So this is it. The conclusion to Lara Croft’s rebooted Tomb Raider series. She’s had a bit of a transformation over the years and it is apparently in Shadow of the Tomb Raider that her transformation into the ‘Tomb Raider’ is complete. What does that all mean? I’m not entirely sure, but does her trilogy end in a satisfactory manner? Read on my fellow Lara fans!
So it’s been touted that this third game she finally becomes the ‘Tomb Raider’ she was born to be. Only problem is, I personally didn’t notice this revelation. I remember in the very first Tomb Raider game, she started off as this under-developed adventurer, someone who wasn’t all too experienced in what she was expected to become.
By the end of the first game, I felt she was pretty much there. She became the butt-kicking Tomb Raider that we remembered from the Playstation 1 era series. If anything, by the Shadow of the Tomb Raider, she’s actually become a little more reckless and getting herself into more trouble. Her friend Noah acts as kind of her guiding light, and Noah actually grew on me more so than Lara herself!
The way Shadow of the Tomb Raider starts off kind of proves my point. She recklessly steals a sacred artefact from its temple, and as a result, starts in motion a world-ending apocalypse. Then of course she must set out to stop the very mess she started.
Still, the overall story involving the apocalypse is a nice plot-point, the only problem is, it feels like it takes a backseat for a lot of the game. The remainder of the story simply reverts back to what we’ve all gone through in these type of games before. You must set out to find another sacred artefact, only to have a rival (with their army) get in your way.
Seriously, why is the exact same story repeated in games like this? We had it in every Uncharted game, and now basically in every Tomb Raider game. Can no one think of anything else?
Luckily I was still engaged in the story for the most part, but it do wish the story was solely about this apocalypse and not about beating your rival enemy to the next item that needed collecting. At least the main story and the raised stakes are established early and do a good job of pulling you in early.
Even though there are many semi-open areas, I swear this Tomb Raider feels more linear than the previous games, but maybe it was just me. It seemed that you spent most time just plodding along the path, killing a few bad guys along the way, and doing very few puzzles along the way. When I say plodding along the path, I also mean linear platforming, or I like to call it- ‘scripted platforming’.
If you’ve played the Uncharted games, you know that all you need to do is hold in the direction you need to climb, and jump occasionally . The same is true in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and it felt like I was going through this ‘scripted platforming’ for the majority of the game.
Sure it looks great, but there’s not much skill involved, and is overdone in my opinion. There needed to be a balance between platforming, combat, and puzzles. Once again, like in previous Tomb Raider games, the puzzles are well hidden from you.
While I understand why they do this, I can’t help but be annoyed by this. The puzzles and tombs on the main path are very rare, and mostly easy to do. The rest of them are hidden well, and will require optional exploring to find them.
My problem with that is it just feels kind of insulting. Do SquareEnix have such little faith in us that they have a hide the ‘hard stuff’ to make sure the casuals aren’t scared off by the slightly more difficult puzzles? I though Tomb Raider was meant to be about solving puzzles inside tombs? There just wasn’t enough of it during the main story to be satisfying, and to be honest, I really didn’t have enough motivation by the end to backtrack and find the remaining tombs.
It’s kind of sad really, because the tombs in these games are without a doubt the best part, and shouldn’t be hidden from us. Normally I’m all up for tracking them and solving them all, but for some reason it just wasn’t resonating with me this time around. The tombs I did complete though were well designed and I enjoyed every one of them.
With each passing Tomb Raider game in the rebooted series, I find myself caring less and less. Maybe it’s the lack of evolution and innovation throughout the series, but I’ve felt less motivated with each one. I adored the first one and felt like a breath of fresh air, but sometimes that air can start to get old, and will need a complete change again.
Speaking of getting old, even the character development didn’t feel fresh. As I looked at the skill selection screen, I was overwhelmed by all the choices, but looking closer at those choices, I felt that most of them weren’t really enticing. There were hardly any abilities that jumped out at me as ‘must haves’, and at times I just chose anything without much thought because I felt like it wasn’t going to add much anyway.
If you’re going to have RPG elements, they need to feel like they’ll improve your character and make them better than before, but it just didn’t feel like that, and often I’d build up skill points and forgetting to spend them.
Speaking of RPG elements, there’s gear to craft and collect, but again it just didn’t feel worthwhile. There wasn’t a whole lot of gear to find, and I just stuck with what I had early on because anything else I found didn’t seem worth it. Maybe that’s why I didn’t bother with finding all the tombs- because the rewards didn’t seem worth going after. Plus even when you earned a new piece of gear, you still had craft it with materials anyway! Why?!
From a technical point of view, the game looks and still plays great! The views and locations are spectacular, and retains that polish we expect from Tomb Raider (and SquareEnix) games. There were a few annoyances, like Lara’s senses not always highlighting objects, but for the most part everything else worked great.
One thing I actually really loved was the different difficulty setting, as you can set the difficulty for combat, exploration and puzzles! I think this is a great idea that I hope is adopted in more games because it allows you to tailor the experience to your liking.
Not all new ideas paid off, as there are now underwater stealth sections, which I’ve never seen anything like it before! But they tried something different at least, but I can’t say I enjoyed those sections as stealth requires quick and precise movements, and being underwater kind of negates this.
Overall though, I’d say there were more misses than hits in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I still enjoyed the tombs and puzzles, but SquareEnix needs to not be so afraid of us and let us do more of them. They shouldn’t hide the best parts from us, even though they are optional and can still be done, I would have enjoyed it more if they were part of the main path.
That whole feeling of staleness and tiredness of ‘having done it all before’ was felt throughout this adventure, and I think another reboot is needed. I usually love backtracking and completing everything in these type of games, but the fact I couldn’t be bothered this time around really says something!
What I will remember fondly will be those few puzzles I completed, as well as the apocalypse story and the beautiful locations I visited. I still believe there are many more great adventures ahead for Lara Croft, but I think this particular adventure will be left in the shadows.