It has been twenty-two years since Lara Croft first made her appearance in a video game and in the years since she has become one of video gaming’s most established icons. However, it wasn’t until the acquisition of Crystal Dynamics by Square Enix that the Tomb Raider first appeared in her current avatar. Post-acquisition, Lara went through a transformation as part of the series’ reboot which did a lot to bring her popularity to new heights. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third entry in the recent trilogy that was a result of that process.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues where Rise of the Tomb Raider left off and sees Lara in South America where she is on a journey to stop an oncoming Mayan apocalypse. While on her adventure, she must contend with a familiar foe in the form of Trinity but this time around there seems to be a big difference in her attitude. She has moved on from being the survivor of 2013’s Tomb Raider and is now someone who is actively pursuing the antagonists. Not only this, we get to see glimpses of a more mature and experienced Lara who has grown from her past exploits and utilises the gathered knowledge to make the most of her escapade.
The character development stands out here because of how well the team at Eidos Montreal handled the intricacies of someone who has been through the kinds of things she has and also showcases the nuances of her friendship with Jonah. One thing worth mentioning is that to get the full experience you should have played the previous two entries as Shadow of the Tomb Raider doesn’t do too much in the form of an introduction.
In terms of gameplay, this instalment comes with a lot less combat, and there is more of a focus on stealth for the sections that are there. There is a renewed focus on exploration and actual tomb raiding, which appeals to long-time fans of the series. We also see the introduction of the grappling hook which adds a new form of movement and also makes things feel a little fresh.
The most significant addition to Shadow of the Tomb Raider comes in the form of hubs which are big city or townlike areas where you can get side missions, engage with NPC’s and trade or sell items. They are a great addition to the game and allow you to pause and participate in some other activities between story missions.
Lara and her story are presented in Shadow of the Tomb Raider with the help of cinema style scripting and direction and meticulous attention to detail, making it easily one of the best looking games I have played all year. The lush landscapes of South America and the bustling city hubs are presented with a lot of thought given to every aspect of the environment and feel closer to life than ever before.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider also introduces a customisable difficulty system. You can change the overall difficulty while also being able to adjust the difficulty of combat, exploration and puzzles. This allows you to tailor your experience to your playstyle and helps make it a lot more fun. This change made the whole experience a lot more enjoyable for me, and I feel like more games should try and build difficulty like this, giving players more control over their experience.
The whole game including side missions is a thirty to forty hour experience filled with some tense moments and a deep sense of adventure that will leave you satisfied when you finally take your hands off your controller. There is a worthwhile story to uncover which at times feels more interesting because of the depth the characters bring as opposed to the overarching storyline that has moments of being overly simplistic. However, put together the two work well and deliver an experience that is a worthy end to the current trilogy.