Hands on: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Survival, Rise, Destiny

Last night I had the privileged to be invited by Square Enix to the reveal of the next installment in the Tomb Raider franchise: Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

The evening included a presentation by Senior Game Director Daniel Bisson, one hour of gameplay and an interview with lead writer Jill Murray. 

The first thing that became immediately clear from the presentation was that this had been a designed and planned out trilogy of Lara’s progression into the Tomb Raider we have known since the 90’s. Seeing the planning of the franchise made me understand a little better why the term “Become the Tomb Raider” was used for this installment, even though we’ve been raiding a significant amount of Tombs since 2013.

Let me put it this way…

Lara is an absolute beast in this one, oh my goodness.

In Tomb Raider (2013) Lara was clearly fighting for her survival and managed to tap into her killer instincts to overcome her foes. In Rise, she actively sought them out for some serious whooping, but in in Shadow of the Tomb Raider it appears her enemies are the ones that are trying to survive Lara Croft.

Hands on

The slice I got to play during the event takes place in the very beginning of the game. It was about an hour long and contained all of the things you need to experience to get a good taste for what Shadow of the Tomb Raider has to offer. It has Jonah, the introduction of your villain, A tomb to raid and A LOT OF PEOPLE TO KILL!

The game appeared to be running of an XboX one X devkit and was running fine. The game looks gorgeous even though this was probably not a 100% polished product. I had a little bit of issues with the controls, but that was because I haven’t actively used an Xbox controller for a while, but overall it works like a charm.

COMBAT

So, what stands out in the gameplay?

Lara does.

Not only did they beef up her arms a little in this version (Daniel Bisson teased that Lara would transform even further throughout this game) but she is also ruthless AF. Tomb Raider never shied away from brutal finishers and melee take downs, but this time around Lara is taking a knife to a gunfight and she’s winning.

Watching Lara rise up (haha) from a mud pool and then stab a dude in the throat both serves as a “Whoah, she’s badass” and a “Holy shit, Lara” and supported by the story you might even wonder; Is Lara still the good girl?

Tombs

In the demo I got to explore the first Tomb of the game and it has everything you expect from a Tomb Raider game.
Traversal, Platforms, Rope puzzles and a few enemies to kill. The first one was a great introduction to the mechanics but was not particularly challenging. You still find collectibles and hidden challenges there so if you loved this before you’ll love it now. What is new though, is underwater spelunking.

In the section I played a good chunk of time was spent underwater and it’s exactly as stressful as it sounds, mostly because there are scary eels that are like RIGHT IN YOUR FACE!

Now, I’m not sure if for demo purposes they gave us unlimited breath or that the sections are spaced out perfectly that you don’t have to worry too much about drowning, so we’ll have to wait for the full game to figure that out. I’m not a big fan of breath meters, so if they decide not to add one, i’d kinda appreciate it. I was holding my own breath during the section and I only passed out once, but Lara should be WAY better at this than me.

 

Story

It’s almost impossible to piece the story together from a trailer and the first hour of gameplay, but what the game does make immediately clear is that in this installment the stakes are high and Lara is…kinda bad?

Where Lara is still on a path to “save the world from Trinity” it appears that she is so obsessed with it that she cares little for the consequences of her actions. What I liked a lot about the direction this story seems to go in is that it leans in on this hard. Without giving to much away, Lara makes a decision early on that destroys the lives of many innocent bystanders and the game is making you watch it unfold. However, Lara manages to shift the blame to her enemies and tries to ignore the chaos that she has caused because “She alone can fix it”. Jonah, her companion from the previous two games is having none of it and I can’t wait to see how the dynamic between the two plays out in the rest of the game.

The setting Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes place in is one of my favorite ones, the Jungles of Peru and it’s all about the Mayan history and mysticism. Oh yeah…it seems we are going full on super natural on this one.

Lead Writer Jill Murray has a lot in store for us and I love what she has done with this iteration of Lara Croft.
Of course she couldn’t say much more about how her character is going to play out fully, but putting a spotlight on her flaws to make her more human is going to be one hell of a ride.

Of course I had to ask Jill if she might have written anything about a large walk-in fridge and a butler but she was not authorized to say anything about that, so we can’t say for sure yet if this will be the BEST Tomb Raider game.

 

Overall Impression

From what I have seen, I am very excited to see where they take this game. It has a ton of potential and Lara is deadlier than she has ever been. “You will become the Jungle” is a promise I definitely want to see play out so for me September 14th can’t come fast enough. I do have to wonder what is next for Lara though. Everything in this game seems to lead to a conclusion of her story, so we’ll see where this ends.

My absolute hope for this game is that the game ends with the opening of the original Tomb Raider and that we have gone full circle in the franchise.

 

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