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Tomb Raider is presented in third-person perspective. Players take control of the series lead character Lara Croft. The game uses an interconnected hub-and-spoke model that combines action-adventure, exploration, and survival mechanics. Players can traverse between the camps and across the island using footpaths, improvised or already-available ziplines and climbable tracks. Many of the players moves are carried over from the previous games created by Crystal Dynamics, with some tweaks added, such as incorporating elements of stealth gameplay. Quick Time Events are scattered at regular intervals throughout the game, often appearing at crucial or fast-moving points in the game's plot, such as extracting a shard of metal, and escaping a collapsing cave.
The player character, standing atop a high ledge, creating a makeshift zipline to a lower ledge by shooting an arrow. Players can create makeshift ziplines to traverse between camps and across the island. The combat of the game borrows multiple elements from Naughty Dog's Uncharted series, with players having the ability to free-aim Lara's bow and the guns she salvages, engage in close-quarter combat and perform stealth kills. Players can also use Survival Instinct, an ability in which enemies, collectables and objects pivotal to environmental puzzles will be highlighted for players. The game also incorporates RPG elements: as players progress through the game, they earn experience points from performing certain actions and completing in-game challenges linked with hunting, exploring and combat: this enables players' skills and abilities to be upgraded in specific ways, such as giving her more storage capacity for arrows and ammunition. Players can also upgrade and customize weapons using salvage collected across the island. There is also a character progression mechanic in the game: better items, weapons and equipment are gained as players progress, though the appearance of most of these items is closely linked to events in the story. In addition to the main story, players can complete multiple side quests, explore the island, revisit locations, and search for challenge tombs.