Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third installment in the new Tomb Raider series revolving around Lara Croft and her fight with Trinity. Croft is now dangerously obsessed with her goals, becoming more dangerous than ever before to fight a foe tougher than ever before. This is what Shadow of the Tomb Raider tries to do, but barely makes do.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes players on a new journey with Croft, who is now fueled by the responsibility of saving the world from the grip of Trinity. Most players of the previous games in the series will notice that this is pretty much a repeating pattern, but there are some character developments that change things up a bit. This time around, Croft is more ruthless and violent, which is a big leap for a character who we saw trembling while holding a gun in the first Tomb Raider, to one who casually hangs people from a tree with a rope arrow.
The game is built around the theme of obsession, with Croft more focused on her mission then saving countless lives around her. This was quite interesting to start off with, leading to some interesting interactions with fellow character Jonah, who even responds with “It’s not always about you Lara!”. However, this does seem to repeat itself time and again, and after a certain point gets boring. Although it was satisfying to see Croft realise the fact that no matter where she goes, trouble follows, and even if she makes it out, there are many people who suffer. We also get a pretty fun look into Croft’s past, where we play as a much younger Lara playing in Croft Manor. The story can get interesting, but I don’t want to spoil it for potential players, so I am not getting into too much detail.
In terms of visuals, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a treat when it comes scenic shots. It is incredibly satisfying to appear as a small part of a massive set historic set piece. This not only highlights how good the game looks but also prepares the player for the upcoming puzzles. However, the graphics take a strong hit when it comes to a closer approach. I felt at certain cutscenes the graphics felt a little choppy, and pretty much the same as Rise of the Tomb Raider or the first Tomb Raider. Don’t get me wrong, these games looked phenomenally great for its time, but with today’s next-gen graphics I did expect a little more. On the other hand, cutscenes also had very bad lip syncing, with the audio almost never matching the characters’ actions. This was pretty surprising to me, especially with Tomb Raider being a very popular AAA series.
Game mechanics from previous tombs
While most of the gameplay mechanics seem similar, if not just the same, there some new elements added to the game. Croft can still climb rock formations with her ax, but now she can also rappel down and swing. Takedowns are still in the game, albeit a little more violent than before. However, stealth has been improved upon with new elements such as hiding between vines, or rubbing mud all over your body to improve camouflage. There are quite a few intense moments, similar to the previous games, and the improved swimming also hints at some hidden underwater tombs.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider also allows players to completely customise the difficulty of the game. Players can now make the puzzles harder and combat easier, or make the combat harder with puzzles and traversal easier. This is pretty impressive because it allows players to play the game in their own comfort zone.
Civilizations in the deepest forests
The game also introduces a new concept called hubs, which are essentially villages or towns in certain areas of the game where you can start side missions or shop at the local market for weapons or maps. This does seem pretty great, because it shows how different the lifestyle can be, depending on the location of the hub, while also giving Croft a personal connection with the characters. The new Immersion Mode improves further on this, where the natives talk the local language allowing players to be more, well, immersed. However, my problem with this was that while locals talk in their native languages, which are subtitled, Croft replies in perfect English with a strong British accent, and no matter what tribal village deep in the jungle this conversation happens, everyone seems to understand her. This did strike me as a bit odd.
Clothes make the Tomb Raider
Croft also has new costumes to wear, each with its own advantages. Additionally, over the course of the game you can get separate top and bottom for Lara, each with stealth or combat advantages. Additionally, if the game recognises previous Tomb Raider data, you get a lot of additional outfits from previous games, even the original polygon Lara! However, these outfits are not customisable.
Overall, Shadow of the Tomb Raider can be an impressive game by itself, but if compared to previous editions in the series, graphics seem to lack a bit, while most of the game seems the same. The game did have the potential to deliver a great player experience, but falls short when compared to the previous ones. It’s also relatively shorter, but focuses more on the puzzle solving elements than combat, which Tomb Raider should actually be about. After a full play-through of the game, you do end up asking yourself: Isn’t Croft responsible for most of the problems in the game?