Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an action adventure game with RPG elements intertwined. For this entry into the Tomb Raider franchise, it has been created by Eidos Montreal (Deus Ex and Thief) and supported by Crystal Dynamics (All owned by the mighty Square Enix).
I’ll start by being honest. I was never a fan of the original Tomb Raider games. I had tried multiple times to get on the Tomb Raider hype train, but always found myself very underwhelmed. I enjoyed the puzzles, the mythologies and idea of the game. My issues were that I always felt let down by the dodgy camera angles and clunky controls. For me it became more frustration than enjoyable.
Now before I get into any more trouble with the Tomb Raider fan club, let me add, this was until the rebooted Tomb Raider that was released just over 5 years ago. The game brought a much needed revitalisation to the franchise. The in depth storytelling, improved gameplay and the introduction of the RPG elements were all enough for me to finally get on board.
Both Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015) were both a very enjoyable experience from start to finish. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is no different in this respect. If you enjoyed the previous 2 games, then you will more than likely be happy with what they have to offer with this new addition to the franchise.
The game starts in the most action packed way possible, with a plane crash involving Lara Croft and her faithful companion Jonah. We then go back in time slightly to discover how Lara and Jonah got there in the first place. Of course, as with all the current Tomb Raider games, it involves chasing down an ancient artefact before the evil cult Trinity can get their hands on it.
I would love to delve into more detail, but the story really kicks off with twists and turns pretty early on. So don’t worry no spoilers ahead. The story, as with the other games, really reels you in. You once again start to feel the urgency of retrieving artefacts before Trinity can, so you can save the world. The way Shadow of the Tomb Raider deals with mythology in the real world is once again handled very well and this is of great credit to the writers for keeping the game very grounded in an otherwise unbelievable scenario.
This time around we see Lara in South America raiding Mayan and Inca tombs in Mexico and Peru. The game really shines with the tomb and crypt exploration, as it should do for a game about raiding tombs. Upon finding a tomb, you’ll find yourself either entering via a large body of water or via a small crack in a wall. These parts of the game did leave me with an uneasy claustrophobic feeling during every daunting squeeze through every narrow passageway. However don’t take that as a negative. For a game to immerse you in that way, for me has really accomplished something special.
The complex puzzles for each crypt or tomb feel unique from each other and feel rewarding for completing. The climbing mechanic can be quite cumbersome at times, it will frustrate you, even when you’re certain you’ve pushed the right button. This can be made even worse if you have to watch one of those over the top Tomb Raider death scenes a few times over. However despite the occasional rage at the TV, when reaching the top of a summit after a long climb or escaping a tomb quickly filling with water, it will leave you with a sense of accomplishment and usually some loot!
Water plays a big part in the game this time around, with certain parts needing you to swim your way to an entrance or exit. This is all whilst trying to avoid confrontations with schools of Piranha or having to fight off Giant Eels. Cave openings will give Lara the occasional reprieve from holding her breathe. You can also upgrade your skills to enhance the duration she can breathe underwater and the ability to swim faster.
Customisation of skills and weapons are very similar to the previous games. Upon gaining enough XP from completing missions, finding artefacts or killing enemies you will be rewarded with skill points. These can then be spent on a skill tree when back at different base camps located around the game world.
For weapons, when collecting the right materials, you can upgrade from a multitude of different options. Whether that is reload speed, magazine extensions or damage output. You can also now add extra attachments to certain weapons, like shotgun chokes or laser sights on rifles. These can all be purchased from merchants. One small attention to detail I liked was, as soon as a customisation is made on a weapon, you can physically see it on the bow/gun.
What I do like about these rebooted Tomb Raiders is how you approach combat. Whether you like to enter a room all guns blazing or prefer the stealth approach, both options are available to you. The combat is easy to pick up and feels very fluid.
Each of the 4 main weapon types can be used in different ways and for different elements of combat. For stealth, a silenced pistol or bow is advised. Or for a Tony Montana-esque standoff, then the assault rifle is always a winner. The stealth elements of the game can be a lot of fun. Lara can cover herself in mud to become less visible or hide from enemies with thermal goggles. She can also hide within bushes or vines attached to the wall and jump out to perform stealth take-downs.
So back to the setting, once again Tomb Raider has outdone itself here. The increased realism really does help to immerse you into the game. I was blown away by the first tomb I had entered. The attention to detail and the research into Inca and Mayan culture that must have gone into this game really brings it all to life.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider uses the same Foundation game engine as the last game, however this time pushed to its limits by Eidos Montreal, and it really does show. Graphically it is a very beautiful game. The game is 4K enabled so to those of you lucky enough to own a 4K TV and an Xbox One X, it will look even better!
While I am full of praise for the graphics, there are some let downs. Sometimes the unemotional/unresponsive look on Lara’s face doesn’t really help convey her emotions. Especially in relation to how good the voice acting is. The voice acting is of a very high calibre and the delivery of lines by the voice cast help to bring about believable emotions. It helps to make an even more engaging story line.
There is one main issue I have with the Shadow of the Tomb Raider. If you’ve played both Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider, then you’ll notice nothing much changed in terms of gameplay. The same can unfortunately be said for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Apart from a change in setting, a new story and some longer underwater challenges in tombs, it is all very similar. It may be a case of, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. However I worry to how they will continue to sell new games in the ever competitive video games market if some noticeable differences are not introduced by the eventual fourth game in this rebooted franchise.
Overall a great addition to the rebooted origin stories of Lara Croft, whilst lacking in anything new to the franchise, it still provides an end to end enjoyable play through.
- Engaging Storyline
- High Quality Graphics
- Tomb Raiding!
- Lack of creative changes to the core gameplay
- Occasionally frustrating climbing mechanics