Title: Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Available on: Xbox One, PS4, PC, Mac
Developer: Eidos Montréal and Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Official Site: Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Release Date: September 14th, 2018
Where to Buy: Retail, Steam, PSN, Xbox Live
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a game surrounded by stress. Lara’s third and final installment, if the developers are telling the truth, is an emotional spiral into developing her as the adventurous archaeologist fans have come to embrace. With nonstop peril, action, fear, and intrigue, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an excellent conclusion to the trilogy.
Let’s not beat around the bush, this game is gritty and dark. The only time the player feels safe is resting in towns before going off on another exploration. Which is both good and bad. The player feels the urgency of Lara’s overall mission to stop Trinity, the organization responsible for the death of her father. Without giving too much away, Lara ends up triggering the Mayan apocalypse within the first 10 minutes of the game. The plot is strong and places an immense weight on Lara, but it leaves no time to enjoy the entirety of the game. Leaving the players feeling as if they have little or no time to explore side quests. That being said, there is plenty to do, if players decide stopping the end of the world isn’t their top priority.
Players start off in Cozumel with access to all their gear, however, this quickly changes when reaching the jungles of Peru. It is a daunting challenge to find, craft, and upgrade weapons and clothing, but it feels too close to the first game. The mechanic and idea are great but the execution is lacking. It would be a nice shift to experience the game with different weapons or upgrades from that of the first.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider includes an added camera feature called Photographer Mode. It allows players to pause the game and pose Lara for shots like a real-life photographer. However, the controls are confusing and do not include how to take a photo. While a fun concept, one simple line explaining how to snap the picture would improve it.
The premise of every Tomb Raider game is exploration. This game does a wonderful job at keeping players invested in not only the world but the stories behind the many tombs and crypts. One massive tomb felt like its own video game. There is a great balance between solving puzzles and combat. However, the fighting controls are sluggish. There were several times in close combat where it would take Lara a second to comprehend the attack button was pressed. The ranged combat works well, that’s a highlight of the games, as Lara is an expert marksman. There is one aspect of the game that delves into her past, and the player controls a young Lara. At first, this feels unnecessary to the story, but it reveals little details about her that otherwise are unknown. Like the other games, this features journals and documents that shed light on the world’s tombs. This addition immerses players into the history of the tombs. It helps to place the player into the mindset of Lara to feel like they are actually in her shoes.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a rich and beautiful work of art. The tombs are detailed and immersive. But certain chambers can be too dark and difficult to make out where to go next. Also, the Survival instincts occasionally have Lara give hints to what is needed to be done next. While good and helpful, she will repeat this same direction every few seconds when utilizing the Survival Instinct and it gets annoying. It feels like the game is holding the players’ hands too much.
There is definitely a real sense of fear in the tombs. The sound effects and the music boost this sense of danger and emotion. The creatures that hunt you in the jungle and tombs feel very real and very deadly. There is plenty of jump scares to keep players on their toes. Lara’s reactions to things are also excellent, such as covering her nose when entering a bloody chamber or tightening her ponytail after swimming – which there is a lot of. For those who dislike water puzzles and combat, this can get tedious. The build-up to major enemy and location reveals is very well thought-out and executed. It’s a nice touch to feel an impending sense of dread when you aren’t sure what is living in the tombs with Lara. It almost feels like a movie instead of a video game. It is definitely narrative driven.
Verdict: Shadow of the Tomb Raider is not a perfect game. Some of the NPC voices are too rigid, the side quests feel like chores, and some of the sound effects are overbearing. The camera draws too close to Lara in towns, and the reloads after a death could be quicker. The death cinematics is brutal, and to be frank this is a gory game. This isn’t the 1996 Tomb Raider.
The story is gripping. There is emotional investment from the first sequence of the game to the last. It’s a story of friendship and family and standing up for what is right. This is a game that action and adventure lovers should play.
(Review by Ashley and Scott Roepel)