Rise of the Tomb Raider is the 2nd installment of the most recent "Tomb Raider Origin Stories". Developed by Crystal Dynamics and published by Square Enix, this game follows the legendary Lara Croft as tries to unearth a relic said to give eternal life in order to clear her father's name and her conscience. I've been playing this game recently and I'm having a blast! The controls are smooth, the world is beautiful, and most importantly, the UI is gorgeous! I could gush all day about how fantastic this UI is. From the layout to the motion design to the minimalism. In fact, I think I will!
But before I do that, I want to give credit to the designer: Heather Knudsen. You can find their UI/UX design page here: [LINK]
The theme of Rise of the Tomb Raider's UI is similar to a digital/futuristic cartography map with a touch of grunge. The UI really gives you a sense that you're one of the best archaeologists with futuristic tech and you're not afraid to get a little dirty. It's a modern reboot of Shay Casey's Tomb Raider (2013) design with a more compact layout.
Much of the information is presented to the player on the right side of things. If a menu or challenge appears, it's on the right side of the left edge of the screen (AKA left side of the screen). If you're healing or crafting on the go, the pop-up appears on the right side of Lara. It's an interesting idea to keep gameplay elements on the right half of the screen since that's where you will be shooting, throwing, and jumping. This decision might have been made to keep the left half free for UI to pop-up. However, this idea is broken with the pop-up when visiting the Byzantine Coin Merchant.
Rise of the Tomb Raider uses a simple and bold sans-serif font for any of it's font needs. This font is well structured and readable. To make it stand out in snowy environments, the font was given a hard shadow. To differentiate titles from body, color, size, and capitals are used with great effect. When scanning through information, you can clearly see what the designer wants you to see and a concise visual hierarchy is created.
Much of the UI is black, white, and grey to keep it simple and make it stand out in any environment. Red is used frequently to bring attention to something. It's used in the blood splatter overlay when you're hurt to inform you that you've taken damage. It's used in the reticle to inform you that you've hovered over an enemy or animal. Red is also used in the skills screen to inform you that you cannot learn a skill. This is either because you don't have the pre-requisite skill or you have no skill points. The only other color is the color of the buttons when interacting with an object.
The motion design in Rise of the Tomb Raider is one of my favorite things about it! From the camera zooms to the loading screen animations. Each motion is meant to remind you of a state change and it does a great job of that. When cycling through craftable equipment, Lara rotates to show you what you're making. This change is permanent and you get to see the crafted gear throughout the rest of your playthrough. I attempted to capture the loading screen in this GIF but it didn't quite turn out how I wanted. I highly recommend taking a look at Heather's video to see the motion design in action because it's absolutely stunning.
Although I think the UI is wonderful, there can always be improvements. The biggest UX flaw that I found was the placement of "Quit Game" on the Main Menu. It's extremely common (and some consider it best practice) to place "Quit Game" at the bottom of the menu. That way, the player always knows the way out of the game. When quitting, I frequently pass up "Quit Game" and have to move back up to find it.
The second thing is the health system. Although I find it clever to hide the health bar under screen effects, I frequently find myself in a panicking situation where I don't know how much health I have left. When your health gets low enough the screen turns monochrome grey. This triggers a "on no" moment in me where I need to run away to heal myself. However, I've been hit multiple times when my screen is grey and it confuses me because I expect to die.
The last UX flaw I found was a small gripe with the way I play. I'm a collector and I like to make sure I collect as many things as I can. Because of this, I find myself in "Survival Instincts Mode" very often. I press the button about 3 times a minute to make sure I don't miss anything. It's fine to point out goals or waypoints. But having a skill to reveal things without survival instincts would be helpful. There's one for materials to glow without survival instincts. But none of the other relics, challenges, monoliths, documents, or animals glow with this skill.