An end of the world scenario. An eclipse looming in the background. Earthquakes and catastrophes happening left and right. And Lara Croft is the only one that can save us. She’s better, faster, fiercer and deadlier than ever. Will she be able to prevent the end of the world or will she finally succumb to death? Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the swan song to “Reboot” Lara’s journey into the greatest adventures of her life.
Reviewed: Xbox One
Platforms: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows
Developer: Crystal Dynamics, Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: September 14th, 2018
Review code provided by Bandai Namco.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a direct sequel to Rise of the Tomb Raider following the events that happened in the previous game. The story this time around mainly focuses on Lara’s search for the dagger and silver box which his father died for in the hands of Trinity. Lara’s quest took her to places in Mexico and Peru uncovering secrets of a hidden city and a prophecy that can bring an end to the world. Lara is accompanied by her trusty cook Jonah who seems to have lived the dangerous life of an adventurer as well.
The story for me is okay but it didn’t really captivate me. I felt like the story was not a fitting end to Lara’s coming of age story. Yes it did show us Lara became the Tomb Raider that she is but in terms of completing the trilogy itself, the story they presented here seemed forgettable compared to the last two stories we saw. The boss fight wasn’t even that impressive compared to the last one and it didn’t really provide any sort of challenge as you can just kill the boss by pelting him with all of the ammo that you have.
Gameplay-wise, I really love its combat system. It’s more fluid than ever and the seamless transition between close quarter combat and long range combat just makes the fight sequences that much more fun. It’s like playing an action movie. There are two ways that you can approach combat, either you go in the stealthy way or go guns blazing.
If you go the stealthy route, the environment is your friend here. Scattered in the area are tall grasses where you can hide and wait for the enemies to come to you for that stealthy kill. Another way is to cover yourself with mud which was not present in previous games. Covering yourself with mud will allow you to be less noticeable to the enemies. You can also hide in mud-covered walls allowing you to have more places to hide in a given area. One other way you can go in for that stealthy kill is by climbing up trees, and using your rope and arrow to hang enemies unawares Batman style. There will also be items scattered about in the combat areas that you can use as throwable items like the bottle that you can craft into a molotov cocktail or a jar that you can craft into a smoke bomb.
If you go guns blazing, there are a lot of weapons at Lara’s disposal. Although just like the previous titles, you need to progress into the story to get them unlocked. At first you will get the bow and arrow but later on you will also get to use weapons like the shotgun and the rifle. My favorite one will have to be the GF RAL, it’s a rifle with high damage but at the cost of a slow rate of fire and reload speed but you can always get that up with crafting improvements.
Speaking of crafting, crafting is back once again just like from the previous installments of the game. Just like in previous games, you can access the crafting menu by going to base camps. You can upgrade weapons and craft outfits too. This time around though, the pouches for your ammo can only be bought from shops. Some of Lara’s tools can also be bought from shops as well.
Although we only had the Supply Shack in Rise of the Tomb Raider, we get a number of merchants across the map here. Some even sell rare gadgets like the Rope Ascender and the Lockpick. The merchants here also has the Sell function typical to merchants in other games, allowing you to sell minerals and items you find on the way to buy these rather expensive items. But don’t worry there’s a skill in Lara’s skill tree that will lower these prices if you are willing to wait by then.
Speaking of the Skill Tree, you can access the Skill Tree by going to the base camp as well. You get skill points each time you level up or as a reward for doing side quests or challenges. The skill tree is divided into three parts. Scavenger skills that are geared towards improving your Stealth abilities and Traps. Seeker skills that improve your foraging abilities and hunting skills. And Warrior skills that are geared towards improving combat skills and survivability. Most of these skills can be unlocked with skill points but there were will be some skills that you can only unlock by progressing into the story or by tomb raiding.
And this is why tomb raiding is more important than ever since they can definitely improve the quality of life in the game. Although these tombs are optional, the skills that they unlock will definitely improve your survivability in the game. There are about 9 main challenge tombs that you can explore, each with varying levels of difficulty and each accessible only after you acquire certain gadgets. I love the puzzles that they laid out for each of the tombs, I’ve only really gone to 7 of them but all of them were really fun. I would definitely get back into the game to complete all the tombs.
