Sunday, 21 October 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider ★★★★☆

Ever since Lara Croft's first outing the Tomb Raider series has always been a technical showpiece (choosing to ignore Angel of Darkness), starting with the Sega Saturn/ Playstation Original and her infamous angular form. It's legacy inspiring an entire action-adventure genre. Years later the Uncharted series would reinvent things, with the addition of cover shooting, a story that wasn't completely made up on the spot and elaborated, movie like, set pieces. The 2013 Tomb Raider reboot would take inspiration from these games, hire Rhianna Pratchett to write the story and use just about every trick that Uncharted was using, taking us full circle. Two games on and one less Rhianna Pratchett, Lara Croft is on a hunt for some mystical hidden treasure (again) before her rivals, known as the militia cult “Trinity”, can get to it. For an explorer, intruding on Dora's territory, Lara seems quite happy to go in and commit mass genocide of near-extinct rare wildlife and that of an uncontacted, Descent-like, tribe to find what she's after; but still dwells on a near cataclysmic turn of events that were pure coincidental but believes she may have caused.

If you've played the last two games in the series then you know fully what to expect. The core gameplay mechanics haven't really changed all the much, since the 2013 reboot. For the most part, it's still hub areas that lead off into other parts of an island, that Lara has managed to crash into once again. Good thing the people, deep in the jungles of Peru, can speak perfect English. Shadow of the Tomb Raider has a little more focus on the exploration aspects, that the series was originally famous for, with more hidden tombs, trials and problem-solving challenges to be found. Solving these will give Lara new equipment and abilities to help aid her adventure. Coincidentally the temples are all very conveniently laid out to accommodate the equipment Lara currently possesses.

They all seem like a massive waste of time though, as most other characters in the game seem to be able to find alternative routes through and get to the ends of most areas, well before Lara can get there. All the cave and tomb-like areas, that Lara likes to excavate her way through, have an overly large amount of dead bodies, skeletons and skulls. I think the interior decorator would of had to import all of these, as it definitely outnumbers the populous of the region. Even if they had been collecting for a few hundred years.

I'm fairly certain Lara's the strongest person alive and possibly an off-duty superhero. She has the finger grip of Spider-Man and the upper body strength of She-Hulk, combined with the healing abilities of Wolverine. Lara will go from severely injured, in one scene, to forgetting about it two minutes later and then jump an inhuman long distance into a cliff face. As a kid she seems capable of falling from the roof of her Manor, hitting and clinging to metal drain pipes as she slams her way to the ground... and doesn't even graze a knee. She's survived so many plane, boat and helicopter crashes that I think Lara could be Bruce Willis, in Unbreakable. I'm also fairly convinced that Lara can't die and embodies the abilities of Kenny McCormick. She seems to enjoy jumping to her death, as the moistened bint doesn't seem to like interpreting what inputs (I think) I'm doing. On the plus side, of this, death animations are still funny and dramatically overdone and made me wanna drown things.

Water, which also looks very pretty, has made a return and used far more often than the last two games. Yay, swimming sections. In certain areas, you can find pools of mud that Lara can cover herself in. Marketing would like you to think this new camo mechanic plays more of a role than it actually does. All this really does is allow Lara to hide up against a few extra surfaces, for stealth reasons. The density of the foliage is very impressive and has increased dramatically from the previous games so Lara can hide from enemies in an unsuspecting bush, up trees or up against some muddy hillside and use the jungle to her advantage. Stallone would be proud of her new stealthy Rambo knife kill animations. Lara is so stealth, that the enemy standing next to the person Lara is stabbing through the face has no idea that she's even there or that their friend is now missing. In a slightly odd justification, you gain experience points (XP) for killing humans and rare wildlife. A few of the common birds are worth 20 XP each, which soon adds up, so don't save the animals. Once you've gained enough XP you get a skill point to put into new skills. Much of the game and Skill system seem to be designed more for playing on the higher difficulties (One with the Jungle and Deadly Obsession) as most of the perks don't really give Lara much of an advantage, more just things to make playing less tedious. Like automatically looting dead enemies or being able to see traps with her Bat-Vision.

If you're a fan of the previous games, this is more of the same so you're likely to enjoy Lara's new outing. If you've not played one; I'd recommend picking up the Remaster of the 2013 Tomb Raider, it can be found really cheap now and is still a really good game and I'd personally rather play it over this one.

Bry Wyatt

Shadow of the Tomb Raider at CeX

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