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Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

Posted by GG Goblin On September - 28 - 2018

Oh Lara! What did you do?

The Tomb Raider action adventure games have always been highly entertaining, but the reboot of the franchise a few years back really marked the beginning of something new for the heroic Lara Croft. 2013’s Tomb Raider was a baptism of fire for our hero Lara Croft as we watched the young explorer be thrown in the deep end and have to overcome some truly remarkable obstacles. Rise of the Tomb Raider continued this evolution of the character, and fans were treated with the chance to watch Lara grow up into the role that so many knew from the older games. Now, we finally get to see Lara complete her evolution in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the darkest and most emotional adventure yet.

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The story here is one of the highlights of the game, taking players on a roller-coaster ride into ancient prophecies and myths. However, the game starts with a suitably action packed and intense sequence involving a plane crash. Things then flash back a few days to reveal what led Lara, and her long time friend Jonah, to being on that plane to start with. Lara is stalking a high up member of that evil organisation Trinity and eventually comes across an artefact that Trinity is hunting, along with a prophecy about multiple disasters leading to an eclipse that will plunge the Earth into darkness. It’s all pretty grim stuff, and by taking the artefact from its place of rest, Lara believes she has triggered this apocalypse, something that could well be the case as a tsunami quickly washes over the area, causing complete and utter devastation.

So, it comes down to Lara, who is racked with guilt, to prevent this apocalypse. Problem is that she lost the artefact to Trinity and, as they are actively embracing the apocalypse, Lara heads off in pursuit of the shadowy organisation to try and solve the puzzles, follow the clues and prevent the final ritual from bringing around the end of the world. It’s all pretty heavy stuff and proves to be an excellent story throughout. There are very few games that follow the evolution of a character across different entries in the series, and I can’t even think of one that has done this to such a high level. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the game where Lara finally embraces her inner demons and channels them to save the world, while also kicking the ass of the bad guys. The story works really well as a vehicle for Lara’s emotional evolution, realising that there may be serious consequences to her actions, and also answers some questions from here past. There is one particular moment which felt like the birth of dark Lara, a different, more ruthless Lara that will do exactly what she has to do. You will know the moment when you reach it, it is truly spectacular.

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For Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the gameplay takes on a very similar feel to the previous two games, with the player working their way through an open-world environment, this time mostly in the jungle, and following the story missions while occasionally nipping off to explore or grab some action in the occasional tomb. Given how excellent the previous games were, this is very much a case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but also ties into the whole feel that the three games have been all part of a single journey for Lara.

There is a much higher emphasis on stealth in Shadow though, something which is very apparent from the beginning of the game. Lara is not a walking army, so when it comes to taking on the forces of Trinity, she will have to rely on brains over anything else, and so it makes sense that she will have to spend a large amount of time hiding in the foliage or underwater, and basically assassinating adversaries where she can. It is very empowering to simple stand in a wall of leaves and step forward to kill a passing guard, and noosing a guard from up a tree and then dropping down to watch their struggling body rise up is quite exciting.

There is also a lot more claustrophobia this time around, both with Lara having to drag herself through increasingly small spaces, and with the underwater sections. Lara will spend a lot of time in the water, and she is not alone. Employing stealth in an underwater grass field to avoid wandering shoals of Piranha, all while gasping for breath, leads to some of the more tense moments of the game.

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Of course, the new threats are not limited to the water. Jaguars stalk the jungle and prove to be a very capable adversary for Lara, and there is a nightmarish tribe of fast moving, frankly quite scary locals that will hamper Lara’s progress on more than one occasion. Stealth will play less of a role against these enemies, and so the player will have to rely on the already well established gun play and manoeuvrability of Lara.

The returning game mechanics are as good as ever. Lara moves seamlessly for the most part, clambering up trees and hanging from ledges like she is part Howler Monkey. Lara has a special sense that can be activated, highlighting her objective location where possible and other points of interest, including enemies and materials. The iconic bow is back in full force, along with a selection of craftable arrows for players to use, and there is a selection of other weapons that can also be upgraded and modded with the right materials. Players will come across camp fires that allow the player to do their upgrading, along with assigning skill points earned through experience, to unlock a wide range of skills that will make Lara even more impressive. There are challenge tombs and all manner of other secrets to find outside of the story, and the player can continue with their search after finishing the story, or start a New Game +, so there is plenty of life in the game.

It is difficult to find fault in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, but there are a few niggles. Some areas were so dark that it became impossible to see where to go, and it came down to relying on luck. There were also a couple of moments in full light where the path seemed to stop and finding the route forward meant a leap of faith that more often than not led to a fall of death. Also, coming through from the previous games, there are moments when Lara doesn’t quite move how I wanted, reminding me of the Assassin’s Creed games. It’s not always as smooth as it wants to be.

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But these really are very small niggles in the grand scheme of things, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider still manages to be an exceptional game. It may not offer any substantial evolution for the game series, but when the previous games were so good, does it really matter? It is pretty much more of the same, and I love it. The only evolution comes in the form of Lara’s character, who becomes the dark, ruthless Lara that the world needs. Those who didn’t enjoy the previous games will find nothing here to interest them. But for everyone else, rush out and grab Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It’s the best Tomb Raider game so far, and one of the best games this year.




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