Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a satisfying conclusion to Lara’s origin story (review)

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This is it. Lara Croft has finally transformed into the ultimate predator in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third game in the action adventure rebooted series. She’s back with more abilities and weapons, and this time she’s headed to the lost city of Paititi in Peru. And you know what that means? Lots of temples and of course, tombs and crypts. (Because you can’t have a Tomb Raider game without raiding tombs.)

Lara Croft and her best friend Jonah are hot on the trail to get an artifact before Trinity, the evil organization that has been a nuisance in Lara’s life ever since she was a kid, retrieves it. We’re introduced to the villain of the game, Doctor Dominguez, the leader of Trinity’s High Council. What makes him interesting is that he sees himself as a savior, and he’s willing to do anything to reshape the world in order to save those he cares about. However, Lara knows that Trinity isn’t to be trusted, so she’ll have to be one step ahead to stop them.

As the ultimate predator, Lara will have an arsenal of killer moves and weapons. She’ll have access to shotguns, assault rifles, pistols, and her weapons of choice, the bow. (Sorry, dual-wielding pistols won’t be making an appearance.) With weapons, players will be able to upgrade them using materials found throughout the jungle and villages; for example, they can improve reloading, rate of fire, damage, accuracy, and ammo capacity.

One of the coolest new moves is Eagle’s Talon, which allows Lara to shoot a rope arrow at an enemy while on a branch and then hanging them high on the tree. To help Lara survive longer in battle, there are plants that can help reduce damage, sense enemies, or slow time while aiming. When you’re surrounded by a bunch of soldiers, you’ll need all the help you can get, because there will be all types of enemies looking to stop you dead.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Another new addition to the series is the ability to blend in thanks to mud. (Rambo is definitely an inspiration.) This allows Lara to cover herself in mud, making her almost invisible to the eye.

Unlocking Skills are back, and these include being able to quickly regenerate health, unlocking Focus to slow down time, stealth killing two nearby enemies back to back, reducing noise from traversing, and many more. By gaining XP, players will slowly get Skill Points to spend on Skills.

Lara will also have different outfits that will help her survive. Some outfits are craftable, and these can help with reducing noise for stealth or getting you more experience points for hunting. There are outfits from Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, and you can also be a pixelated version of Lara in the classic Tomb Raider game.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider classic Lara Croft

The tombs are back, and these will be spread out throughout the game. Once again, completing the tomb will net Lara with a special ability, like breathing underwater for longer periods of time. The puzzles in the tombs are definitely tougher this time around, in my opinion. There was a tomb that stumped me for quite a while, which resulted in me thinking way outside the box. Here’s a tip: the solution is usually right in front of you and simplistic.

A big component of the Tomb Raider franchise is platforming. Lara will have to jump and climb to reach tough areas, and she’ll have different tools to help her out. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara will be able to rappel, allowing her to swing across gaps. Another move is the ability to climb upside down, and this will give a few people a fear of heights.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is adding another RPG element with a hub world. The lost city of Paititi is the biggest hub in the game, and it is filled with life. The people will offer side missions, and others will buy and sell items from you like a large bag for carrying more ammunition, bows, machine guns, attachments and more. If you’re getting tired of all the action from the main story, the hub cities can help you unwind. It also gives Lara a chance to show her humanity by helping out a local in need.

The game triples down on the relationship between Lara Croft and Jonah. These two friends have been there for each other since Tomb Raider (2013), and it’s really nice to see them grow together. Yes, there are heated moments about what’s the right thing to do, but they really do respect each other. Since they are partners in crime, that means Jonah will be getting his own little arc. If you’re a fan of Jonah, then you’ll get a kick out of his journey.

One minor gripe I had with Shadow of the Tomb Raider was the reliance on Survival Instinct, which mutes the colors around you and shows vibrant ones for points of interests. (Yes, it has been featured in the previous games.) The game has a lot of hidden items, and those who are completionists will rely heavily on using it. In addition, players will be facing a lot of tough enemies, and it will help them with sneaking around since they’ll be able to track enemies easily. But because of this, it does break the immersion of the game. Well, the good thing is that you don’t have to use it at all, but it’s hard to NOT use it.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a satisfying conclusion to Lara Croft’s origin, and we’re excited about what’s next for the franchise. The game never feels dull thanks to the balancing of action, platforming and puzzles. The villain is compelling, and Lara gets to show her softer side with the people she’s trying to help. The visuals are gorgeous, especially seeing the city of Paititi and other jungles from far away. These are all the ingredients that make a very captivating and entertaining game.

Rating: 4.5/5 Atoms

A copy of Shadow of the Tomb Raider was provided by Square Enix for review purposes.

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