Aside from tomb raiding, side quests are also available in this game. The side quests can either improve a certain skill you have or uncover tombs that you have yet to find. Some of the side quests also improve your gadgets like the knife. There are also lesser tombs called crypts that contain rare outfits and items.
Though most of the gadgets that you can find in this game has already been introduced in the previous games, there are still a few additions that was not present before. Like the steel spiked boots that allow Lara to traverse rocky paths that are on a ceiling or the underside of a cliff. I can certainly say that without a doubt Lara Croft is the brave adventurer that she claims to be. I can’t imagine the stunts that she pulls here and how daring all of them are. She also has access to the Fear Arrows that essentially is similar to Assassin’s Creed’s berserk darts, making the enemies hallucinate and aim carelessly at their comrades resulting into friendly fire.
This time around, Lara can only craft ammo on the fly, unlike before where you can also craft ammo at base camps. This makes for thrilling combats where you’d have to decide whether to craft more arrows while being pelted down with bullets by your enemies. But you can still scavenge for ammo by looting dead enemies or by items scattered throughout the game. Healing is also essentially crafted on the fly but you can also craft plant items that improve your perception, endurance and focus.
Aside from the free-roaming areas of the game, the action platforming sequences are back and provide adrenaline pumping experiences. At first I thought I was still in a free roam area but then I suddenly noticed that Lara is following an exactly straight path towards her goal. These action sequences were very exciting and reminded me a lot of the action sequences in any of the Uncharted games. The only thing I really don’t like about them is when Lara randomly jumps out of step or veers off from the path because of a wrong flick of the left stick. This leads to Lara’s untimely demise even though you of course meant for her to follow the correct path.
The game is as unforgiving as ever, with all the dumb ways Lara could die of. There were countless times that I made Lara die because of a wrong step or a wrong button. It seems like they really want to make Lara suffer this time around. From falling off a cliff to being eaten alive by wolves. I pity the person that has to go through all that. There were even places in the game where I felt like she shouldn’t have died but lo and behold there was a sticking spike on that clump of debris over there waiting to impale her. The one sequence where it definitely had me sweating was when Lara was faced with these set of hanging trinkets that you have to traverse in order to get to the other side of the cliff. And the only way for you to get through them is to time the grapple axe as you jump so that it clips on to each of them all the while trying to swing off of them to the next trinket. I’m not afraid of heights but I just didn’t want Lara dying over there and have to restart that part of the game over again. And I had her dying a lot there.
Graphics wise, the game looks so great on the Xbox One. The breathtaking views, the lush environments. The detail they have placed on its items, outfits and weapons. They are all rendered very beautifully. The beautiful scenery is perfect for the game’s Photo Mode which is always a welcome addition when you are presented with a game as beautiful as this. Although I did encounter a few glitches here and there like how her outfit suddenly becomes opaque when passed through light. They were not really game breaking but it was amusing to find that these glitches happen in the game.
Sounds were pretty accurate in this game. I like how the sounds get drowned out when Lara goes underwater. They’ve really nailed that down. You can even hear Lara grasping for breath after she runs for awhile. Or how she stifles her breath when she goes underwater for too long. The breaking of twigs when she forages for them. The change in music every time you encounter an enemy changes from fast paced to quiet low sounds as you change from combat to stealthy mode. I also love the appropriateness of adrenaline pumping music when you just go guns blazing. I did find a noteworthy bug where the sounds were completely gone after I tried continuing the game right after I finished it. I don’t know what really caused it but it was fixable with a restart of the game.
Overall, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a great game to get into. With its new game plus feature, you are sure to want to have to get back into the game challenging yourself with higher difficulties but with better arsenal. With future DLC’s introducing us to new challenge tombs, the game will always keep you coming back for more. That is of course if you are willing to pay for the season pass to play them. I believe they are worth it if they provide a viable amount of game time and being as this is the last of the Tomb Raider Reboot trilogy there’s just a lot of content to get into even in the main game. Although the story is not really its strong selling point for me, the gameplay kept me entertained enough to want to complete the game. There is never a dull moment as you explore and traverse the perilous environment of Peru. The map is vast and wide so there’s really a lot of areas to explore.
If you are a fan of the reboot or a fan of Lara Croft in general, then I totally recommend that you play this game. If you love a great adventure and a fast paced combat with puzzles and platforming in the mix, then you definitely would want to play this game.