Overall - 80%
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is Lara's most dangerous journey yet, but also her best. Action-adventure aficionados and Tomb Raider fans alike shouldn't hesitate to check this one out.
After two successful entries in 2013 and 2015, Lara Croft returns in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Is this adventure worth taking, or were the other two games enough? Check out our review to find out.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Review
Shadow of the Tomb Raider starts you off in a pretty rough spot. Lara has been exploring some ancient ruins, and there was a cave-in. Now trapped, players must find a way to escape. The ruins area acts as the tutorial for the general platforming of the game. Climbing, jumping, and rappelling are all shown off. After escaping, you are transported to Mexico and are searching for a Dr. Domingues, the antagonist of the story. He is working with Trinity and is after the same artifacts Lara is after.
You follow him around during a ceremony in Mexico for a while, and wind up making your way to a lost temple that the doctor is seeking out. Lara makes her way to the treasure first and grabs it before Trinity can blow their way into the place. The relic is an ancient dagger, said to be a key that can unlock a “cleansing.” Put simply, you do not want the doctor to have it. The removal of this dagger has unattended side effects, bringing forth apocalyptic events all around the globe. A tsunami hits Mexico right after you escape the temple and, of course, you lose the dagger to Domingues. The key, however, isn’t useful alone. If Lara can find the Silver Box before Domingues, she will have a chance to stop the “cleansing” that the doctor intends to bring forth. She flies off to Peru to try and find the box and to beat back Trinity.
When you arrive in Peru, the game opens up. Similar to the last two games, exploration and gathering plays a significant part. You can gather crafting materials, earn skill points, unlock entirely new skills, and even find new outfits this way. Some exploration areas are blocked off by progression, needing certain pieces of equipment to open. The most substantial change to the exploration in the game is in its water traversal. You did do some water exploring in the last game, but it has expanded here. Tombs, gear, statues, and even main story sequences will drive you underwater for extended periods of time. You are forced to manage your breath, worry about dangerous fish and eels, and sometimes find the smallest crack to make your escape from the area. I highly recommend investing in the faster swim perk and the extended breath perk as soon as you can.
Tombs play another significant role when it comes to exploration. These are mini puzzle challenge rooms that will test your wits and your platforming skills. In previous games, the reward for beating these were typically weapon parts. These rewards then spawned the meme about how 2000-year-old ruins had pistol upgrade parts in them. They finally changed that for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Now the end reward is a perk such as quicker health regen or more climbing speed. These are things you don’t need to beat the game, but they will give you more of an edge if you have them. Just be sure to watch out for the traps waiting in literally all of them.
Hunting in this game is more useful than in previous games as well. Now you will need certain animal parts to craft new outfits. You get to experience that hunting in this game won’t be simple early on in the game. When you arrive in Peru, you have to make your way through the jungle, where two jaguars come to stalk you. Later in the game, you are equipped to the gills with weapons, making excursions like these a walk in the park. Early on though, you only have a bow and a knife. Jaguars have thick hides, and with two of them, you always have to be on edge. Don’t even get me started on the creatures underwater that hunt you. You can’t even fight back down there, and when you have to worry about oxygen as well, it makes for some tense situations.
Thankfully there is some civilization, even within the jungle. A storm hit one of the villages in the jungle, but it survived. When Lara arrives, she is treated well and can even do some trading there. The town isn’t the only town in the game; you find another later on. Outside of trading, you can get info about local ruins and other objects of interest in the area. And with all the craziness happening with the weather, plenty of people need help with things, and will reward those willing to lend them a hand. These side quests are easy, though sometimes you have to move quickly to avoid unnecessary deaths.
Combat in the game plays like a typical third-person shooter, albeit one with more of an emphasis on stealth. The new stealth mechanics in this game include navigating walls with foliage and blending in there. You can also now put mud all over yourself to blend in even better with your environment. With your focus vision, you can see if a stealth kill will alert another enemy in the area, which is a welcome addition. Another thing I found interesting was the bottle distraction. You get one for free, but if you toss the second one at the same guard, he will know that something is up. He won’t know where you are, but the guards will be on edge and start actively searching. With your bow, you can make ranged silent kills, but for those of you who want to go in loud, that is also an option. Shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, and explosives will be at your disposal.
During your playthrough of the game, you will get to play as little Lara at Croft Manor. You get to see her origins as an explorer and see where she learned all her climbing skills. The manor itself is impressive, and inside you get one of your first real puzzle challenges of the game. From there you learn more about Lara’s past and her mother and father. You don’t spend a ton of time as little Lara, and overall it doesn’t detract from the experience like some flashback scenes can. For those of you who hate puzzles, there is a difficulty setting for them; players can put the game on Easy and fly through them with hardly any trouble.
I did run into a few problems during my playthrough. One bug forced me to slow down for a story sequence. When the sequence was over, I’d still move slow. That bug was the worst when I had to swim, as I pretty much had to die at that point. There were also some lip sync issues, but a day one patch is supposed to be coming to fix all of this. Patch or not, I can only report on what I experienced. On a positive note, the sound design is incredible. There was a cricket chirping in the game, and I had to mute my TV to make sure it wasn’t in my house. There are a couple of other great sound choices as well, but I don’t want to spoil them.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is Lara’s most dangerous journey yet, but also her best. Action-adventure aficionados and Tomb Raider fans alike shouldn’t hesitate to check this one out.