Shadow of the Tomb Raider – First Impressions

At 2018’s San Diego Comic Con, I was provided a sneak peek into the final game in the Tomb Raider trilogy: Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

In this game, we travel to an isolated Mayan village, where the locals have accepted Lara into their ranks. She’s dressed as a rebel, and walks through the town exploring and picking up quests from the villagers.

Graphically speaking, Shadow of the Tomb Raider does not fail to amaze, giving attention to detail on foreground, background, all the items in the game, and Lara’s movement dynamics.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider introduces a much requested element to the game: swimming! Underwater sequences are intense experiences. The creators wanted a cinematic feel to the game, which means no HUD or UI will be on the screen. For swimming, this means that you do not actually have a breath bar. You need to rely on your own timing, paired with darkening screen edges, and controller vibrations as clues to how much time Lara has remaining. This becomes even more dramatic when you add in dangers such as spiked blockades, eels, piranhas, and falling rocks that pin Lara down or trap her. It’s notoriously difficult for me to feel bad about killing someone in a game (I tend to test game parameters by jumping off a cliff just to see what happens), so I was definitely impressed by how effective Shadow was at causing that feeling of tension and urgency with the underwater sequences.

The gameplay looks on paper like it’s from the Assassin’s Creed or Batman Arkham series, but writer Jill Murray (who incidentally worked on a few Assassin’s Creed games!) assured me that they are not similar. After playing the demo, I would agree.. but for those of us who are concerned for Lara’s sharp lean-in to the world of serial killing, there are usually peaceful ways to avoid her enemies. Keep in mind that she is largely out-manned and out-gunned. Sometimes the enemy even uses air support to help locate her, which would make stealth all that much more difficult, therefore limiting her options of getting around the guards without killing them.

Another fun feature is the use of clothing with a purpose! In Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara got to change outfits, but they didn’t really do much for her. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara has the option to purchase or discover several outfit types, and they give bonuses to certain things, like climbing efficiency, or protection from certain weapons.

Also new to the game is rope rappelling, where Lara can use her rope and axe to move down a cliff and swing to a nearby surface, which will definitely come in handy with these new, deadlier tombs. It’s entirely possible that, should you make one wrong move in a tomb puzzle, you end up adding to that pile of bones in the corner.

The developers behind this game stressed the huge amounts of research and detail that went into the creation of this game, down to hiring historians to help them create a true-to-life experience that mirrors reality. There are a few liberties taken (the actual people tend to migrate North, but this fictional town migrated South, for example), but they believe they’ve captured the essence of the culture accurately and with utmost respect.

The gameplay is smooth, beautiful, and engaging, and the writers assure me that any and all burning questions about what’s next for Lara Croft’s story will be answered in this game.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is releasing on September 14th 2018, for PS4, XBOX One, and PC!

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