The third installment of the Tomb Raider reboot, which focuses on the origins of Lara Croft, is one of the few games I’ve been hyped about, so much so that I actually bought the all-inclusive, early-access collector’s edition two days before the main release. And whilst that may have been a mistake on my part, as the game spectacularly fails in some areas, the overall experience manages to deliver on the hype.
The game successfully develops the main characters, especially Lara herself. Lara stands out a strong protagonist, often thinking quick and making assertive decisions about her actions, which is no doubt a large shift from the naïve, indecisive and inexperienced Lara from the previous two games. Many critics of the game have labelled this Lara as self-centred, but really this is untrue. They are forgetting that this is the Lara we see in the original games from the ‘90s who knows what she is doing and how to achieve it; this is her progressing from a young woman to the iconic Tomb Raider.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is fun and compelling, though there are disappointments to overcome
The gameplay itself is very similar (maybe even too similar) to its predecessor, with platforming and combat mechanics remaining pretty much identical. The same goes for the user interface (UI) and graphical presentation, where updates are scarce. The game’s ‘collectathon' focus also returns and is again incredibly compelling, enticing you to achieve 100% in each area. The combat and stealth are smooth and simple, offering satisfying takedowns of Trinity’s forces using the iconic bow (or an assault rifle if you don’t fancy the stealth element).
However, there are issues with the climbing and jumping elements of the game in that they aren’t entirely responsive. Wanna jump towards that ledge over there? Well, sometimes Lara just doesn’t fancy it. Forcing the player to input the same action multiple times before it takes place is pretty frustrating, especially when the timing of Lara’s acrobatics can mean life or death.
Unfortunately, other issues are present in the game’s story, which at first offers an intriguing set up: Trinity, the violent cult from the first two games, tricks Lara into inadvertently causing the end of the world; she then needs to deal with the fallout of this. However, the story gets very tied up in itself, bringing in supernatural elements in a confusing and unclear way and culminating in a final showdown that has a very unsatisfactory payoff.
The end of this game should have felt like Lara becoming the Tomb Raider of the original series of games, and a truly momentous final showdown should’ve been the conclusion to her origin story. However, whilst the boss is challenging enough to be fun, the fact that we know Lara won’t die, or that nothing truly of consequence happens to any other important characters, really makes the ending fall flat. This may be expanded upon in later DLC narratives however developers shouldn’t rely on those for a base story.
So, in the end, was the price tag worth it? Two days early access, a season pass, some outfits and some weapons? Probably not, no! In the end, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is fun and compelling, though there are disappointments to overcome in many areas of the game. It very much sits in the shadow of Rise of the Tomb Raider, my favourite entry in the series.