Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the last game in the current trilogy and puts Lara Croft through some of the most challenging moments that she’ll experience in her Tomb Raiding life. Trinity is back and this time Lara has to race against time to prevent a Mayan apocalypse from destroying the world. This effectively brings Lara’s adventure to an end and hopefully the next time we hear of Tomb Raider, she’ll be back with a lot more engaging story than this one. There are gameplay as well as technological improvements but with a stark feeling of déjà vu throughout the game.
Kids can write better and more creative openings than what the Tomb Raider games have. The first game, Tomb Raider, started off with an accident on a ship. The second game, Rise of the Tomb Raider, started off in an accident atop a mountain and Shadow of the Tomb Raider starts off as an accident in an airplane. See the resemblance? It’s as if the studio execs came up with a formula that goes somewhat like this
Simply put, there’s no depth to the main story. Going by the fact that Lara’s retracing her father’s steps, we can certainly say that her dad had a much better time than she did. Perhaps the next set of games should be called ‘Daddy Tomb Raider’. Maybe that’ll give the writers enough of an excuse to be creative.
The game is practically a slow-paced
The first thing you’ll notice in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the fact that you now have granularity with the difficulty settings. You can individually control the combat, exploration and puzzle difficulty levels. Moreover, the help screen mentions exactly what each level of setting entails. We went with normal combat difficulty but kept exploration and puzzle difficulty set to max. So the repetitive elements of the game i.e. the combat
The gameplay in Shadow of the Tomb Raider hasn’t changed a lot from Rise of the Tomb Raider except for a few more mechanics that have added to the overall experience. Now you can cling from overhangs and even dangle from the ice-axe. Portions of the walls where you can climb are still highlighted with a slightly different texture, so you’ll easily recognise where you can climb, wall-run or just hang and watch the snow-flakes float by.
Some of the weaponry has been changed up. You now have Fear and Poisonous Lure arrows. The former makes enemies retreat for a while while the latter lures enemies to a spot before blowing up and dispensing poison gas. These are really handy when you have to deal with a mob of enemies at once.
If you’ve played the previous games, then you know that water in the game is merely part of the terrain and all your interactions with it are one dimensional. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you can hold your breath for much longer and that’s because there are entire areas to be explored while underwater.
Lastly, chatting with NPCs in town and elsewhere seem to have received a little extra attention. The lines they utter are not as repetitive as before and the side-quests seem better thought of.
Overall, it seems that the puzzles in the game are worked on, in detail. This is what you’d expect from the primary element of the game. Instead of being mundane and repetitive, each puzzle does make you think in a slightly different way. Perhaps it was the difficulty setting that we went with or perhaps, it genuinely is well done. Kudos to Crystal Dynamics, again. This is why the puzzles came out so well and the game wasn’t that disappointing. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is indeed better than the previous titles in the franchise.
Playing the game on day one was very weird. Shadow of the Tomb Raider has an internal benchmark and we ran it on an GTX 980 Ti. The weird part was that the medium settings produced less FPS than the highest settings did. There’s obviously an internal mechanism that scaled the texture to lower resolutions because the 980 Ti’s frame buffer wasn’t enough. Hopefully, we get a more granular control over the settings in a later patch.
With everything configured, the visuals in the benchmark do not impress but the game feels a lot different. Waltzing through the jungles at night with the moon’s god rays shining through feels awesome. The same can be said for the tombs which show a marked improvement in visual fidelity. The cities, on the other hand, have some really cringe-worthy oversights. Perhaps it was our graphics settings but coming across a lone low-poly object among a bunch of high-poly objects feels odd. Imagine a couple of guys standing in single file and you come across this one dude who looks like a 2D cardboard cutout. Throughout the game, the principal characters are well done but the moment you spot a token NPC or a baddie, then he’ll stand out quite clearly.
Lara herself seems very similar to the previous game and that’s a good thing. Her mannerisms and the way she carries herself, her movements, etc. are all familiar. It’s as if the devs just spruced her up with some extra makeup (graphical improvement) while leaving the person underneath the same. If only they had better writers so that Lara could have been a lot more memorable as a person instead of being just ‘the protagonist’.
Don’t even get us started on the RTX elements. That’s not present in the game and is supposed to ship later in a patch. Maybe, the benchmark looks odd because of this missing feature. It feels as if the non-RTX version has been pulled down a notch so that RTX seems a lot better than it actually is. And like all games in their launch-week, there are plenty of visual bugs that appear odd but should be fixed in the days to come.
Verdict – Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Last of the current trilogy and best among all three games, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has quite a few new elements and a lot that’s just seen an incremental change. We’d like to say that the two-studio approach was executed in a better way with Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
Usually, the ancillary studio just makes assets but with the way Crystal Dynamics has done the puzzles, we’d say that Square Enix should continue this approach and get some better writers. The game is certainly the best in the series and serves as a fitting end to the current trilogy.
Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One
Price: Rs.3,499 / 3,999 / 4,000
Developer: Eidos Montréal, Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
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