Rihanna Prachett is the lead writer for New Raider (my personal nickname for the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot, which is awesome and go buy it now) and she has said she would LOVE to make Lara a lesbian, and having almost finished the game, I can honestly say she did a very good job of making Lara/Sam a thing without overtly going “OMG LARA’S GAAAAY PEOPLEZ LESBIANS FTW AND LEGALIZE EQUAL MARRIAGE KTHXBAI”. It’s all very subtle and sweet and present, yet it’s all written so that it never conflicts with anything else and never steamrolls the game’s story or experience. Lara is out to save Sam… but not JUST her. There’s no agenda, no preachy-ness inherent in the story. It’s just good storytelling telling a good story.
The game respects the player’s own views on the matter of same-sex relationships and tells the side story of Lara and Samantha subtly and indirectly, avoiding provoking needless ire; at no point does Lara ever openly admit she’s homosexual or bisexual. Well, actually, I think that pansexual is the term I want to use here; this Lara Croft seems less concerned with physical characteristics and more interested in personality and psychological traits, regardless of gender. Again, nothing is ever said in-game of this, but that part is just my personal observation and your mileage may vary.
That being said, there’s a bunch of little things in the game that give away how Lara feels about Samantha. First, she utterly rebuffs the idea of ever having a relationship with a guy in one dialog sequence, saying something like “It’d have to be one heck of a guy” or something to that extent. Lara holds Sam’s hand at every opportunity. In her cabin on the Endurance, the only photo Lara has is one of her and Sam, and then we get to the “actions speak louder than words” bit. The whole game’s plot centers around the fact that Lara is fighting tooth and nail for herself and everyone from the S.S Endurance, but put Samantha in danger and watch as Lara fights just a LITTLE. MORE. DESPERATELY. Also watch as the scenes where Lara is actively fighting for Sam tonally reflect that in ways which other scenes not involving Sam don’t, with amazingly awesome set-pieces, increasingly faster pacing, and more pitched battles against bigger odds than usual, slowing down again when the immediate danger is past.
Lara puts herself in harm’s way for Samantha without a second thought, whereas with the other crew members, she tends to hang back for just a half moment longer and spends more effort evaluating her options. With Sam, Lara just throws herself in. She just acts. No plan, no analysis. Lara sees the girl is in trouble, and immediately becomes Samantha’s Knight In… bloodied and muddy khakis and a faded blue tank top.
And yet it’s written so that it’s there, but in the corner of your eye. You see it, but it doesn’t initially register. It’s GOOD WRITING, because the game knows the story it’s telling. It’s not telling the story of Lara and Samantha her waifu-for-life.
It’s telling the story of Lara Croft, the tough Archaelogist girl who was forged in fire, mud, and blood, not because she wanted it, but because she HAD to be. But Lara wouldn’t have survived, or even wanted to, if she had nothing and no one to return to. Rihanna Prachett is a smart enough writer (at least, I would hope so, given her father’s VERY productive career) to know that people do crazy things for the ones we love; we would tear the Earth apart to save our one true love, and through this adventure, Lara discovers what, in Zobek’s words from Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, “motivates a man to confront the things most of us would run from”.
The answer Zobek gave to that query, by the way, was love.
Lara may not even realize at the start how she really feels about Sam; she may see her at the outset as just a really awesome friend.
But that’s the best kind of romance; where the people involved don’t even figure it out until they take a moment, catch their breath, and look back.
It just so happens that Lara’s… a little short on those moments in this game.
And having seen the Angelina Jolie films, I know for certain that Samantha’s only real competition for Lara’s affections is probably Gerard Butler, which means that… come to think of it… Sam has her work cut out for her!