by Daniel O’Connell
This review is based off the Xbox One version of the game.
The Tomb Raider series is one of the longest running action-adventure franchises in the genre. The series that was rebooted back in 2012 is now a trilogy focusing on how an inexperienced Lara Craft became the Tomb Raider we all know. Shadow of the Tomb Raider finishes off the final leg of this journey and provides a fun and exciting end to the trilogy.
Excellent character development and world building
Taking place two months after the end of the previous game, the game follows Lara Croft (once again played by Camilla Luddington) as she tracks down the cells of the paramilitary organization, Trinity, with her friend Jonah Maiava. Their journey leads them to South America in search of the latest cell. There, they come into conflict with Pedro Dominguez, a member of Trinity’s high council, who also knew Lara’s father. Lara is now tracking down the hidden city of Paititi, as well as a dagger and a silver box that are linked with the Mayan Apocalypse. When Lara retrieves the dagger she unintentionally sets off the apocalypse, which will end with a total eclipse of the sun. Now Lara is caught in a race against time to find the silver box before Trinity does and stop the apocalypse from happening.
As with the previous games, one of the strengths of the story is Luddington’s performance as Lara. She gives her a vulnerability that humanizes her and makes her relatable. Accidentally kickstarting the apocalypse weighs heavily on her consciousness, as well as the innocent lives that are lost to the earthquakes. However, this game brings a much darker characterization to Lara as she is much more willing to brutally kill Trinity soldiers in cold blood when confronted with them. This darker characterization seems essential, as it helps complete Lara’s transformation into the Tomb Raider. Jonah’s expanded role in the game is also a welcomed addition, as he provides moral support for Lara as well as serving as her conscious. However, what was surprising was the villain of Dominguez, who is revealed to be the ruler of the hidden city of Paititi. He proves to be a somewhat sympathetic villain, as everything he has done was to protect Paititi from the outside world. On the opposite end of the villain spectrum is Rourke, the commander of Trinity’s military forces. He is cruel, cowardly, and despicable, making for a villain that the player loves to hate.
While the characters and Lara’s character arc are main strengths of the game, a big draw of it is the city of Paititi and the people who dwell within it. The people are a blend of elements of Mayan and Inca cultures and come off as unique and interesting people. The game developers have put effort into making the people and their city come off as authentic, and it honestly works. There are several references to different myths and deities of Incan culture, showing that the put care into crafting their take on Paititi. This extra care and research paid off in giving the game a unique feel when compared to its predecessors.
Serviceable, stealthy, gameplay
The core gameplay of the series has not changed in this game. While it is still good, at this point it feels stale. There are no major overhauls or changes to make it feel different or unique from its predecessors. In spite of this, the gameplay is still serviceable and enjoyable. Lara’s main weapon is a bow and arrow, and she can also make use of a variety of pistols, rifles, and shotguns. She is also capable of upgrading these weapons with crafting material such as salvaged materials and animal hides. She can also create different ammunition types for these weapons such as fire arrows, flare rounds, and concussive shells. A returning addition is useable herbs, which Lara can use to heal or increase her perception, durability, and aiming time. While this is par for the course for the reboot trilogy at this point, there are new additions to the gameplay, in the form of stealth, that make it even more fun.
As the title suggests, there is a big emphasis on stealth in the game. There are times where Lara is outnumbered and outgunned by Trinity soldiers. The player is offered with a choice of an assault approach or a sneaky, stealth approach. Going with the latter option proves to be the more fun and rewarding option as opposed to going in guns blazing. Lara can hide in brush and stealthily take down enemies with a knife, like a predator hunting down its prey. Speaking of the Predator, Lara can also cover herself with mud to camouflage herself. The addition of a stealth component to the game helps liven up gameplay that has become somewhat stale at this point.
Plenty of side content to tackle
Aside from the main story, there is plenty of side content to do in the game. Challenge tombs make a return where Lara can complete various different kinds of puzzles in exchange for treasure and different perks. A new component of the game is the ability to change the difficulty settings of exploration, combat, and puzzles. This leads to a different kind of experience depending on which difficulty level each option is set to. Outside of the main combat, Lara can complete side missions for civilians for experience points, money, and other rewards. The money can be spent on the game’s newly introduced barter system where you can buy new weapons, ammunition, and crafting materials, or sell excess materials that you have on hand.
Featured image from GameAxis
Shadow of the Tomb Raider
All in all, 'Shadow of the Tomb Raider' is a fun experience and the perfect ending for Lara Croft’s origins. The great story is aided by Croft’s character development and Luddington’s performance. Stale gameplay is enhanced by a stealth component and there’s plenty of side content to spare. It’s a fine and fun wrap up for the trilogy.
Characters and World Building
Side Missions and Content
Daniel is a Journalism major and a History minor. Daniel’s hobbies include playing video games, watching movies, writing short stories and fan fiction, and listening to music. He hopes to use his work at Byte as a stepping stone for his journalism career.