Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Xbox version tested
I thought this one would be a worthwhile review, particularly as it seems to be currently available for around £15.00. The reboot of Tomb Raider was released end of the last console generation/beginning of this one to great plaudits. It’s follow up Rise of The Tomb Raider, also took me by surprise as the series was officially back doing its self-justice again. That said, I don’t seem to remember any of these recent additions to the series to have had the same impact such as the moment you came across a T-Rex in Lara’s very first outing all those years ago.
As we all could have guessed, the game sees protagonist Lara Croft on another expedition, joined by her bezzie mate, Jonah in the third chapter of this trilogy. This time set in South America collecting artefacts and still carrying on the battle with Trinity. Lara inadvertently manages to unleash a series of Mayan apocalyptic disasters by removing an ancient dagger in an attempt to stop Trinity getting their dirty little mitts on it (and probably taking over the world). This outing is billed by the developer as Lara becoming the Tomb Raider she was destined to become by preserving through her “darkest hour”. Let’s see if it lives up to it.
After some snooping around a village market place and some brief exploration, Lara discovers a temple and removes the Dagger of Ix Chel and the first apocalyptic disaster is unleashed, a tsunami. An action escape sequence ensues. The second cataclysm, a giant storm, causes Lara’s plane to then crash into the Peruvian jungle and the main part of the game proceeds.
Early on in the game there does not feel like there is too much combat as previous outings, this time centring around the exploration of the Mayan jungle and the hidden city of Paititi. Exploration was what the series was founded on and famous for, so it is good to see this return strongly. In addition, there are challenge tombs to locate that provide Lara with further equipment, that carry perks to assist with Lara with her adventure. Whilst the challenge tombs added further variety to the adventure and a further nod to the series past. I have to say, I felt in the main, they were too short and too easy and lacked any real challenge.
As with the previous games in this rebooted series. You go back through the usual loop of finding your weapons and losing them, to find them again. I do find games that follow the pattern of progress walls where find all your weapons, lose all your weapons a little unimaginative for today’s age. I am pretty sure in 2018 (or now 2019) game devs could think of something else to come up with to keep us coming back to a game.
The game does feel at times as though it has evolved into a bit of a collectathon. Sure collecting relics from tombs is what series is based on, but there is so much to collect. Not just in tombs but particularly in the hub areas. I really felt the collecting slowed the pace of the game. XP to level Lara up, artefacts so you can read glyphs, equipment crafting materials, weapons, ammunition, maps, designs for new outfits with abilities. The list just goes on. I felt as though I was constantly clicking my analogue stick in a bid to raise Lara’s perception sense to reveal items I may miss. But it is a personal choice, I guess you can just not bother.
The hubs often contained a side mission in each area to help out a resident of the village with, what felt like a pretty menial task usually revolved around travelling to “A” go-to “B” onto “C” and back to “A” to collect a reward. Pretty uninspiring, and again avoidable if you are not a completionist.
For those into Lara’s back story, there is a section where you play as Lara as a young girl in a flashback exploring her home and its grounds, whilst her father was still alive. It again involves puzzles and exploration, but without the combat, and gives an insight into her relationship with her father and how she began honing her skills as “the Tomb Raider” from a young age before you return back to the current time.
When you are out of the hub areas the collecting shrinks down and the action returns and thankfully reaches the heights we expect of a Tomb Raider game. There are really good escape set pieces and the camouflage mechanic adds a strategic element to combat, or if that fails, go in all guns blazing. With exploration, there is a considerable amount of climbing and rappelling. I do like the structure of how the paths/routes do all somehow loop back round to the main hub areas, it is some clever game design and keeps things nicely tied together. As much as I enjoyed the combat, I did find the final showdown lacking and it was nothing I had not seen before
The Xbox One X enhancements are really nice. you have the choice of 4K at 30 FPS or 1080P at 60FPS. I preferred the look of the 4K mode. The environments looked fantastic coupled with some of the water, fire and lighting effects they really do look sweet. You will notice them as they are very pleasing on the eye, my personal fave is probably the lighting effect for sun’s beams coming through the water as you rise up to the surface.
I found the games difficulty curve fair. The combat is not too challenging as long as you use the environment to your advantage. Picking up on the stealthy camouflaged areas or using strategically placed items to distract enemies. Or trees to climb up so you can string enemies up by their balls using your rope arrows. The game features an autosave feature (side point, whatever happened to those blue save crystals from the original game?) that appears to save approximately every 30 seconds, so even if you are rubbish, you have a fair chance of progression without much concern.
If you like Tomb Raider, this is a good game. It didn’t quite reach the heights of Rise of The Tomb Raider for me, probably due to the amount of collecting involved and lack of originality, but with the subject matter that may be difficult to change. But it is certainly an enjoyable romp with Lara that looks and feels great (I’ve probably just made a nerds week with that line) and I would recommend to anyone who is a fan of the series or the genre.
TBG Score 7.5/10
Platform: Steam, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Release Date: 14/09/2018
No. of Players: 1
Category: Action, Adventure
Developer: Eidos Montreal
Publisher: Square Enix
Download link: Microsoft Store