First things first. Lara Croft is once again all grown up. Created by Eidos Montreal with the helping hand of Crystal Dynamics, this new Tomb Raider installment follows Lara as she tries to stop Order of Trinity once again as well. They’re still in search of artifacts that have the ability to destroy the world, but Croft is still trying to foil their plans as usual. The overall game is basically about Lara’s harrowing tale of her realizing how valuable friendship is as well as fully understanding her own morality. Although, it’s not always brought together in a way that’s satisfying enough in our opinion.

The final chapter of this reboot of Lara Croft’s trilogy is kind of a very complicated one. It also might just simultaneously be the most accomplished chapter so far. However, it often trips over the weight of its very own ambition. Whether it’s the exploration, combat or narrative of the game, a lot in this new Tomb Raider installment still kind of feels that the developers could’ve offered much more than what they’ve given us. But, don’t get it twisted, we aren’t in any way saying it’s bad. It consistently does super well in many areas. It’s just that this new installment falls short as compared to its predecessors.

Odd performance pictures and troubled pacing may discourage your investment in the game a bit. This may be largely due to the absence of the writing prowess and talent of Rhianna Pratchett. You can feel that difference in the depth of the overall storyline. This new installment was definitely a very tricky one to review but we managed.

A Fantastic World

World Tomb Raider

The world surrounding all the tombs in the game might be the biggest one just yet. It’s nothing like you’ve ever seen before. Oh, and all that space is not just for show by the way. It’s brimming with activity and life as well as being filled with intricate hub regions for your exploration. The Hidden City of Paititi is particularly one of those areas. A lot of your time will be spent in and around that location. This is the first time in Tomb Raider’s history you can wander your surroundings and talk to a select number of NPCs. You can listen to their history and stories as well as watch them go about their daily rituals.

While the character that has been injected into this new world is greatly appreciated, the activities themselves are not as uniformly compelling as one would expect. Lack of proper incentive is partly to blame for this. However, exploring craves and crypts are much more fun in this new installment and Lara has a fantastic selection of weapons and outfits all of which are used to make it easier to find and hunt animals. From the get-go, you learn that Croft is an extremely capable warrior. Her skill-tree and arsenal can be filled easily by merely completing challenge tombs and story missions.

This new Tomb Raider installment also has a larger amount multi-part side missions as compared to its previous counterpart. While it offers a much more complex look at inhabitants located in these hubs as well as how Croft interacts with all of them, they aren’t particularly interactive. ‘Clear-the-area’ objectives and fetch quests don’t have the amount of imagination as compared to the challenge tombs.

The Art Of Stealth

Stealth Tomb Raider

There’s not a lot of gun-blazing combat in this new installment, and while it isn’t that particularly revolutionary or novel, at least this Tomb Raider mixes things up by demanding a stealthy approach in its fighting formula. She’s a mere mortal human being who can succumb to a handful of hits. Everything about the battlegrounds in this game is mostly, if not all, about optimizing quiet tactics. Trees that can be climbed offer quiet crouching perches and she can now hang her enemies off tree branches using her grapple ax. Something similar to what Batman does in his games. Pretty cool, no?

A new addition that has managed to genuinely keep the mix fresh is the edible plants Lara Croft can feed off on the fly. These awards her several temporary statuses features such Focus. This is when you slow down time when preparing to take a shot. Endurance is another temporary status effect and this one temporarily softens your enemies’ blows. Both these features happen to be particularly useful around midway in the campaign were new and aggressive enemy types begin to demand quicker reflexes as well as sharper aim.

Sadly though, there is no Expedition mode in this installment, however, there’s a New Game Plus feature that starts after the main story’s credits roll through. It offers you special gear based game time according to the style you intend to play with. Also, after your done with the main story, you can still wander around the world.

Puzzling But Really Powerful

For most of the game, Lara Croft spends a lot of her time by herself. The tomb raiding practice actually takes center stage and main story missions feature fewer firefights as compared to its previous two predecessors. Basically, expect to be much lonelier than before in this new Tomb Raider. However, with this aspect, it kind of feels like they were trying to take us back to how the Tomb Raider games of the ’90s, as well as the early 2000s, felt. The true originals if I do say so myself. They actually managed to pull it off in next-generation gaming. It’s pretty cool.

Our Take

With the main story that satisfactorily treads the line between grounded character exploration and high concept fun, this new installment has managed to wrap the journey Croft started in 2013 convincingly leaving her in a place that resembles where she was more than two decades ago. It’s generally a fantastic game, one that all true Tomb Raider die-hard must try out. As much it has changed it has still tried to the same and that’s what makes it so special. Certainly a two thumbs up from us.

REVIEW OVERVIEW
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
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