Review: SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER (2018)

Become the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an action-adventure video game developed by developed by Eidos Montréal and published by Square Enix. The game builds on narrative of its predecessors, 2013’s Tomb Raider and 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. Set as the conclusion of the trilogy, it follows Lara Croft as she battles Trinity, the sometimes shadowy, Illuminati-esque society, sometimes paramilitary organization, in order to stop a Mayan apocalypse that, spoiler alert, she unleashed. Oops.

Is It Worth?

If you’d like answers to the questions raised by the story so far, sure, yeah… I guess.

A little about the Gameplay

A big part of this trilogy’s narrative arc, and what this game in particular would like you to experience first-hand through the gameplay, is how much Lara has seasoned with experience – from her first kill back in 2013’s Tomb Raider, clumsy and awkward, to the stealth-heavy approach this time around, picking off her enemies one by one. In fact, it was only when I sat down to write this piece, and did a quick re-read of our reviews for this trilogy, that I realised how stealth-based combat has been gradually increased in these games – from Devesh writing for Tomb Raider that the “game unfortunately lacks the element of stealth,” to me writing for Rise of the Tomb Raider that “I was able to clear quite a number of levels without attracting unwanted attention,” to now, when stealth is not just the recommended approach for various levels, it’s required.

New features have been added to the gameplay, such as the overhang climbing gear, increasing Lara’s platforming abilities. This allows for interesting set designs, as the developers are not just limited to a particular axis.

The Good

1: Perhaps my favourite aspect of this trilogy has been how it has added layers and layers to the central character. The writers have made brave choices throughout, from putting Lara in a vulnerable place at the start of this trilogy, a complete departure from the Tomb Raider we had known since, to now, when she is so consumed with her mission, she’s willing to take any collateral damage. The game spends the entirety of its prologue to drive home the point that Lara’s obsession has reached the dangerous levels of white saviour colonizer, and when she insinuates that she’s the only one who can save the world, it has her trusted partner, Jonah, tell her quite bluntly, “You’re the only one that can what? You don’t know you caused all this, Lara. Not everything is about you.” Such bold approach to decades-old IPs is rarely seen nowadays and I appreciate the creators taking risks.

2: Quick time events have been replaced with “quick time platforming,” for the lack of a better word. While, like all Tomb Raider games, platforming forms a major chunk of this game as well, it is infused with big, blockbuster-style action sequences, especially when the script allows.

3: Apart from the main campaign, the game offers plenty of catacombs and other points of interests to explore. I completed the main story and a handful of side missions during my play, and after the credits rolled, was told that I was done with about 60% of the game. Even now, part of me wants to go back and explore Paititi, speak to the people to get more missions, trade with merchants, explore underwater caverns.

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4: Something that caught my eye and left me quite impressed was how the game allows you to adjust difficulty granularly. You can adjust it independently across the three main elements of the gameplay: Combat, Puzzles, Exploration. It’s a minor thing, but sometimes it’s the little things that matter the most.

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The Bad

1: While, yes, certain elements have been added to the gameplay and others have been polished for this iteration, I couldn’t help shake this feeling that game feels “soulless.” The game is a step forward in some way, but that step forward feels superficial. Perhaps – and I know already that the next half of this sentence will sound controversial, so I’m putting a lengthy pause here, a trigger warning, so to speak, that take this with an open mind – the Tomb Raider formula of big, blockbuster action-adventure, reinvented with the 2013 reboot, is starting to stale. I had the same feeling with 2018’s Hitman 2 (that you’ll notice we didn’t review, contrary to how we’ve reviewed pretty much every game in that series). I had incredible fun, don’t get me wrong, it is that familiarity with the gameplay that perhaps keeps me coming, but if you don’t build upon that gameplay, add or subtract a few elements, or maybe drown the player in an engaging story, that familiarity, coupled with the hours that these games demand, can lead to boredom.

2: Glitches, ahoy!

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Did it take away your torso though, Jonah?

I played this in 2020, two years after it was released, on Stream, yet Eidos Montréal still hasn’t bothered putting in some patches to fix the game. What’s even more disappointing, and frustrating, is that these are not one-off instances, you’ll bump into some weird issue once every hour of your gameplay, and that’s no exaggeration.

3: Although the game wants you to experience the ruthlessness of Lara, how she has turned into this ice-cold killing machine, her hand-to-hand combat do little to justify that. Her dodge is still that hurried little scuttle and roll from 2013 and her melee weapon, the trusted climbing axe, is largely ineffective on most enemies. I understand that melee combat is not supposed to be the main element of the gameplay, but when you do find yourself in one, the existing mechanism does a disservice to the experience the game wants you to have.

Conclusion

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is not a bad game. It’s not good either, though. It’s underwhelming. It’s part of the countless entities in this age of relentless pop culture releases that you describe to your friends as “yeah, that was alright, I guess.”

You may also like:

Review: TOMB RAIDER: LEGEND (2006)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: ANNIVERSARY (2007)

Review: TOMB RAIDER: UNDERWORLD (2008)

Review: TOMB RAIDER (2013)

Review: RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER (2015)

About Amandeep Singh Virdi

My name is Amandeep Singh Virdi and I love video games among other things that include comics, films, music, and pro wrestling. Follow me @thatvirdiguy on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever.
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