Mostly developed by Eidos Montréal, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third and final entry in Crystal Dynamic’s reboot trilogy, where Lara Croft is set to become the Tomb Raider that we all know and love. Following the events of the previous game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes Lara to the heart of the remote rainforests of southeast Peru and promises to test her like never before.
The game takes place two months after the previous entry in the series. Lara is still hot on the heels of Trinity and will stop at nothing to prevent them from attaining their twisted goals. Shadow of the Tomb Raider opens up with a quick introduction covering the controls and mechanics while introducing the player to Lara’s current obsession.
Ironically, the entire story is kickstarted by Lara’s own greed and obsession with preventing Trinity from gaining more power. By trying to prevent Trinity from kickstarting the apocalypse, it’s her own actions that boot it into motion. It’s an interesting angle to take which allows for a brief moment of character development before Lara returns to her stoic old self with tunnel vision.
We’ve been promised the third and final entry would be the defining moment for our young heroine, but I can’t help but feel I’ve missed the point. Lara’s emotional attachment to ancient artefacts seems more prominent than her attachment to actual people. Apart from a few scenes where she was told she had lost Jonah, the loss of other key members of the story seemed to weigh little on her conscience. In all honesty, it’s hard to relate to someone that’s been racking up the body count throughout the entire trilogy; something that main antagonist, Doctor Dominguez, points out while arguing the difference between the two.
But conflicting story hooks aside Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a well-made entry into the series. The fluidity of the previous games returns but with an upgrade. Skills are divided into more defined sections this time around and can be unlocked only once an adjacent skill has been earned. Players can choose to follow the path of the Jaguar, Serpent or Eagle. Skills in each section are more geared toward hunting and combat, stealth and subterfuge and traversal and resourcefulness respectively.
Players will also notice that Lara spends a lot more time underwater this time around. With skills geared towards surviving underwater, Eidos Montréal has gone to great lengths to really bring the underwater areas to life. From dangerous eels that will attempt to constrict Lara to shoals of piranhas that hunt and kill Lara instantly – whoever thought this was a good idea was sourly mistaken, do we really need underwater stealth sections? – the underwater areas now feel more perilous and challenging. But not all is doom and gloom below the surface. The watery depths also hide a number of treasures which can be retrieved and sold for in-game currency
And of course, with the increased bodies of water returns the high dive areas. A signature of the Tomb Raider series, if you ask me. There’s still something satisfying about swan diving from the highest possible ledge into the deep water below.
While all of the previous mechanics have made a return, Eidos Montréal has been sure to up the ante with the inclusion of a few more stealth tactics. Lara can now cover herself in mud found in patches on the ground which can be used to conceal her location much easier. Apart from the obvious camouflage it also helps hide Lara from Trinity soldiers sporting thermal goggles. It’s a fun feature and I can’t help but feel like Arnie stalking The Predator, unfortunately, I felt that this was underutilised with only encountering the thermal vision soldiers a couple of times through the campaign.
Another addition is the ability to use the rope arrow to hang enemies from the branches of climbable trees; players can also unlock a skill that will allow Lara to hide the bodies in the canopies as to not draw any attention to herself. Stalking enemies from above and picking them off one by one adds another level to the stealth aspect of the game and allows the player to pick and chose how to tackle a group of enemies. Go in loud with all guns blazing or unleash your inner assassin.
While these are welcome additions to the game, I can’t help but feel they detract from the core idea of Tomb Raider. But with this being said, Shadow of the Tomb Raider does focus more on the puzzle platform areas while combat takes a back seat. A welcome change in pace bringing the series back to its roots. While there are some combat heavy sections in the game players will find that Lara spends a lot more time in actual tombs. In addition to the main campaign Shadow of the Tomb Raider boasts an impressive nine optional Challenge Tombs for players to explore. The completion of which will reward Lara with new skills that cannot be unlocked through normal means.
The main “hub area” of the game is the Lost City of Paititi, hidden deep in the rainforests of Peru. from about a few hours in this is where Lara This area is truly amazing and the attention to detail is phenomenal. From children playing to active marketplaces, Eidos Montréal has brought this ancient civilisation to life. Simply walking around you’ll hear the inhabitants talking in their native tongue; drawing the player into the atmosphere of the surrounding environment.
My only concern here is that the devs have clearly gone to great lengths to make Paititi feel, look and sound as authentic as possible and they’ve done an incredible job. The surroundings really pull you in, except, market vendors are packing the latest in modern weaponry. It really does a number on the whole immersion thing. Bows and arrows I can understand but when a sweet market stall woman is touting a more up-top-date shotgun it does make you wonder exactly how lost this city really is.
Weapon dealers aside, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a very well rounded experience. It looks and plays great and the main storyline is engaging. Lara’s Character development is still a little hit and miss but the gameplay more than makes up for some off-kilter writing. I still feel that we haven’t truly discovered the woman that Lara is destined to be but no doubt the next entry in the series will explore this more. Until then, enjoy the trilogy for what it is. And remember, if you’re ever in doubt: “You can do this”.