Publisher: Square Enix
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Release Date: 09/12/2018
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Lara Croft’s adventure since 2013 has been amazing. The reboot was one of the best in the game industry in the last decade and it turned a sexy heroine full of corny stories and janky gameplay into an open world complex trilogy. Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues Lara’s saga against Trinity and Doctor Dominguez trying to basically destroy the world.
The game opens up with an epic prologue just like the last two games and we see how hardened Lara has become since the last game. The entire game is about Lara and Jonah trying to find something called The Box which is a Mayan object that can stop the world from ending. It’s a little more complicated than that, but the story is much better than Rise’s story. At least we get more glimpses of Lara’s past and some advancements of her character like we saw in the first game.
However, I feel the story is a little more unbelievable than the first game. Instead of just trying to survive and escape an island, she’s doing some crazy Hollywood stunts that are totally unbelievable like running along with debris in a flood. It made me shake my head, but I kept pushing on as it was exciting but felt like a total departure from the first game’s atmosphere and ideas. The world also isn’t large and open like the last two games. Instead, it’s broken up into smaller parts that can be fast traveled to with the largest part being Paititi city which is a pain to navigate, to be honest. I didn’t like this change very much and as I played through the first third of the game I was waiting for it to open up into the big open world like the last two games, it just felt more cramped and claustrophobic. I also got bored exploring some of these areas trying to find all the secrets. It’s just not as exciting or varied as the last games.
That’s not to say the world here is bad. The new jungle theme is a nice departure and feels organic, is highly detailed, and features some new combat ideas. Lara is in full commando mode as she can cover herself in mud, hide in trees and vines along walls and take people down. She looks badass doing it and the combat is much more refined here, but some of the other ideas from the last games almost feel pointless here. All of her upgrades and crafting don’t really fit in here much as the game’s focus isn’t so much on survival. There are various upgrades for different ammo types, longer breathing, and not having to press the action button she does long jumps. Some upgrades are repeats, and I never used any of the special ammo as there isn’t as much combat in this game as the previous two, it’s mostly restricted to the story missions. You can craft outfit pieces that grant different passive abilities, but again, these felt pointless as there isn’t much combat in the game and it’s highly focused on stealth.
The story itself is quite shortcoming in at about 4-5 hours if you skip all the side stuff. It also didn’t feel as epic or as impactful as the last two games. While Rise’s written story was pretty bland it had some great gameplay set-pieces throughout the entire story and this game only has a few. I don’t want to bash on the game making it sound awful, but it’s just trying to evolve while towing stuff from the first game with it and it feels like extra baggage. I really enjoyed Shadow and wanted to get all the side stuff and had fun solving the puzzles and climbing around the gorgeous areas, but it just didn’t have as big of an impact on me as the first game did. I loved seeing Lara again as her character is fantastic, but it’s all more of the same and feels very safe.
As it stands, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a safe sequel that’s shorter and tries to cut corners and do less while dragging to gameplay ideas for a larger-than-life world with it that just doesn’t fit in. The combat has been greatly improved, but there isn’t much of it, the story is short despite being a better story than the last game, and the large open world is basically gone. What we get is a mix of the last two games with some new ideas here for a new game. It’s a culmination of the best that all three had to offer but just not enough of it. The graphics are out of the world amazing with beautiful animations and voice work, but it’s just not enough to make it the king of the action-adventure genre again.