Tomb Raider games, and more specifically Square-Enix’s Lara Croft trilogy, have alway had a place in my heart thanks to their Indiana Jones-styled exploration and oft-brilliant characterization of Lara. Shadow of the Tomb Raider lands a slam dunk with a beautiful South America portrayal that truly does the trilogy a service. If you haven’t watched or played the game on 4K, go out right now and do so! As Lara you will explore Incan and Peruvian temples and jungles all in search of the usual trinkets and treasures, marveling at the sunsets and beautiful temples…
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the star of the game, Lara, our once innocent and lovably explorer has now been replaced with a hardened mud-camouflaged killer. Previous plots provided a story overarching of heart, so much that urged players to dig for more. Now, the majority of that charm has been replaced with a sole search for supernatural artifacts and Incan prophecies that border on farce.
That said, there’s no coincidence that our third and current entry is handled by a new team courtesy of Eidos Montreal, while the core group at Crystal Dynamics are off assembling pieces of their marvelous new toybox. With Shadow, Eidos places our fearless explorer into more non-stop The Rock, with awe-struck action-packed mudslides and earthquakes. Lara scrambles and leaps from collapsed building to building and defies unbelievable helicopter crash devastation that would give the F&F‘s Dominic Toretto cause for alarm. One constant among almost all Tomb games is animal battles, and the storytellers in Shadow step-it-up with an excellent animal squabble just two hours in. #FearTheJaguar #StandUnited
The one major benefit that Eidos brings to the franchise is evolving Lara’s killer gameplay. No longer are you crouching behind coverage and playing the waiting game or haphazardly shooting targets. Now, Lara can drop down into long grass or press her precious mud-covered self against walls blending in with the surrounding as she sends off poisoned arrows or rilling up the crowds of enemies with “jaguar fear” arrows.
Another great addition to the game is the all-new mobile Lara; she can rappel into deep underground crypts and even use spiked shoes to climb upside down— all very helpful skills when it comes to acquiring the game’s many secret treasures. Later in SotTR, once you’ve leveled up Lara, she becomes a brutal stealthy killer. Now she can rappel down, tie the said rope around a poor shluck’s neck, and kiss his hustler’s ambition goodbye and goodnight.
What’s a Tomb Raider game without tombs and puzzles though, and Shadow offers plenty. Once you make it to Paititi, a sprawling ancient city housing a bustling modern town, there are plenty of tombs and side quests to explore. The puzzles this third go around are more brutal and time consuming. Little items you may have picked up along the way now mean all the much more. Having these items along the way can turn the tide and make a difference on major story points, so find everything.
With this being the final chapter in the Square Enix reboot of the origin of Lara Croft, I was hoping for just a little more heart. All three games have been enjoyable and rank as some of my favorite puzzle/action games, offering one of the best video game storylines to date: witnessing a young courageous woman transform into a battle hardened warrior. No matter how you feel about this latest entry from Eidos Montreal, one can only hope more Tomb Raider games will continue and hold onto some of the character arcs and storylines thats have been built within this trilogy. I will miss this Lara Croft! 3.75/5 Ancient Bibles.