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Letters from the Front

SOTR2

The rebooted Tomb Raider trilogy has run its course with this latest installment. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the last installment in the rebooted trilogy that first saw release five years with the 2013 installment.

In Tomb Raider, Lara Croft was driven by a sense of urgency as her decisions were reactive and she was always on the go. In Rise, she was driven by her ambitions and driven by her father’s mission to find immorality in the frozen tundras of Siberia and in Shadow, Lara has evolved into a much darker character who happens to be narcissistic and obsessed and her mission turns into an obsessive one, she’ll go as far as she needs to do to find that next thing that defines her relevancy and importance in the world around her. Tomb Raider and Rise have built her up to this very point and now she must not only find out who she wants or needs to become but also needs to stop a Mayan prophecy, this mission will define who she is.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the first game built by Eidos Montreal in conjunction with Crystal Dynamics, the studio currently working on Marvel’s The Avengers game.  Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a very nice build up from Rise, it’s a way darker game and feels more propulsive than the other two games.

The prologue which is set within a Day of the Dead celebration in Cozumel, Mexico begins to slow burn to a showdown in which Lara Croft becomes the villain as her actions begin to define who she is. She’s darker, she’s gritty and grim; a complete 360 turn from her character within the previous two games.

Despite the darkness of the game and how mature the theme is, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is not a bad game. Over the course of three hours, it is a fun and beautiful game and its built on the things that made the reboot so successful in the first place.

In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft travels from Mexico to the jungles of Peru to outrace Trinity, a well-armed secret society which has been the primary antagonist since Rise of the Tomb Raider and the organization that had killed Lara’s dad. Lara Croft’s obsessive nature with chasing long-forgotten artifacts is due in part to the fact that Trinity is also chasing them. Let’s get right into the first impressions.

GAMEPLAY

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The gameplay is more of the same but has changed at the same time. You’ll still be spending time dangling from walls, climbing rock mountains, stealing treasures, and repeating it all over again as in the previous two installments. As the story gets progressively darker, Lara Croft becomes a bit more powerful and this is refinement and it feels like everything that Lara has done and learned in the previous games comes out here, she is now a trained killer and somewhat of a stealth master as she sneaks through the jungles of South America. The combat and gameplay have finally reached the heights of Naughty Dog’s games although it doesn’t meet those requirements, it is still pretty close and passes the minimum requirements. The guns feel powerful, the combat feels aggressive although the gunplay still needs some work as it still feels wonky and incredibly loose.

Lara can also blend herself into the jungle environment, for example, she’ll spread mud across her body or she’ll blend into the foliage to get the attack on her foes. The game is very much stealth-action oriented and it pays off to be stealthy. All of it is very much fun and enjoyable, the reboot trilogy has pride itself on having fun and having an enjoyable time throughout the game’s story and Shadow of the Tomb Raider is no different.

You’ll also engage in the usual Tomb Raider antics of solving puzzles and you’ll engage in a combination of platforming, puzzle-solving, exploration, and the usual combat. Once more, you’ll get to upgrade Lara Croft gradually as you acquire more experience points to level her up and make her more powerful; not only can you upgrade Lara but also for the first time in the series, you can acquire in-game currency to buy ingredients, outfits, and new weapons to fight Trinity with.

You can also do side quests by talking to the local people and plunging into tombs and crypts, there is a bit more tomb raiding in this one than in Rise but Shadow really stands out when you’re talking with the local populace.

In one town, early in the game, you can talk to a person who Lara sees being shoved down a flight of stairs after the person told him to “get the fuck out of here.” and you can talk to him and fix the problem or continue on your way towards the tomb.

All of this is optional and it isn’t required to complete the game, only if you want to experience the full width of the game. Eidos Montreal beefed up the systems here for more conversation and offer a lot of nonviolent sidequests but they leave them skippable for people like me who wants to just progress through the story or focus on something else entirely like going into tombs or into crypts however there is a down side to all of this, if you skip this then you won’t get to see another side to Lara and that is often missed which is she is more of a listener and helper.

If you want to do these things, then feel free to do as there 13 optional side-quests across the game and it adds a few good hours to a really good game.

ROUNDUP:

Shadow of the Tomb Raider begins with a powerful proposition that Lara Croft should feel guilty about the things that she has done and the impact she has on the people around her. This interesting beginning is only the beginning to an epic tale that is not only fun but also is very interesting.

A good chunk of this last installment feels fresh and it invites you in and allows you to escape for a moment in this breathtaking and interesting world. Many come to the Tomb Raider games for a sense of adventure and to visit exotic places and solve puzzles and there’s plenty of that here.

On top of that, this game feels pretty climatic to the tale that Crystal Dynamics has served since 2013 and it feels like its wrapping up an epic journey of how Lara Croft became into the iconic figure that she is today. Stay tuned for my review coming soon.

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