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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The landscape was definitely a priority on the graphics list.
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.
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.