SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER REVIEW

LARA CROFT’S LATEST ADVENTURE FINALLY BREAKS THE SHADOW OF UNCHARTED.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Genre: Action, Adventure

Developer: Eidos-Montréal, Crystal Dynamics, Nixxes software
Publisher: Square Enix
Franchise: Tomb Raider

Release Date: 14 Sep, 2018

Tomb Raider is a series about imitation as much as innovation. The original game may have ripped off Indiana Jones, but in terms of gameplay it was something completely new. Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider Legend was a breath of fresh air, but their reboot Tomb Raider in 2013 drew heavily from Sony’s Uncharted.

Now, with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, they’ve joined with Deus Ex: Human Revolution developers Eidos Montreal to see if they can escape the shadow of Nathan Drake. And in this reviewer’s opinion, they have done. Not perfectly perhaps, but they have done.

If you haven’t been following the Tomb Raider reboot storyline up until now, well, good for you, we haven’t either. Honestly, if you’ve seen the movie you probably have more grasp of what’s going on. Lara Croft is trying to stop the evil group Trinity from getting their hands on some sort of ancient mystic doomsday artifact. Unfortunately in doing so she actually messes things up far worse, and she and her returning friend Jonah have to travel to Peru to get the other piece of the artifact before either Trinity do – or the apocalypse hits.

We’ll be honest, the storyline didn’t grab us at all. There’s little to no explanation of what’s going on, how the artifacts can bring about the apocalypse, why Trinity are as powerful as they are, and why Lara’s involved. However, while the overall story passed me by, the more character-based moments resonated more. Shadow gets far deeper into Lara’s character than any other Tomb Raider game, such as her obsessive personality and her impact on those around her, and she’s kind of messed up.

The story isn’t why you’ll be playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, even if it’s why the title makes sense. It’ll be the set-pieces, combat encounters, puzzle solving, and (yes!) tomb raiding. It’s a lot closer to Tomb Raider 2013 than Rise, which had pretty huge and almost sandbox-like areas to explore and fight in, whereas Shadow is pretty linear for the most part. There are areas you can’t access until you have a piece of gear, Metroidvania style, but in general you’ll always be pushing forwards. As for areas, they look gigantic and amazing but the actual play area is quite narrow.

This is not a problem. It means you’ll never be truly lost, all action and adventures feel exciting, and it’s exactly what Uncharted gets away with. Shadow is definitely exciting, and we never felt bored while playing it. The set-pieces and locations are incredible, from dank caves to glorious Mayan and Incan cities. The challenge tombs are the absolute highlight, wielding imaginative level and puzzle design in some wonderfully impressive locations. The Spanish galleon we discovered was our favourite.

Not that the main game doesn’t have puzzles to solve. Some of these puzzle rooms are just as incredible and clever as the challenge tombs, with big towering architectures and many moving parts. Shadow also adds some hub areas – villages with secondary missions and natives to talk to. While these do slow down the game somewhat, they do add a bit of freedom and some much-needed downtime where Lara can chill out. We just wish there was more things to do here, and more hub areas.

Combat is the final pillar of gameplay, and unlike Uncharted or previous Tomb Raiders it’s kept to a minimum. You’ll most likely be able to get through combat encounters with stealth, or a few bow shots. There’s a pistol, assault rifle and shotgun, but they almost feel like a cheat. The encounters themselves though lack the excitement or imagination of Uncharted, and we kind of wish they’d been left out entirely. The game’s definitely at its weakest when it brings out combat, but it’s not bad at least. It’s just not as good as puzzles, adventuring or exploring.

Performance & Graphics


MINIMUM:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2400 @ 3.1 GHz or AMD FX-6300 @ 3.5 GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 670 or AMD R9 270 (2GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)
  • Storage: 40GB Available Space

RECOMMENDED:

  • OS: Windows 7 SP1, Windows 8.1, Windows 10 (64-bit versions only)
  • Processor: Intel Core i7-4770 @ 3.4 GHz or AMD Ryzen 5 1600 @ 3.2 GHz or equivalent
  • Memory: 8 GB RAM
  • Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 970 or AMD R9 290X (4GB VRAM with Shader Model 5.0 or better)

Our system is an AMD FX-8300 Six-Core Processor, 16 Gb RAM, Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti 4Gb, and Windows 10 64-Bit, and we could run Shadow of the Tomb Raider with a mix of High-Ultra settings, and that’s before we installed Nvidia’s latest GameReady drivers. There was some slowdown upon loading, and in the odd cutscene, but mostly it ran fine. It also looks gorgeous too.

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER VERDICT

There are some flaws, but Shadow of the Tomb Raider is never less than a thrilling adventure, which is exactly what it needs to be. Yes the storyline never makes sense and the big world-ending threat never feels truly threatening, but at least Lara’s character gets examined, and the game’s other elements make up for this. The setpieces are all exciting, the puzzle rooms are amazing, and the challenge tombs are the highlight. The game also looks gorgeous, with superb architecture, especially the imaginative puzzle rooms or challenge tombs. Combat isn’t the best, but that’s kept to a minimum anyway.

A highly worthy adventure for Lara Croft, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider actually breaks out of the shadow of Uncharted by keeping the combat low and the puzzles high. If only the story was a bit better…

TOP GAME MOMENT

The challenge tombs are just incredible. An absolute highlight.

THE VERDICT

85

GOOD

  • Linearity doesn’t matter, as it makes the game more exciting and never boring
  • Character moments resonate, gets deep into Lara’s character
  • Puzzles and Challenge Tombs in particular are fantastic, amazingly designed
  • Graphically gorgeous, especially in wide-open areas, with impressive designs

BAD

  • Storyline isn’t really told that well
  • Combat isn’t that great, but it’s kept to a minimum

By Chris J Capel

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