As a young boy I was a big fan of the Tomb Raider games and played through most of them on the original PlayStation. I then played the most recent revamped Tomb Raider game, but not its sequel ‘rise of’, not for any particular reason other than that I wasn’t in a rush to play it. However I’ve now kind of missed that as I’ve been given the chance to review ‘shadow of’, having heard good things I was excited to get the game downloaded and get it on.
Firstly it’s worth mentioning that I’m reviewing the croft edition which gives you a tonne of extra content: a ps4 theme, a downloadable sound track, unique playable skins and weapons to help you start your journey. And additionally access to future dlc.
When I first started the game I didn’t know what to expect, I’d read the synopsis for the game I missed and the only thought in my mind was that of Uncharted the lost legacy, as I’ve only just got around to finishing it. But I have to say although both are about treasure hunting lasses they’re very different games.
The story is emotional and brutal and gives you good reason to want to carry on through. After a soft starter level Lara ends up allowing trinity (a bad company) to wreck an entire village after solving a tomb for them, well they swoop in and steal your goods. Turns out the relics they’re after would enable them to do this to the entire world, so Lara needs to chase them and get the relics first, to stop them from doing worse. I won’t say any more on the story to avoid spoilers but it progresses in unexpected ways and has a very close tie with the tombs you explore. There’s also an early on flash back level to your childhood, this gives more background on the croft family and the things they were involved in.
Everything you do is done via hub levels, which are huge open areas with merchants to buy from and people to talk to. Talking to these people unlocks secrets (such as collectables) challenge tombs and side missions (and more I’m sure), giving you a lot more to do in the game: For example you have to help villagers out of tricky situations with bad men who attack their villages, so you essentially become lara the humanitarian. The thing is I didn’t always find myself in a rush to want to do these side missions or explore every single crevice, and think I may stick to the main story mostly. The challenge tombs are fun and reminded me of classic Tomb Raider, you need to solve the puzzles to get through and fight things along the way, it’s a bit more basic than the story missions but challenging, done so by disabling in game hints.
There are 2 main elements to the gameplay, combat and exploration.
The combat is fun, gritty, stealth focused, and definitely not easy. It helps to plan the area you’re going in to, and if you get caught you just duck and cover lest you be killed very quickly. The guns feel heavy and you take damage quickly, so you can go in guns blazing but it’s best to take out as many as possible before they notice you. Stealth is your main friend, and the silent kills are brutal and satisfying.
As you progress you unlock more ways of being stealthy, such as hiding in mud covered walls after caking Lara in it, and firing a rope arrow from a tree to essentially hang them. Using a kind of sense mode (Instead of a constant map there’s a sense mode that activated with R3 that shows objective markers. This can also help when solving puzzles and climbing if you need to know what to do next) you can see who’s safe to take down and where they are and work your way around, picking them off one by one. The stealth is really well put together and doesn’t get boring at all, what’s more fun than pick axing a guy in the throat when he’s not expecting it!
Then there’s the exploration, to get around you’ll need to rock climb, swim, wall run, rappel, tree swing…. and much more. Getting about the map is as much fun as everything else, and it’s not always obvious where you need to go. The path is a treacherous one that you need to explore using every tool and skill, and obviously lots of the environment falls as you climb it, traps try to knock you down or kill you and the water is a massive pot of death.
Within the exploration are huge puzzles, allowing you to cross bridges, scale massive towers or simply enter doors. These make you use your brain along with various tools and aren’t as simple as pushing a couple of blocks around an arena. Things like the climbing and swimming feel as realistic as they can, especially when there’s an intense qte or you get stuck in an underwater crevice, I found myself intensely button bashing fighting for air. You definitely need to be constantly alert as no avenue of progression is simple.
Whilst exploring you’re constantly picking up items, finding treasure and items to help you craft your arrows, heal and upgrade weapons. To be honest there’s constantly things to find so I did find myself scanning the environment a lot so I could find everything, and often having full stocks of the items. It’s also worth mentioning that the settings you’re exploring are incredibly detailed, a lot of time has clearly been taken in creating every inch of open world and tomb. I could go on about this but you can see for yourself via the screen shots in this article, they were all taken using the in game photo mode which is fun to play around with.
Despite all of these positives there are some things I didn’t enjoy. For example the map sonetimes just felt too big to travel all the way across and swayed me towards focusing on the main story and away from exploration. I also got a bit tired of Laura’s voice, usually when you use sense (which you need to use a lot) she repeats the same phrase over and over until you continue with the task at hand, and if that task is story then you’ll hear the same thing a lot. On that note I think the game depends on focus a bit too much, it’s fine to have it to find plants or enemies but having to always press it to see the objective just felt a bit clunky…
-Overall the gameplay is balanced and fun and constantly fun to use. Lara feels like a badass who can do anything wrapped up in a crazy larger than life story of betrayal and discovery, with massive action pieces and a lot of fun to be had. Whilst it may not be as good as some of the other games I’ve played this year it’s something I’m enjoying so far and will definitely play to the end, and go back to for the DLC. It’s also a game that the vast majority of people will really enjoy and want to go really deep into. The latest instalment in the Tomb Raider franchise is exciting however I can’t fully get my teeth into it.
For me it’s a 7.5/10