I’ve been waiting for Lara Croft to grow back into the cocky and arrogant adventurer from the first trilogy of games on the PS1 since the reboot back in 2013. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge fan of the rebooted Tomb Raider games. I gave Rise of the Tomb Raider a 4.5 out of 5 a couple of years ago, and although I was overruled by my fellow editors, it was my personal game of the year for 2015.
Still, we’re three games into this reboot now and Lara is still just constantly getting her face pounded in, almost constantly. I played a bit of Shadow of the Tomb Raider yesterday, and poor Lara still isn’t ready to be the Tomb Raider. Within the first 30 minutes of the game, Lara is attacked by an eel of all things, gets trapped in an underwater cavern and nearly drowns like three times, and picks up a dagger that of course triggers the start of the apocalypse, causes a flood of biblical proportions and leads to the deaths of what is probably thousands of people, if not more. Can she just catch a break already? I’m just looking forward to the point where we finally get to go visit Lara’s “humble abode” and watch her set out on an adventure where she is the one calling the shots, in control and kicking ass, instead of just reacting to whatever jerk is trying to kill her family or whatever.
Anyway, gameplay wise, the sections of Shadow of the Tomb Raider we played (first 20-30 minutes or so) felt virtually identical to the Rise of the Tomb Raider. Puzzle sections that make heavy use of ropes, bow and arrow stealth sections, and heavy doses of spelunking up craggy walls. No complaints here though, Eidos Montreal got it right the first time with Tomb Raider (2013). There’s no need to fix what isn’t broke. Another set of refinements that builds on what Rise of the Tomb Raider added works for me.
One small thing I did notice is that Lara can now blend into fields and fences that have lots of vegetation and vines, and silently shank anyone that passes by. We didn’t get out to any of the areas that can be freely explored though during the demo, so I can’t really speak to what’s new there. It was a linear mission that we saw through from beginning to end.
Storywise, I’m digging the direction of this one. Lara starts off trying to avenge her father’s death but in pursuit of the man responsible, accidentally kicks off an apocalyptic event (by grabbing that dagger I mentioned above) that I assume leads to all of the screwed up events that we’ve seen so far such as human sacrifice. Jonah, figures to be a major player in Lara’s character development. Towards the end of the demo, Jonah really lets Lara have it. He’s tired of her trying to play superhero, and loses it when she tries to claim that all the bad things that are happening are her fault. Jonah, because he’s a good friend, wants her to chill the hell out and not get herself killed, but because this is a game that features people who don’t act logically for our enjoyment, Lara likely isn’t going to listen.
All in all, from what we can glean, if you liked the first two games, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is probably going to be an easy buy for you. I can’t imagine there’s anything so dramatically new here that would cause fans of the other two games to suddenly dislike this one, provided the story doesn’t suck. From what we played and have seen so far, everything seems very par for the course. I’m looking forward to the day where we can finally stop putting Lara through torture and let her be the bad boss lady she’s destined to be.