Putting The Tombs Back Into The Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues Lara’s quest of vengeance against Trinity, building up to this direct confrontation between Lara and the organization. 

Taken by itself, Shadow’s pretty self-contained plot is a pretty good Tomb Raider adventure, with Lara going to multiple countries and locations to stop the coming apocalypse, which she inadvertently triggered by recklessly removing an artifact from a tomb. 

The plot’s never going to win any awards for being deep or complex, but that’s ok, since it’s just an excuse to toss Lara into some incredible set-pieces. You’re regularly given the chance to venture off the beaten path and explore and that’s where the game shines. You’ll miss a lot of the game if you simply rush through it. 

You’ll find challenge tombs, animals to hunt and even side quests to complete. Every tomb is unique and some of the puzzles are ingenious, especially if you turn off the hints. The game incorporates elements of a Metroidvania title, as the locations you’ll encounter will regularly have places you can’t access unless you return later, with new gear. It’s certainly not a requirement to backtrack but you’ll find a ton of optional secrets if you do. 

The best part of the tomb raiding has got to be the rewards you get. You not only get unique skills but also get unique gear, which is a first for any Tomb Raider game. Lara can also equip different outfits, including Lara’s looks from previous games. I don’t just mean the Tomb Raider reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider. I mean from the original Tomb Raider 2 (complete with her angular…assets) as well as Angel of Darkness. 

Lara also has three different talent trees to advance in with the experience she gains from activities and combat. Seeker enhances exploration and observation abilities, Warrior increases combat and weapon abilities while Scavenger enhances crafting and stealth skills. 

Thankfully, all essential skills are unlocked without the need to level up. You can even cover Lara with mud to beat enemies with thermal vision, which is reminiscent of Rambo: First Blood Part Two. In fact, the game even acknowledges this, with a trophy called First Blood that involves stealth killing while covered in mud. 

Stealth is now a big part of the game, as nearly every enemy encounter allows for a stealthy approach. Lara also has a ton of stealthy options if you can’t get close. These include the ability to use bottles as distractions (or use them to craft molotov cocktails or smoke bombs), craft arrows that’ll make enemies turn on one another and concussive shells to blind her foes in case she’s discovered. I found myself only going for close up kills or using Fear arrows to have the bad guys kill each other instead. 

If you’re not one to sneak, the game does give Lara a handful of offensive weapons to wreak havoc with. These fall into four categories; bows, rifles, handguns and shotguns. All of them can be improved at campfires with the materials you find as well as equipped with various attachments (which you buy) and secondary functions (which you have to unlock from the skill tree). 

Gunplay is deliciously tight, with tense shootouts and enemies who’ll react intelligently to your actions. Hide too long in one place and they’ll attempt to flush you out with grenades. Pick them off one by one and they’ll start to patrol in pairs. Sadly, melee is completely underutilized in the game, with Lara only being able to do a weak 3-hit combo with her climbing axes or special finishing moves. 

Don’t go into Shadow of the Tomb Raider expecting a lot of combat though, as unlike past entries this one’s focus is on raiding tombs and the environmental puzzles you’ll encounter. 

While it may not be as action heavy as its predecessors, Shadow of the Tomb Raider does have better art direction. Sure, it’s still ancient Mayan ruins you’re exploring, but you there are other different environments too, such as the refinery I mentioned and an awesome monastery, which has catacombs eerily reminiscent of those from The Nun, complete with tons of crucifixes adorning the sides of the walls. All that’s missing is a vicious demonic entity hellbent on killing Lara…perhaps an idea to explore in the future, eh Eidos Montreal? 

Read more at gameaxis.com

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