Tomb Raider has been a household name in the gaming scene. From its blocky and pointy (you know what I mean) beginnings to its current form, it is one franchise that has arguably stood the test of time with finesse and a good amount of success. Upon its revival back in 2013, the reboot offered fans a new look at Lara Croft, one that has successfully transitioned into an open world with upgraded graphics and gameplay. Fast forward to 2018, here we are with the latest installment, and with the first 2 games being the success stories that they are, can this third title put a fitting end into the trilogy?
Down with Trinity, down with the trilogy
As with Uncharted that sees Drake take on various breathtaking locations, Lara Croft’s latest adventure takes her deep into the heart of the South American Jungles. The story takes off as a direct sequel to the Rise of the Tomb Raider, a year later to be exact. Without spoiling any plot points, the TLDR of the story is that in her pursuit to stop Trinity, she sets off a series of catastrophic events which puts Lara in a compromising spot that has her go on another whirlwind journey of epic proportions. It’s not really the most original, and honestly it’s really hard to be unique at this point, but what is important is that it is fun and Shadow of the Tomb Raider has that in spades.
Other than it being fun, which we’ll get to in a bit, the game looks gorgeous on both of the high end systems (PS4 Pro and One X) and out of all the 3 games from the Tomb Raider reboot, this is the most graphically impressive (and taxing) among the 3 especially when you have a state of the art TV that is 4K and HDR ready. One part that I loved is that there are a number of venues to explore and each boasts of a different setting, you can see how much variety there is to the world and all of them look absolutely stunning, especially during the jungle scenes where the light peeks in between the foliage, it really is a different experience to see it for yourself. There is the usual resolution or frame rate setting and honestly, while I would prefer a high FPS for most games, this is one title that has an equally tantalizing resolution mode.
“It’s the cliiiiiiiiimb~”
“It’s not the destination, it’s the journey”, the saying rings through in Shadow of the Tomb Raider as I feel that while to overarching story line could have been improved a bit more, it’s the things in between make the game as spectacular as it is. As with past games, there is a familiarity here that is very much welcome. Challenge tombs are back, side quests, you name it and they will more than likely make an appearance again. There is SO MUCH stuff to do and collect and while the story campaign itself may only last you anywhere around 15 hours give or take, completing all items in the map will surely double or triple your playtime at the very least.
One new “feature” that I particularly liked are the individual sliders for each aspect of the game. Basically, you can turn down (or up) the difficulty settings for combat, puzzles, and navigation. Each slider acts differently and independently from each other and if you’re the type of person that does not like hand holding as much, then adjust away. This is a very welcome addition that I feel other titles should start looking into and not just simply having one difficulty slider encompass everything. It’s one of those things that you wouldn’t have thought of before, but now that you’ve experienced it, you can’t imagine it not being there again.
All of Lara’s activities are anchored by a great control scheme that is accurate and well polished. For those of you who know me, I HATE bad and unintuitive controls (I’m looking at you, The Last Guardian), so this was something that I appreciated in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Lara does not feel slippery, she moves the way you would want her to, and her controls are very simple to learn and master. For a game that allows you to traverse high perched structures down to the waters below, you’d be hard pressed to find a control scheme that’s a perfect fit for a game as this one is.
Metal Gear Croft
One big change in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and I guess “Shadow” was a fitting term when I thought about it, is that the game pushes you to try a more stealth based approach. The logic is sound, you really cannot face a room full of baddies at the same time so the best course of action is to take a go at them one by one, and I am personally a fan. She’s got a good number of moves in her stealth arsenal, from using mud as camo to scouting from treetops, you’ll need to be able to use and master these moves in order to make it through the game.
Using these stealth moves is an understatement as one thing you will notice in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is that for some reason, Lara dies rather quickly here as compared to her other outings. I don’t know if it was just me being a noob but at certain points in the game, I would just die repeatedly due to incoming fire when I felt that I could take a few more shots. It was then that I realized that I had to take a step back, plan things out, and use the environment to my advantage. Basic knowledge, for sure, but this game I feel will demand strategy of you, which is something new and rarely utilized in the past 2 games.
- The graphics for this game are a sight to behold
- Quite a bit of emphasis on stealth for this game
- Game length is controversial for most, but for me it was just about right for the campaign.
- Individual difficulty sliders across different game elements
- Story could have used a bit of more “oomph”
- There’s a new game plus mode, but very little motivation to go through the adventure again unlike how God of War employed it
Final Verdict: 9/10
Apart from being a graphical triumph, Shadow of the Tomb Raider brings a well deserved close to Lara Croft’s reboot from 5 years back. The game plays as fun as ever if you’re into stealth based mechanics, and its a familiar feeling to get back into, especially right after Spider-Man which is a similar game in certain aspects. The formula has not changed as much, but the whole experience is as exciting as ever and with the new additions to Lara’s arsenal, there are quite a number of ways now to deal with Trinity and your surroundings.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider Ultimate and Croft edition users can access and play the game early while standard edition purchases can play the game as it officially launches today, September 14!
*Shadow of the Tomb Raider was reviewed on a PS4 Pro through a code provided by the publisher.