Lara Croft’s first adventure was mostly packed with screaming and running away or towards danger. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara is more confident, mature and a straight up badass, making Trinity baddies run with horror.
Gaming’s foremost explorer is back (Sorry, Nate) and this time with a bit more internal struggle than before. There isn’t anything drastically different from the previous installments but Square Enix manages to pull a rabbit out of the hat by polishing on the established mechanics and delivering a fine game.
Fairly new raider
Running and gunning days are long behind Lara. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider you’ll witness a more focused and stealthy Lara. Trying to stay true to the previous Tomb Raider games and obviously to avoid direct comparison to a rather gunslinging Nathan Drake from Uncharted, the series’ last and final chapter has brewed a perfect recipe to conclude this trilogy.
Not only does the strong narrative deliver in embracing the change in Lara from a mere novice but it also brings together a certain amount of depth to her actions. For the first time the consequences of her actions are fairly delivered, making it more nuanced and right-in-the-feels game. That is not entirely the whole premise of the game however.
She’s back into cargo pants and a single pony to whoop some Trinity baddies. Those guys who apparently killed her father and now seek world domination through yet another ancient artefact buried in a far off Tomb (obviously) or something like that.
Eidos Montréeal want you to feel like a shadow and hence the name. The jungle combat is by far the most entertaining and playing as Lara you literally feel like Rambo minus the machine gun.
There are new ways to whack baddies but there’s a tremendous amount of focus on stealth. Most combat scenarios will offer places to hide and blend. The game lets you cover yourself in mud to camouflage which makes it harder for enemies to spot you. Meanwhile hiding in bushes and vines helps you stay in the shadows… (anyone else feels this is more Assassin’s Creed than Assassin’s Creed? Only me? Fine.)
Whatever you feel, the combat remains the same with guns, bows and brewing a concoction of smoke bombs and stuff using tin cans mid combat. It’s all very same from the previous two installments and while you can’t shake the feeling of been-there-done-that, the traversal mechanics have got a good spit polish. Climbing rocks, grappling off cliffs and boulders is still here and still so much fun. Aside from the main story line, the optional side tombs are much, much better and require more than a peanut size use of your brain this time. It’s what essentially separates Tomb Raider from Uncharted and could see why we’ll head back to the game again to complete all of them.
The main map is separated into chuck size mini zone that unlock with story progression. Each zone has its own optional tomb challenges and tons of collectibles to complete. Small cities or villages that breathe life into the world of Tomb Raider that are spread throughout the map. Each City Hub has its own locals and optional side missions that you can get from interacting with them.
City Hubs have vendors that carry unique weapons, outfits, gear or equipment upgrades to unlock new areas. They will definitely cost you, so your time mining for gold will not seem as useless.
Not only does the city come alive visually, but the audio too creates an amazing atmosphere in which ever situation you’re in. The constant chattering of animals and birds in jungle areas make the feel that much more immersive and engaging. It’s as amazing as Lara’s lungs. Yes, this time there are more underwater scenes with lurking dangers as well. Not that its much of a threat, but you’ll be spending plenty of time swimming and escaping through narrow cracks.
You can hunt down animals for their hide, grab plants for healing remedy, branches for creating arrows and metal scraps to upgrade your arsenal. It’s all here and again, add another sense of sameness.
Where Shadow of the Tomb Raider deliver in spades is in the chemistry between its characters. The bond between Lara and her friend Jonah is detailed and fleshed out than any in the series. The consequences of her actions are constantly put to test when people around her and her loved ones are put to risk. This layer of emotions and character building adds a sense on intrigue into Lara’s quest, and puts perspective into how Lara Croft became the iconic Tomb Raider.
It’s not all that groomly though, sometimes and very marginally, Lara shares the bright side that existed in the Tomb Raider’s of old. For now, you still get a screaming and relentless Lara as before, but with a bit more conviction. The main story leaves some room for doubt. The main premise remains fairly similar from what we’ve seen before. Without giving much away, we’ll tell you that the storyline is still convincing enough to drive you forward but we really wished for more and something different. Everytime you think the game has stagnated, Shadow of the Tomb Raider throws something different at you. Tired of climbing? Here are a few thugs to whack. Tired of shooting? Here’s a tomb to explore. Tired of exploring? Here’s a titanic catastrophe to deal with. You can’t get tired of those city killing floods, right? Even the transversal mechanics are smooth and seamless. They’re simple on the surface but if you get overconfident and not time a jump properly, you’ll find poor old Lara impaled to her death.
We tested the game on our 4K test gaming rig and the Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks absolutely stunning when running on the Nvidia GTX 1080. The game dished out 35 to 45fps on 4K with high settings but we resorted to 2K to get a steady 60fps on the highest settings. The game had some performance issues with minor frame drops and a severe gameplay lag in city hubs where there’s an abundance of NPCs.
In jungle and tomb sequences the game looked breathtaking while it was transitioning seamlessly from a cutscene to the gameplay. We’ll soon be testing this on the Nvidia RTX to see the difference and will update the review then. So watch out for this box-out later.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Verdict
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an amazing game that deserves to be the final chapter in the Tomb Raider trilogy. If you’re a fan of the series then there’s a lot here to love and come back to, even replay it to complete it in the highest difficulty.
We obviously can’t deny that the game feels and seems very similar to the previous ones and that’s not just the game mechanics (which is absolutely polished and very well done here) but in fact the storyline.
For now though, I am happy trotting around as Lara and exploring the side tombs and shooting up Trinity thugs.