Shadow of the Tomb Raider for me was a complete mixed bag. My reasoning behind this has to do with my love of the original 1996 game. I must say now that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is actually quite reminiscent of its roots, as in more focused on the actual tomb raiding and less gunplay, I never felt that this game was a more in-depth experience than what I had back in 1996.
And that’s all down to the linearity of its levels. The hubs okay felt full of life I can’t deny that, especially when you get to Paititi, easily the biggest of them all. Even in the jungle areas things felt busy. Animals roamed around, trees were climbable and there were of course the collectables (I’ll go into more depth soon) to find hidden in nooks and crannies. But the feeling of open worldliness was soon disrupted by the fact you had to crawl through a small hole to get to the next section.
I call it bottle necking, and not in the traditional GPU better than your CPU issues sense. More like if bottles were stacked on top of eachother. You explore the open area which is the main section of the bottle, only to then walk through a corridor, the skinny part at the top just to be greeted by another large explorable area. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is littered with them, and it’s quite distracting.
Each area I came across though I must say is stunning. I played in 4K with a beefy gaming PC and everything just looks incredible. The water glistened from the sun, the rocks looked like rocks, and even fire effects which are some of the hardest to pull off looked convincing enough for me. I can only imagine right now what it would look like with full ray-tracing turned on, something that we’re all yet to see. Hurry up nVidia am I right?
I know it feels like I’m shitting all over this game but but I assure you I’m not. There are absolutely glorious parts to Shadow of the Tomb Raider which I will discuss. I just wanted to get a chunk of bad stuff out of the way first.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider continues on from the story of Rise of the Tomb Raider, and starts off with Lara collecting a knife she really had no business in touching. It caused chaos, and it was up to Lara to put things right. She didn’t seem overly guilty about what she had done, even though kids were being flung into a mudslide to die right in front of her eyes.
From here you find yourself battling against Trinity to restore the world back to a calm state, which of course you do. You’re Lara Croft! The story to the game isn’t particularly challenging to follow, but it was a great story none-the-less which kept me gripped to completion. It also sees you explore some really cool places and fight some distinct enemies like the Yaaxil.
Battles can be approached either run and gun or stealth. If you choose the latter you get a decent choice of ways to kill enemies. Hug leaf covered walls waiting for your time to strike, hide in long grass stalking your prey, hide in trees to string your enemies up, there’s enough variation here to keep you interested. Run and gun style however, the easier approach I must say and a couple of well placed head shots with the pistol finished off enemies easily. Which brings me onto my next point, the skill and levelling system.
The amount of power your guns do, or the amount of resources you collect from a single scavenge are determined by the collectable system. Different outfits also do different things to aid Lara in her mission. But none really felt significant enough to need to use them. I finished the game myself by only using Lara’s standard shirt and chinos and the outfits I was promoted to wear to push the story forward. Apart from that, I never felt I needed to use a special outfit to really improve my skill in-game. Nor by the end was I levelling up my weapons.
The most enjoyment I got out of the actual game were the challenge tombs, which were each different from the last. It gave me a chance to get my thinking cap on to solve the various puzzles that were thrown at me. There are nine in total, each giving a unique award. Whether a skill knocked off of the skill tree or a costume, none felt significant. I was more impressed I had actually completed the tomb. However, there were no wrong paths to take, enforcing my point at the beginning of the review. I wanted to turn around a corner, follow the corridor, only to be turned around. Like a maze. But it never happened.
Crafting makes an appearance, giving players the chance to craft outfits as well as what I would call potions to give you health and focus during combat. Focus does things like slow down time while aiming for a shot or make cover glow so you know where to dart to next. It’s a nice injection into the game that was missing from previous titles, and definitely helps during those tougher combat sections with the guys in heat goggles.
Lara is very capable of most tasks from the get-go, making exploration a little redundant in this game. However, the challenge tombs are very satisfying to complete. There’s also a real sense of this game feeling like an on-rails narrative type title, like Heavy Rain or Fahrenheit. It’s controversial of me to say, but for all of Shadow of the Tomb Raider faults, it’s still a bloody wonderful game to experience. I would just wait for a sale to get your hands on a copy.