Alright so, full disclosure: before jumping into Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I had only played the Tomb Raider reboot in 2013. So like any self-respecting gamer with limited free time on his hands, I looked up a story recap on Youtube. Sue me. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Anyway, here are my thoughts on the game!
Don’t Get Caught in the Cobwebs
Now, you might be thinking “But Simon you idiot, why would you play Shadow of the Tomb Raider when Spider-Man is out?! DO YOU HATE FUN?” Let me tell you something little Timmy, I had a blast playing the reboot and I like to support local game companies. To be honest, it’s a shame that Shadow was overshadowed (see what I did there) by the release of Spider-Man because it’s one heck of a good game. From the moment I started playing, I was having fun.
To be fair, it’s nothing revolutionary. Even fans of the Uncharted series will find some similarities in the way Lara moves around from ledge to ledge (with seemingly unlimited stamina and upper-body strength), but it’s still really fun. So much that it made me quit Monster Hunter World for a few days straight and made me go to bed way too late on a Monday night (don’t tell my boss), but it was totally worth it.
Back to Basics
The story, while very simple, still kept me engaged and wanting to know more. One of my main complaints about the first game was that it didn’t “feel” like a Tomb Raider game. Yes, there was definitely puzzles, exploring, combat, etc. However, it was mostly “recent” tombs and puzzles, like planes and weird, wooden villages. This game felt more like a classic Tomb Raider experience, with Mayan temples and crumbling underground pyramids filled with danger and way to many weird tribal monsters.
We also get a lot more personal with Lara as we dive deeper into her story and background. She still feels like a very shallow character and has strange reactions to certain things (don’t take that dagger you idiot) but Eidos clearly made some efforts into developing her and her relationship with Jonah. We even get to play her as a youngling in Croft manor and solve a very Lara Croft Go like puzzle.
A Healthy Dose of TLC
Besides the story, the other thing that really stood out for me was the world building. The game is quite linear, but when you take the time to explore around and inspect every single item you find, it’s really quite impressive the amount of work and details that went into it. I can’t even begin to imagine how long it must’ve taken for Lara’s voice actress to record all the item descriptions. To me, that screams “tender love and care” and a willingness to bring the world to life. You see it too in the way the secret tombs and crypts were built. Some of them are absolutely breathtaking and very cleverly designed. Thank god for photo mode because I must’ve taken over 50 photos of just Lara walking around awesome environments (a selection of images that you can see in this review).
It’s a real shame that I only got to play the game on a regular Xbox and not my PC, because I can’t even imagine how amazing it might look on a 2K display and with a higher framerate. If you have a PC powerful enough to run the game on high settings, or even a PlayStation 4 Pro or Xbox One X, definitely give it a go.
Unfortunately, there’s a few shortcomings that are worth mentioning. For one, the game is surprisingly short. I finished the main story and was at 80% completion in about 17 hours. Now, there’s definitely some tombs and crypts that I missed, but I don’t think the last 20% represents a lot of content. Since replayability is limited (unless you want to play it as NG+), it’s definitely not a big game.
Secondly, there’s an option to let NPC’s speak the local tongue which I found was a great idea! It helped a lot with the immersion, or at least it would’ve if Lara didn’t reply to them in plain English. There’s subtitles anyway, why not let Lara respond in the proper language when she’s engaged in a conversation? I understand that it would’ve taken a LOT more hours of recording for the voice over, but why not cut down on item descriptions to focus on that? I feel it would’ve elevated the world building just as much, if not more. It just seems like a weird decision to me.
Short but Sweet
Even though it has, I thoroughly enjoyed the Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It’s very similar to the first game (and second, I assume), so if you enjoyed those experiences, you will definitely enjoy Shadow. I personally would wait for a sale before getting your hands on it, as it is a short game, but it’s definitely worth your time.
DISCLAIMER: Shadow of the Tom Raider review code was provided by Eidos / Square Enix. The opinions expressed in the article above have not be affected by, dictated or edited in any way by the provider. For more information please see Girls on Games’ Code of Journalistic Ethics.