies. In the reboot of the franchise it's a trip to the Dragon's Triangle with her college best friend Sam as they search for the lost civilization of Yamatai. Regardless of which experience you choose to go with the results are the same. Lara is put in a ridiculously compromising position at a young age and has to figure out how she will survive. Spoiler alert: She figures it out.
Now what makes Lara such a terrific explorer and even more so an incredible video game character? Lara is an impressive combination of athleticism, intelligence, and strategy. In a similar vane of Bruce Wayne/Batman, Lara spends her fortune getting trained by some of the best in the world. She puts in the necessary work to ensure she can find a way out of any precarious situation she encounters. The training she puts herself through pays off astronomically as she is not only skilled in hand to hand combat but also an expert marksman with her trademark dual Heckler & Koch USP's or her compound bow. While everyone will automatically think of her iconic dual USP's when her name is mentioned, it's the compound bow that really gives her a huge advantage over any adversary she may come across. The bow allows for stealth kills but more than that it has the ability to shoot multiple targets at once. This keeps Lara out of the spotlight as she makes her way through the dangerous landscapes she visits. Her skills are only enhanced by how much she prepares. She takes the time to map out her plans and formulate a genuine strategy before she embarks on a new journey. There's a reason she's been beating baddies and raiding tombs for over 20 years... it's because she's a badass.
Nathan Drake is almost a polar opposite of Lara in terms of where they came from. Nathan's mother committed suicide at a young age and he never knew his father. This left he and his older brother Sam to deal with the foster care system. Both developed a curiosity for adventures and their first trek together saw them attempt to steal their mother's old journal from the house of an elderly woman. *Spoiler* As they are about to take the journal they are caught by the woman. She was actually willingly handing them the journal as she believed they could continue their mother's work. She then proceeds to die of a heart attack. In fear of being caught by the authorities they flee and start their lives on the run.
During his travels, Nate attempts to steal the ring that belongs to Francis Drake. Nate believes he is an heir to Drake's fortune (hence the title of the first game) and that the ring is rightfully his. While attempting the theft he runs into the man who soon becomes his mentor, Victor Sullivan. Victor, or Sully, is a fantastic sidekick and mentor to Nate. He is more often than not the voice of reason when Nate starts to get too daring, and that happens frequently. Also there's nothing more satisfying then screaming "SULLY!! YOU SON OF A BITCH!" any time he arrives at just the right moment to save Nate from impending doom. Sully isn't the only character that routinely lends a much needed hand to Nate. Elena makes her first appearance in Uncharted: Drake's Fortune and quickly becomes a franchise mainstay. On more than one occasion her assistance is necessary to bail Nate out of another outrageous situation. The two eventually marry and she becomes his rock. She's the reason he second guesses his actions in Uncharted 4: A Thieves End. While Nate naturally still makes risky decisions with no real plan in the fourth game, he seems to have actual remorse for putting Elena through that torture again.
Onto Nate's skills. Like Lara he has an impressive combination of athleticism and intelligence. He has what seems to be a never-ending knowledge of all things exploration. The amount of history he references while he embarks on each excursion is nothing short of astounding. It's this vast knowledge that allows him to navigate to these areas better than actual teams of archaeologists with more resources. His skill in close quarters combat is right up there with Lara's but while Lara appears to have actual martial arts training, Nathan possesses instincts developed while living a life on the run. He is always able to adjust on the fly to take advantage of a well placed propane tank or he can turn an enemies weapon on them for a vicious finishing shot. His quick wit and fly by the seat of his pants style helps him wiggle out of jams that seem to be impossible to get out of. However, if he took a little more time to plan out his attempts and develop back-up strategies, he might not have to routinely count on Sully, Elena, or his third best friend: Lady Luck. As evidenced by the name of the fourth game (A Thieves End) it seems even Nate understands that eventually the luck runs out.
Let it be known that you really can't go wrong with either of these choices. They both have impressive lists of accolades as well as jaw dropping moments of excitement. Lara and Nate are two of the most athletically gifted and intelligent protagonists in the action/adventure genre. After taking everything into consideration the final choice is Lara Croft. Her preparation and the fact that she is known for her exceptional skills wielding the compound bow and the dual USP's, give her the edge. Nate is definitely adept at wielding an assortment of different weapons however, he never really has a go-to that he can rely on. This actually couples nicely with his lack of preparation. Too often he relies on going into a dangerous setting and just seeing what happens. His reliance on his quick thinking puts him into situations he can't escape unless he's saved by Elena or Sully. The fact Lara was able to survive two weeks on her own at age 21 speaks volumes to her ability to get herself out of those situations without relying on help. Lara relies on preparation and her skills while Nate puts too much hope in luck bailing him out. Against Lara, the luck has run out.