From its bloody, mud-caked beginnings in 2013’s reboot, the current trilogy of Tomb Raider games have charted Lara Croft’s rise from a privileged young adventurer to a battle-hardened explorer and (mostly) protector of antiquities to varying degrees of success. With this year seeing the release of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, audiences get to see the final step that Lara takes into becoming the full-fledged version of the character we all know and love from the series’ two decades of history.
Development of this last installment of the trilogy was handed Deus Ex: Mankind Divided developers Eidos Montreal, and while they’ve maintained the strengths of the formula established in the 2013 reboot and in Rise of the Tomb Raider, a few steps back have also been taken.
Shadow takes Lara and her best friend/confidante Jonah to the jungles of Central and South America in order to stop paramilitary organization Trinity from fulfilling an apocalypse that Lara believes she herself has triggered. While the story itself isn’t quite something that’ll fully stick with you long after you’ve finished the main campaign, it does have its fair share of moments of sheer badassery and emotional heft. One sequence in particular that takes place early in the game shines thanks to excellent performances by Camilla Luddington and Earl Baylon, who play Lara and Jonah respectively.
If you’ve played the previous games in this continuity, you already know what to expect: exploration, puzzle solving, and combat are largely the same from the last two installments, with some new elements thrown in to keep things fresh. Lara can now cover herself in mud to fully camouflage herself during stealth and combat segments. This move pretty much makes Shadow of the Tomb Raider a better Predator experience than the Shane Black film The Predator (also released in September, by the way). Abilities like the rope arrow are now available at the outset rather than being locked behind a skill tree, giving you more traversal skills early on.
Hubs have also been expanded, with the game now including whole villages and towns for you to explore and do side missions in. The side missions, while having pretty worthwhile rewards, come off as pretty banal by way of mostly being fetch and kill quests. The worst offenders by far, are the ones that have you talking to X number or a sequence of NPCs. They’re totally optional, but you’d also be missing out on some neat rewards. Thankfully, the game doesn’t become woefully more difficult should you decide to not grit your teeth and ignore them.
On the complete opposite of the spectrum of optional content, where Shadow of the Tomb Raider truly shines is in its various challenge tombs. Expansive and claustrophobic in equal amounts, these locations provide the purest doses of Tomb Raider gameplay. Puzzles and platforming are the right amount of challenging, and exploration is adequately rewarding. Overcoming a challenge tomb nets you skill unlocks or a generous helping of crafting resources. There’s combat thrown in occasionally with some truly terrifying enemies that’ll keep you on your toes and making sure that your shots count. I’m particularly glad that combat encounters in this game are nicely spaced between each other and don’t come with tedious frequency. This is a game about raiding tombs, after all.
One neat thing that I do hope more and more games do down the line is the ability to fine tune difficulty settings to your liking. A general slider is there, but having the choice to turn down and crank up things like puzzle and combat difficulty independent of each other is a welcome addition for people who prefer a specific element of the game over another. Here’s a tip: kill the tool tips early on.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a solid, but far from stellar conclusion to this chapter of the series that started in 2013. While I still believe that Lara’s origin could’ve been told in just one game, this dark, but ultimately optimistic third act of the reboot trilogy has us looking forward to the actual start of Lara Croft’s adventures as *the* Tomb Raider.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Greater focus on exploration and puzzle solving
Challenge tombs are great
Please sign Camilla Luddington on for more games. She's fantastic as LAra