Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a fitting conclusion to the revamp the series received back in 2013. The third installment in the, now, trilogy doubles down on what made the first two incredible, while also posing a resonating question. “Can you live with the consequences of your actions?”
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is all about actions and their, sometimes immediate, consequences. Lara is a Tomb Raider, she’s good at it, however, she tends to act before thinking about what she is about to take will possibly affect the world around her. This game chooses to focus on that theme, and in doing so delivers a fantastic, emotional story. The dynamic between Lara and her best friend Jonah is how this theme is mainly conveyed. Think of Jonah as the Angel on Lara’s shoulder, while Lara herself represents the “devil”. Obviously, her intentions aren’t evil, they’re just misguided at times, and Jonah is there to remind her of that, usually a little too late.
Instead of saying “I told you so”, Jonah instead chooses to take those moments and use them as a way to knock sense into Lara’s head. Her obsession to find the answers to the questions she has is the driving force behind most of her poor decision making. Obviously, there is a point where Jonah gets fed up with her shit, but their dynamic feels organic to a point where each conversation is nothing but captivating. Their relationship is one of the most crucial driving forces behind Shadow of the Tomb Raider‘s story.
Aside from that, Shadow of the Tomb Raider doubles down on what made the previous installments so damn good. There is a great Indiana Jones-style focus here and it’s complemented by huge, over the top action sequences that leave your heart racing. A big difference players will notice is the increase in exploration and discovery. Things like taking on Trinity bad guys takes a back seat to the emphasis on story and tomb raiding, and honestly, it was a perfect decision for Eidos Montreal to make. Playing on higher difficulties really pushes you to think like Lara and analyze every inch of your surroundings which adds to the immersion, or frustration depending on how perceptive you are.
The map is pretty much open for you to travel where ever you like, and it is crammed with content for you to unearth. Story missions let you explore and traverse your surroundings to your heart’s content, with Trinity encounters sprinkled in for good measure. Aside from the story missions, hidden crypts and challenge tombs are plentiful and deliver some truly puzzling… puzzles. These tombs and crypts don’t recycle old mechanics either, so each one feels fresh and demands you to think outside the box if you want the treasure waiting for you at the end. These optional areas also offer some great experience and loot, so it feels worth your time when you complete them.
The atmosphere adds to these delightful experiences as well. The soundtrack, unique settings and subterranean, paranormal enemy, the Yaksel leave chunks of this game leaning more into the horror genre than anything else. It’s meant to unnerve you, and for the most part, it works in all the right ways.
The world built around Lara is absolutely breathtaking, no matter how eerie some areas may be. The main hub area, Paititi, feels lived in and believable. The inhabitants can be seen going about their daily lives, and it is here where the consequences of Lara’s actions can be seen. NPC’s will react differently to you depending on how much you do for them. If you’re a bleeding heart, like me, the city and its inhabitants will love you for all the help you give. On the other hand, you could completely neglect all of their wants and needs and leave them to fend for themselves as they have for hundreds of years. Doing so, however, means that you shouldn’t expect them to welcome you with open arms.
When the time to fight does arrive, you might feel Eidos Montreal pushing you towards quietly taking out your enemies. While you can absolutely run in guns blazing, Lara really can’t take too many hits without dying. This almost forces you to play stealthily, which for me wasn’t an issue because I prefer that type of gameplay. However, if you don’t care for ghosting an entire area and prefer to see the fear in your enemy’s eyes as you stab them in the throat, you better make sure you have cover close by. On top of this, enemies almost willingly separate from each other, making them easy targets to take care of one by one. It isn’t until halfway through the game, when the Yaksel come in, that you’re going to need to whip out the big guns.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider delivers another fantastic story and adventure giving a fitting conclusion to the birth of this new Lara Croft. By the end, Lara is more level headed and mature than she was two games ago, and it left me wanting to see where her adventures and clues would take us next. While this trilogy, of sorts, has finally reached its conclusion, I highly doubt this is the last time we’ll be seeing Lara. The future looks pretty bright for this Tomb Raider.