Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the closing chapter of Lara’s adventure that started with the 2013 reboot and aims to put wrap up the Trinity storyline for once and for all. While it is not a hard requirement to have played the previous two installments, you’ll appreciate the story a lot more if you have. If you haven’t and aren’t planning too, i’d at least recommend reading up on it on one of the fan-wiki’s.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes place a few months after the events in Rise of the Tomb Raider and Lara is at the peak of her abilities. She is resourceful, efficient and incredible ruthless when it comes to combat. She has tracked down Trinity, the organisation she holds responsible for the death of her father, to South America and the game kicks off with the discovery of an ancient artifact that Lara is hell bent on keeping out of Trinity’s hands.
However, when Lara takes the artifact for safe keeping she accidentally sets off the apocalypse, but let’s be honest. Who hasn’t done that once or twice in their life. The following set piece is not just incredibly intense from a gameplay perspective, but it does a great job of shoving your face into the consequences of your actions.
The opening chapter in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, does an incredible job in not just raising the stakes of your adventure, but also gives the main characters a platform to shine.The lead villain, Dr. Dominguez has a very solid introduction into the franchise and instead of being painted as the bad guy, he actually seems more sympathetic than Lara. His presence in the game almost functions as “the other side of the coin” to Lara’s story as both the hero and the antagonist are driven by what they think is right.
Don’t worry though, his henchman are all very obvious bad guys and the game makes sure you know that by starting off several side quests with executing some of the locals.
One of the highlights of the game is the relation between Lara and her trusted companion Jonah. Who makes another return in this game. Lara’s actions truly seem to weigh on him and there are times where their friendship almost comes to a breaking point, which makes for some very cool and very well acted cutscenes.
The cast, the story and the backstory all add some delicious flavor to the game’s main activity, which is of course, Raiding Tombs.
If you have had a bit of a laugh about the slogan “Become the Tomb Raider” the game has a message for you. If you thought you have raided some tombs before, wait what we have in store for you this time.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider has so much to discover that in my time with the game I feel I barely scratched the surface of it. No matter where you go in the jungle, there seems to be something to do, whether it’s storylines, sidequest, crypts, tombs or hidden treasure, the game will definitely keep you busy for a while.
You’ll get several hub towns this time around, with the main event being Paititi, an untouched civilization that functions as a setpiece for most of the storyline. A super cool feature here is that you can have the villagers speak in either English or in their native language supported by subtitles. In the same option menu, you’ll find several other accessibility features such as the removal of button mashing, color options for the subtitles and several sensory features.
The coolest feature however, is the ability to split up the difficulty settings between combat, puzzles and traversal, which allows you to really play any way you like it. The developers recommend playing on the normal setting, especially the first time around as that is how the AI and puzzles are intended.
The Combat itself is very satisfying, especially if you are a big fan of the Stealth approach. There are many ways to kill enemies this time around and each and every method seems to be more brutal than ever before. Lara is an absolute beast and if you have a hard time with violence and gore, I recommend you take the guns blazing approach. While that might sound weird, the stealth kills are very up close and personal, which might not be for everyone.
The puzzles are challenging enough and often rely on some trial and error, where error usually results in Lara’s death. While the death scenes are still intense, the camera doesn’t linger on them as much as in the previous games. Every death does come with a load screen, which does take a bit of time on consoles.
Traversal is exactly how you remembers it, but for those of you who want to be fully immersed and are annoyed by every important ledge being painted white, you can now turn that off completely. It’s a cool feature, but does make the game incredible challenging. New in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a focus on Underwater Tombs, which adds another layer of depth to some of the Tombs.
Another new skill this time is the ability to rappel down cliffs, which gives the levels some downwards verticality that the previous games lacked.The game has a good set of trophies and achievements, which includes one for completing it on Hard Mode, so it would be wise to pay attention during a first playthrough.
Once you have beaten the game, there are several New Game+ options that will keep you entertained for quite some time. Additional content is already in the works and of course, you can already purchase a season pass.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider has everything and more that you might have enjoyed from the previous titles and has improved on almost everything. However, you can immediately tell that a lot of extra care was put on the characters and the storyline as they absolutely stand out, which is quite the achievement in a game that is best known for exploration and combat.
While the story takes a few leaps every now and then, this is by far the best Lara Croft we have ever seen.
If you like the Tomb Raider games, don’t sleep on this one. It’s awesome.
**Disclaimer: Review Copy Provided by Square Enix**