Also On: PS4, PC
Publisher: Square Enix
*Update: The initial score of B- was incorrect and updated to the proper score of B+.
I remember the day the original Tomb Raider was released back on the original PlayStation like it was yesterday. My uncle Steve took me to a mom and pop game store, that coincidentally I would end up working at several years later, to buy some games. Back in 1996, you learned about new releases either via game magazines, or from the workers at the stores. For me, I loved to walk in and find games I didn?t know about until I discovered them in the stores.
Resident Evil was one of those games and ended up being in my top three franchises of all time. Tomb Raider was one of those games that I discovered in store and took a chance on. Who knew, almost 22 years later that Lara would be a video game icon with over a dozen releases including both memorable and simply forgettable titles. (Yes, I?m talking about you Angel of Darkness).
One of my favorite things about the series were the puzzles. There was something about spending hours, trying to get platforms in the right place, pulling the proper switch, or timing a jump just right that was overwhelmingly satisfying once accomplished. I mean don?t get me wrong, I despised the other hours of dying repeatedly lol.
One of the games biggest obstacles during its infancy were of course the controls. They were very reminiscent of Resident Evil tank style controls that were a bit cumbersome and borderline game breaking in some respects. Fast forward to 2013 where we were treated to a proper reboot that gave new life to Lara Croft and her adventures. The new series has found a way to take some of the best components of the original games and marry them with a fresh take for today?s gamers.
We have now been given Lara?s biggest and potentially most dangerous adventure 5 years later. It may be her biggest, but is it her best? I think it really depends on who you ask. I?ve enjoyed most of my time with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, but there is something about it that doesn?t have me in love with it like its predecessors.
The modern series has evolved with each release and you can expect things to change for better or worse. For me, I wasn?t a huge fan of the vast amount of combat in “Rise of the Tomb Raider”. This is something they have addressed, and the core components of the game seems to have a much better balance this time around.
During my initial 10 hours of gameplay, I felt the pacing between exploration, puzzle solving and combat to feel natural and sooth. The new combat tactics were something that made the combat more enjoyable because Eidos-Montr?al found a way for me to enjoy stealth mechanics. The ability to put mud over yourself and blend in with the new jungle environment was a match made in heaven.
I also have found myself using the bow and arrow almost exclusively, and with this new-found balance in the combat, it works well. Now that I think back, I have barely used a firearm, which works for me. It also shows you how much Lara has grown as a Tomb Raider. We?ve watched her develop her survival skills and they are much relied on this time around as she explores jungles, tombs and even disasters like a Tsunami early on.
Shadows of the Tomb Raider is a game that is most enjoyed after completing the previous two games. The narrative ties into each other and serves as a closer to a trilogy. In this case, its not only the story components that are vital for understanding Shadow, but also the journey Lara has made this far. We?ve had some amazing adventure games in the same vein of Tomb Raider, like the Uncharted series that clearly inspired the latest rendition of the series, but Lara is still a unique and memorable character all her own.
This time around, something about Lara seems off, and that is my biggest gripe with the game. She has becoming increasingly more strategic and daring in her journey to stop Trinity, but she is simply not a people person. Seeing Lara in new parts of the world including the ancient city of Paititi. The world hubs are the largest they have been, and at first glance, I was intrigued but that vast number of NPCs you could interact with.
This was short-lived for me because I felt most of the dialog was forced and not particularly insightful. This was most noticeable for me when I first entered Paititi. It?s not like being in another country where there is usually just a language barrier that Lara could have taken the time to learn. It?s more about how unphased the people of this hidden city were when meeting and conversing with Lara. It?s not a deal breaker for the game because let?s remember, its just that, a game. I think this is one of the reasons I?m not as immersed in the game as I have been in the past.
The puzzles and traversing are what I enjoyed in the game the most. It?s been quite some time since I have been stumped by a puzzle where I go to search for tips online and realized, the game isn?t out yet as of the time of my playthrough and encouraged me to figure it out the old-fashioned way. There is that traditional sense of accomplishment that had me reminiscing the original games.
One of the stand out moments in the game for me had to be the significant time spent in the water having to take short air breaks in between gave me flashes back to the first two PlayStation games. Some of these parts, were borderline control breaking for me, but in the end, they added a refreshing form of traversing and puzzle solving in an untraditional sense. Despite Lara?s years of experience, she continues to find herself in some crazy near-death experiences that don?t feel rehashed.
This may not be Lara?s best adventure, but it?s a solid ending to a rebooted franchise that I would gladly revisit. It?s easily the best-looking game in the series and playing on both an Xbox One X and PS4 Pro shows how much the visuals have evolved. Like Rise, you can choose between a high framerate or high resolution, both which look equally as gorgeous.
Note: Square Enix provided us with a Shadow of the Tomb Raider Xbox One code for review purposes.