Last weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, we got the chance to see an early look at gameplay in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. There’s no doubt I’m well versed in the history of the Tomb Raider series and the legacy of Lara Croft as a character in gaming. But developer Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal’s take on the more recent titles that cover the earliest adventures in Lara Croft’s life fell under my radar, for one reason or another, the games have released at times where there were other things on my plate, and I did not get a chance to play them.
With games in adventure series like this one, I don’t necessarily think it’s a huge issue to jump into games like this at any point. Take the Uncharted series as an example. I played the second title in that series first and had an incredible experience, just like other gamers who may have jumped in when the series initially began or in its later entries. But evidently, this trilogy of Tomb Raider games is meant to give us a more significant plot that’s intended to explain how Lara Croft becomes the Tomb Raider we know and love today.
When the development team came out to talk a little bit about the game, I was confused when they mentioned that all of these titles: Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider, were a collective coming-of-age story about Lara Croft becoming this iconic heroine known as the Tomb Raider. I was a bit confused, I said to myself, “Didn’t she become the Tomb Raider in the first game?” Evidently, I was wrong in my assumption, and DualShockers’ Noah Buttner let me know that this is something the development team has said before. The story of Shadow of the Tomb Raider follows Lara Croft after the second game, in her pursuit of Trinity. Fans of this series should be familiar with that name, but if you’re not, they’re an organization bent on taking control of the world.
For those who haven’t caught up on the game’s initial announcement, Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes place in South America, and it’s quite evident that the development team worked around this location to give Lara a whole new arsenal of abilities to use that take advantage of the areas she’ll be exploring. It’s a good way for them to introduce new skills to a character that’s already well trained from her previous adventures. Lara Croft is a woman who has seen a lot since the first entry back in 2013, she’s skillful and is quick to kill large groups of enemies with ease. I liked that aspect of her character a lot in the demo, and it’s one of the things that has me intrigued to see more of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It’s dark and the stakes are at the highest they’ve ever been in the series.
Camilla Ludington returns to the role of Lara, and she does a tremendous job. Some of the dialogue between characters was incredibly well acted, rivaling that of the Uncharted series, and the motion capture work is triple-A game development at its best. Ludington indeed owns this role, and I couldn’t think of a better fit for the character at this point. If you’re a fan of this new origin story already, there’s no doubt in my mind Shadow of the Tomb Raider will deliver for you.
While stealth sections are cool, the action-heavy sequences fell flat for me. Gunfights were a typical affair, so I wasn’t all too interested in these parts of the hands-off demo. This is a title that’ll be ideal for players who enjoy stealth-action games, and the developers mentioned that this is how they wanted to approach Shadow of the Tomb Raider to an extent. The jungle is at your disposal and players who use it should be pleased with it. Lara Croft is outnumbered, but she’s more than skilled enough for the occasion. The jungles of South America are dangerous, but Lara is dangerous too — you’ll get a whole lot of goodies that should make taking out groups of enemies all the more satisfying.
My only lingering concern was gameplay — something I was only able to judge on visuals alone. I left the theater following the hands-off demo we saw with a lot of mixed feelings. That’s not to say that there were a lot of bad things I saw during my hands-off viewing. I couldn’t help but feel the title didn’t offer a large variety of compelling reasons for me to put it above any other games releasing near September 14, which is sad considering the game is visually stunning. It just feels as though there is already a slew of other options in the third-person action adventure genre players can already get their hands on.
Again, this isn’t to say what I saw during the demo was terrible. In fact, there’s a magnificent underwater sequence that was visually stunning and offered an experience that can only be compared to something you’d find in high cinema. Believe it or not, there was a good amount of moments like this during the demo.
But for me, there were many other things I was looking for in this trailer. A sequence where we got to see Lara climbing looked fine, but I couldn’t help but think, “I’ve seen this before, I’ve seen this done better.” It’s not to say the developers aren’t worthy of praise — they absolutely are — but I fear it won’t be enough in Fall 2018 when heavy hitters like Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 are releasing in a similar window (not to mention a whole bunch of other titles likely to be revealed at E3). Crystal Dynamics and Eidos Montreal need to nail every aspect of gameplay to make this a worthy contender amongst these titles. Perhaps it’s an unfair comparison to make, but one that I feel I need to make when the game is releasing at the busiest time of the year.
You all can expect to see more of Shadow of the Tomb Raider at this year’s E3. I’ll be interested to see how fans and gamers react to their first look at the game in action. Based solely on our hands-off demo, I’m not entirely sold on making Shadow of the Tomb Raider a day one purchase, but it’s not too far from being elevated to that category. Also, to be fair, I didn’t get to go hands-on with what I saw, and 20 minutes of gameplay is nothing compared to the hours I’m sure many players will spend with this title.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is slated to release later this year on September 14 for PC, Xbox One, and PS4. If you want to pre-order a copy of the game for yourself, take a stroll on over to Amazon to receive it right now.
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