Having learned survival skills in 2013’s Tomb Raider, and honed them in 2015’s Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is putting them to the test in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC), the final game in this prequel trilogy. But while this third-person action-packed adventure is as effortlessly fun as the other two, this isn’t just the same game in a new outfit.
When Shadow Of The Tomb Raider begins,
Lara and her BFF Jonah are in the midst of tracking Trinity, the shadowy organization that’s been dogging them since this saga began. After a rather disastrous beginning, they make their way to the jungles of Peru, where they’re hoping to locate an ancient artifact before Trinity can use it to start the apocalypse.
For the most part, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider plays like the other games. The controls are the same, and still silky smooth, and you once again use them to do a bunch of rock climbing, exploring, shooting, and puzzle solving so you can open up new areas to climb, explore, and so on. All of which comes courtesy of an exciting, epic, and cinematically-presented story that takes inspiration from the Indiana Jones movies and similarly pulpy adventure stories.
But Shadow Of The Tomb Raider also builds upon everything that Rise Of The Tomb Raider added to the template established by Tomb Raider. For starters, her pickaxe now has a rappelling attachment. This let’s her lower herself into chasms, do some swinging, and perform wall runs, all in the name of getting from point A to point B without having to hope that nature will provide a conveniently-located vine.
Lara also seems to have taken swimming lessons, and spends as much time underwater as she did in Tomb Raider: Underworld. Of course, this puts herself at of drowning or being eaten by piranha, though both are somewhat mitigated by the underwater caves of Peru having lots of air pockets and tall weeds in which to hide, respectfully.
All of these expanded exploration abilities in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider come in handy given that the tombs this time around are larger and more elaborate. While they’re still largely linear, they often have out of the way areas where Lara can find treasures and supplies. The same is also true for the caves she spelunks.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider…
also expands the geography of the game by giving you some villages to explore, one of which is rather large. While here, Lara can trade with merchants, engage in side quests — some of which are rather elaborate — and, oddly, steal supplies from the locals.
When not shopping, or shoplifting, Lara explores the jungles of Peru. It is here that she sometimes runs into Trinity. But the jungles of Peru do give her one advantage against her enemies: they have a lot of dense shrubbery, which Lara can hide in like the reeds underwater. Except that Lara can use the bushes to, well, ambush the bad guys, something she doesn’t do to the fish. She can even rub mud on her face, which not only opens her pores and keeps her skin looking youthful, but it also helps her stay unnoticed.
Further expanding the stealth action aspects of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, Lara can now climb up onto the branch of some trees and use her bow & arrow to nail enemies and pull them up like she’s Spider-Man. Or just played Spider-Man.
Which isn’t to say these parts make Shadow Of The Tomb Raider feel like Spider-Man. Lara doesn’t have as many wonderful toys as Spidey, nor his aerial abilities, while her hunting grounds are the great outdoors, not the streets of Manhattan.
More importantly, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider feels differently from Spider-Man because it’s a lot less focused on combat. Well, assuming you play it like I did: making sure to look everywhere and do everything. Granted, just playing the main storyline does up the percentage of combat situations, but it also renders the game a lot less varied, and thus less interesting.
the combat parts you do engage in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider are, well, engaging. The battlefields are often spread out, with plenty of places to hide This not only gives Lara opportunities to use stealth to thin out the herd, but it also gives her enemies opportunities to attack from multiple angles, and her the same. Though there are times when Lara and her adversaries get to be more trigger-happy.
Thanks to all the new additions, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is more varied than its predecessors, but is as engaging and fun. Unfortunately, it also has some of the same problems.
For starters, while Shadow Of The Tomb Raider once again lets Lara use her considerable skills of observation to locate enemies, places to hide, her next objective, and so on, highlighted items, places, and enemies don’t stay that way. Which is not only annoying, since you have to repeatedly press that button while running around, it’s also out of character. It’s not like Lara would forget where she’s going, or that there’s a box of ammo under that bush, or where the bad guy she’s tracking has wandered off to. And no, improving this skill or taking some special herbs doesn’t help much.
Similarly, it’s weird how, when Lara is in a dark cave or tomb, she often forgets to turn on her flashlight. This not only makes it hard to see where to go, and easy to get turned around, but given all she’s learned over the course of these games, you think remembering to use her flashlight would be second nature by now.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider also doesn’t have the kind of inventive acrobatics that were a highlight of her early, pre-prequel adventures. Sure, the climbing is more elaborate here than it was in the first two games, but I still miss when she used to do a back flip onto an incline, and have to perfectly time a jump so she’d land on the vine she needs to swing on to get to the ledge where the idol is being kept.
That said, the rock climbing in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider does get rather clever and challenging at times. It just never requires you to pull off some perfectly-timed gymnastics.
Even with these annoying issues,
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is still an exhilarating, addictive, and ultimately satisfying end to Lara Croft’s coming of age trilogy. While it may not be the same game as the previous two installments, it is just as effortlessly fun and compelling, as well as a satisfying end to this trilogy.