shadow of the tomb raider
Lara Croft and the raider of the lost dark
“When the game throws puzzles at you, those puzzles are hard”
PublisheR Square Enix Developer Eidos Montreal Format Xbox One ETA 14 September 2018
Within the first 30 minutes of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider, you hear a line, word-for-word, from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. That sets the scene, really – that shows you what Tomb Raider is based on, what it wants to be, and why you’re playing it.
You’re a gung-ho adventurer. A tough-as-nails young buck, eyes set on ancient treasure. Yes, Lara may have changed since her polygonal prototype, but the setup is the same: you boot up a Tomb Raider game keen to kick ass, and raid tombs. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider certainly has both of those elements in spades… but perhaps to its detriment.
Lara and Jonah are back, and so are Trinity – the mysterious organisation that has plagued the tomb-raiding duo over the last five years. Since 2013, in both Tomb Raider and Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Trinity have been outpacing Lara at every turn – proving to be more than a thorn in her side. The group is effectively after a pair of relics that, if used correctly, can bring about the end of the world. No pressure, then.
The opening of the game sets you off in a small South American village, filled with NPCs all celebrating an event analogous to Mexico’s Day of the Dead: skulls, face paint and candles everywhere. You have to talk to people to discover the location of the next area you’re to plunder, and it’s actually a real nice reintroduction to Lara as a character. Shadow will apparently have a big hub city that you’ll be based out of, where you take missions, subquests, items and more.
That seems like a great way of making Lara more personable: hopefully it’ll communicate more about her character and her growth than the dreary internal monologues she’s been lumbered with up until now. When she gets out into the jungle, the ol’ killer is back, though.
We imagine the mood board at Eidos – no, not Crystal Dynamics this time – has a lot of Predator and Rambo screens on it. Lara’s acute senses return, giving you ‘detective mode’ to pick out your opponents and their movements from range, and the majority of what we played saw Lara hiding in vines, breaking necks and jolting from cover to cover in order to execute grizzly murder.
If you know the rebooted series, you’ll know this isn’t anything new – stealthy combat is bread and butter to the series by this point – but it still feels gratuitous, at odds with what Eidos is trying to do with her character. When the game throws puzzles at you, though, those puzzles are hard and that’s something legacy Lara fans are going to enjoy the most.
Our favourite bit of the demo, for example, had Lara working out how to form a rudimentary pulley system using tethered arrows, and arrange them intelligently, forming pathways and staircases to deeper, unexplored parts of a moonlit Aztec-themed tomb. The feel of the place – wonder mixed with claustrophobia, danger laced with intrigue – is what Tomb Raider does best, and we’re enthusiastic about the prospect of spelunking into more of these uncharted areas.
Eidos promises this time that Tomb Raider is actually going to have plenty more honest-to-god, proper tombs to raid, too. If what we’ve played so far is any indication, Shadow is making Lara more brutal, the puzzles more sadistic, and the story more intense. No wonder they opted for the Shadow qualifier in the title… it seems things are getting darker.