Lara is back! In her most stressful outing yet she has to overcome all adversaries within her own conscience and her close friends as well as her enemies and oh yeah the world!
Following on from Rise of the Tomb Raider set in the snow-filled land of Siberia Lara now embarks on a journey that takes her through Mexico and Peru. So get out your Camo bottoms and lather up the mud paint and blend in as this review (spoiler free) will open up what you can expect from Shadow of the Tomb Raider and whether it is worthwhile adding to your collection.
Before we begin, just so you know currently you can download Rise of the Tomb Raider on Xbox Game Pass for free if you’re subscribed to that and if not it’s a worthwhile cause as Microsoft have promised worldwide exclusives to Xbox and Microsoft Studios to launch on Game Pass on launch, for £7.99 a month. That is a bargain! If you haven’t play Rise of the Tomb Raider as that on its own is worth the subscription.
So back to the review since 2013, we have been rediscovering the love for Lara Croft with the prequel trilogy of games Square Enix has produced you have been seeing her develop from a young innocent girl into the legend that is the Tomb Raider. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you begin in Mexico for the small intro mission that Square Enix offer you these are to make you aware of the story and the controls. What I will say is in this small mission you can already see the strain on Lara and her relationship with Jonah getting into the action and straight away you’re taking on familiar controls from Rise of the Tomb Raider, the pickaxe a very handy tool which you can now rappel down from rock faces and also climb vertical walls to get to different peaks is heavily used and will be throughout the game in traversing terrain and in combat.
Stealth! Square Enix state that you can become one with the jungle and this is a real case in this game, gone are the parts where you go mad with your guns and shot everything that by god moves you have so many ways to be stealthy now. You can blend in with the vines draped over walls although some require you to be covered in mud…this is where the stealth element comes into play more so. Having played mostly every Tomb Raider and all of the recent releases I’ve been very happy with them I found that Stealth was there but not utilised very well. Yes, you could sneak up and ram the pickaxe into the back of an unsuspected foe but now in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, you are just that…A Shadow, minus the numerous explosions and constant cause for destroying things that haven’t been unearthed in hundreds of years but I’ll touch on that more into the review. But now with the help of the foliage in the jungle and you can blend in and be unseen for some time at least. Hunting prey you can’t hide from unless they haven’t seen you and most times that is due to your vantage of being in a tree or higher ground. I would have liked a crouch option instead of the roll and dodge button this would have been better to use in an approach to enemies but as soon as you’re in the bushes you automatically are in cover as with the wall vines that keep you covered. The prey they have done really well within Shadow, the Jaguars are very lifelike and hunt you whereas the Wolves are in packs and just ambush you. Apart from that the rest of the animals are not out to get you so hunting isn’t as enjoyable as it would be in Far Cry for example.
The main enemy is again Trinity and you’re on a quest to stop them from basically putting a knife into a silver box and ruining the world Thanos style. I will say in my personal opinion the map doesn’t look as big and Siberia but I feel that is because there is more for you to do, from murals, challenges and side missions. Side missions are something that has been expanded on with more on offer and they gift you new items as per before but you can also learn more about the area you’re in by talking to people in the townships. There was one lady that told me about a gold import in the jungle, I went there a found a shit ton of gold to use with vendors. The game still uses the same loot system as it did previously and also the weapon upgrades are very similar but you have more range on weapons. In my playthrough, I managed to get ahold of four different bows and that’s nothing to do with any DLC I have which isn’t active until launch. So that’s a good way to plan your assault on Trinity.
The challenge tombs have been something that I have loved since they were introduced and in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, they’re so much more exciting and challenging. Each tomb awakens a new skill you can use I’ll explain skills shortly. The challenge tombs also have many dangers that you can die from, some of the levels are underwater and if anybody knows me I hate underwater games and underwater stuff in life. Jaws thanks for that…it’s just phobia of mine so when I’m in an underwater level I start to sweat and close my eyes and hope and pray nothing happens. Like the Sharks in Tomb Raider 2 on the PS1…good god I hated them and when I saw the underwater chasms in the game I instantly started to sweat.
So embarking on the journey you will gain XP which will go towards your skill tree you have three layers from Seeker skills which will increase the duration remedies take to wear off and more. Warrior skills which upgrade your weapon damage and more and Scavenger skills which will aid in your stealth approach and expand on more of what you pick up.
One other brilliant option is the difficulty settings and how you can mod them to your needs. Now you can select them to be just easy, normal or hard or you can mod them to be certain levels for different categories. So if you have it set to deadly obsession which is harder than hard then you take away the white painting that shows you where to go, your enemies are tougher and ammo is less. It’s real survivors approach. Once you complete the game you unlock NG+ (New Game Plus) where you get all your skills and weapons from your previous playthrough and you can enjoy the game all over again which I love as it is a game I can see myself coming back to again. As I noted previously it baffles me how destructive Lara is, from all the games I have played in the new series she destroys so much history and is still a legend. Oh look at that ancient tomb would be a shame if I destroyed it and killed all the history associated to it. Oh look at that lovely view…few hours it will be ruined! Like, come on girl have some respect…that’s my only rant on an awesome game from start to finish.
Lastly, I would love to say a huge thank you to Square Enix for letting us get our hands on this magnificent game. It is truly stunning and playing it on an Xbox One X through a 4K tv with a soundbar was the most amazing feeling I’ve had playing a game in years. They captured the sounds and weather effects to perfection. This review was based on the Xbox One version but Shadow of the Tomb Raider is available on Friday 14th September or 12 September if you pre-ordered the Croft Edition and it is available on PC & PS4 as well.