This is the last install­ment for the Crys­tal Dynam­ic series of Tomb Raider, although Eidos Mon­tréal head­ed devel­op­ment. It’s an odd end­ing for what was an actu­al good refresh on an old series. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, Shad­ow of the Tomb Raider fell a lit­tle flat in com­par­i­son to the two pre­vi­ous titles. 

Story

Ahh, what to say about the sto­ry… I can’t stress enough about how much this bummed me out. It seemed it couldn’t decide what it want­ed to be, so it just became a bunch of stuff. I feel there was some­thing I didn’t see and the whole arch felt forced and scat­tered. I just expect­ed a plot stronger than its pre­de­ces­sors. Instead, it set­tled into being aver­age at best. Its main focus is, yet again, on The Order of the Trin­i­ty.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

In case you didn’t know, Trin­i­ty is just your friend­ly neigh­bor­hood mil­i­tant group who wants to con­trol the world, and that con­quest con­tin­ues in Shad­ow. How­ev­er, it seems to be a cook­ie cut­ter image of the last two. I was hop­ing with the stu­dio change, they would have tried hard­er with this sto­ry, being that it’s the last title in the series. 

 Mechanics/Gameplay

Aside from the awk­ward sto­ry­line, not much was changed with the mechan­ics of game. At least not dras­tic enough to make a clear dif­fer­ence. 

I will give Dynam­ic cred­it for mak­ing my “I love search­ing for items,” but­ton go off. So if you’re real­ly into that par­tic­u­lar type of game­play, you’ll still enjoy search­ing for items and mini chal­lenges along the way.

You’re still col­lect­ing mate­ri­als for craft­ing, which is tedious, but a mechan­ic I can’t fault it for. Your Base Camps con­tin­ue to serve as: the fast trav­el sys­tem, the only place you can upgrade your gear, where you use your skill points and look through your inven­to­ry. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

Speak­ing of gear, Lara can now make boots and chest pieces, which feels odd­ly placed into the game. They’re rather expen­sive at the mer­chant and require spe­cial mate­ri­als to assem­ble. How­ev­er, each piece has perks attached, so it’s worth the invest­ment of mate­ri­als.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

Yes, that’s right, there are now mer­chants. They sell, the pre­vi­ous­ly men­tioned gear and the mate­ri­als to make them. They also car­ry weapon parts, which you don’t nec­es­sar­i­ly  need, but it’s good to know you can grab them if you want. It also appears you’ve, yet again, lost all the gad­gets you had pre­vi­ous­ly. Some of these can be bought at the mer­chant, so don’t for­get to check their stock because you might miss out on a few things. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review Skills

This time around, your skills are split up into three cat­e­gories, each one are large­ly made around cer­tain mechan­ics:

  • Scav­enger (green) — deals with swim­ming, trap craft­ing, take­down abil­i­ties 
  • Seek­er (blue) — skills deal­ing with your Sur­vival Instincts, Hunt­ing and resource har­vest­ing
  • War­rior (red) — most­ly includes dam­age resis­tance and bow perks 

The way this skill tree is designed is rare. Upon unlock­ing cer­tain skills you might be con­nect­ed to an entire­ly dif­fer­ent skill tree. You can branch off of one skill into anoth­er tree as long as those skills are touch­ing. I found it dif­fer­ent and, even if it looks like a mess, there are some gems among them.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review
Skill unlocked by com­plet­ing a Tomb

Tombs

Tombs have always been the star of the show and they’re def­i­nite­ly mak­ing an appear­ance in Shad­ow. This series has always done a great job caus­ing dis­trac­tion with Tombs, as you can get a great inter­ac­tion It real­ly makes me feel nos­tal­gia for the orig­i­nal Tomb Raider’s puz­zles. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

Side Mis­sions

While these side mis­sions are not as intri­cate as oth­er games have been, they give you a lit­tle extra to do. Although, in real­i­ty, Lara is lit­tle more than a go between for these peo­ple. These mis­sions, like most side mis­sions, are long and dull (for the most part), and it almost makes you want to avoid them. 

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review
Side mis­sions show up green in Sur­vival Instincts

Graphics

The land­scape was def­i­nite­ly a pri­or­i­ty on the graph­ics list. 

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Water is espe­cial­ly beau­ti­ful, with ambi­ent light­ing that makes the water feel fun and play­ful, or super eerie dur­ing a long dive. Swim­ming also brings back the feel of the orig­i­nal Tomb Raiders, since water was a fre­quent source of explo­ration in the series. There are even preda­tors lurk­ing below the sur­face, forc­ing you to seek cov­er in the weeds on the bot­tom. It’s also a pre­mi­um place to find arti­facts, gold and jade. 

Despite the beau­ti­ful sur­round­ings, there are oth­er graph­i­cal issues. Cutscenes have a rather annoy­ing jit­ter, and dur­ing a spe­cif­ic scene, the voic­es don’t sync with the facial move­ments. They also could have put more care into the char­ac­ter mod­els of the peo­ple out­side of the main cast.

Bot­tom Line

Even though Shad­ow of the Tomb Raider could have been more than it is, don’t count it out as a game you could enjoy. It’s still has all of the same decent game­play and if you can get past the sto­ry, then it’s worth the pick­up.

Per­son­al­ly, I expect­ed more and got my hopes too high. I’m also not sure if Eidos was afraid to adjust the for­mu­la too much, as (due to the remakes mod­er­ate suc­cess) the game is pret­ty sim­i­lar to its pre­de­ces­sors. Either way, it’s still a fun, playable game.