Square Enix’s rebooted Tomb Raider series is essentially a coming-of-age story of Lara Croft and her rise of becoming a fearless adventurer. But Shadow of the Tomb Raider explores a less-likeable side of Lara, looking at her faults and missteps along the way; essentially providing a tale of redemption and re-learning about why she embarks on these journeys; and thankfully the gameplay is as solid as ever, too.
The game picks up after the events of Rise of the Tomb Raider, with Lara Croft chasing down a mysterious artefact – one which her father always spoke of. Again, the notorious group Trinity is on her tail, and the cat-and-m0use game which has become a staple of the franchise is again set in motion. This time, however, Lara has honed her tomb-raiding and killing skills, showing a more brutal and ruthless side to her killing and procedures – rather than being someone who’s thrust into dangerous situations, she now looks for and embraces them.
The game also doesn’t pull any punches with throwing players back into the action. From the outset, fights are tough, puzzles require some lateral thinking, and traversal can be tricky with some well-timed jumps required to get through obstacles. In terms of combat, enemy AI has been improved, but Lara has some new tricks up her sleeve to deal with Trinity’s goons.
The usual fair of sneaking, melee takedowns, or just a straight point-and-shoot approach are there, but with an emphasis on stealth, Lara can now take camouflage on walls, using the thick foliage to hide and slide along vertical cover. It provides a more realistic scenario of picking off enemies one at a time, slinking along the beautifully-designed levels, rather than the whole ‘waiting-for-enemies-to-walk-over-to-the-long-grass situation’ which happens a little too often in other games.
Crafting and campfires return too, allowing players to take a moment to up-skill Lara with some new takedowns or improving weapon-use, along with the ability to craft ammo, gun enhancements or other items, adding the lightest bit of RPG-ing that’ll allow you to wiggle Lara’s abilities to how you want to play the game – guns-blazing or a takedown master.
The recent Tomb Raider games have always been visually impressive, but Shadow of the Tomb Raider ups the ante with some unique and spectacular locations yet to be seen in the franchise, along with some eye-catching animations and lighting that really make the game look incredible in motion. The introspective and surprisingly emotional story is also elevated thanks to the great graphics, voice-acting, and stunning facial animations of Lara particularly, making it ooze of triple-A quality.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider isn’t just another addition to the Tomb Raider library of jungle-exploring adventures – it’s a much-needed progression for the character and gameplay mechanics that remind us of why we love this franchise so much, while throwing in some exciting new elements and putting a focus of narrative and story, resulting in one of the best Tomb Raider games to date.
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