Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

As I had mentioned in my Game of the Year 2018 post, my enjoyment of Rise of the Tomb Raider had me strongly considering jumping into its sequel, Shadow of the Tomb Raider. And lo and behold, when the game went on sale for 50% off during the holiday sales I couldn’t resist. Not only did I immediately snatch this game up, but I ended up inhaling its content in less than two weeks! Since this game is very much iterative of its predecessor, pretty much every point I made about Rise of the Tomb Raider also applies to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Thus, I’d suggest skimming through that review and considering this one to be a list of additions and exceptions.
  • The lush South American jungle setting of Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks fantastic. Since I was using this game to test out my new graphics card, I found myself taking a lot of screenshots.
  • Of the Square Enix Tomb Raider trilogy, I found this game’s plot to be the least engaging. I’m not saying it was bad necessarily, but I found the story, which was centered around Mayan/Incan lore to be a little harder to follow. I also thought the villains were better developed in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
  • While keeping most things the same, this game makes two major updates to the mechanics. The first is that Lara can now rappel down from climbing surfaces with a rope and swing to adjacent ledges. I thought this was nice addition to Lara’s repertoire of moves. The other update is that the swimming mechanics have been refined with better controls and the ability to take breaths from small air pockets in underwater caves. Unfortunately, the developers decided to show off this improved swimming by drastically increasing the amount of underwater traversal Lara must do in this adventure. I can appreciate underwater sections in games when they’re brief, but I felt like this game went overboard (no pun intended).
  • The skill tree in Shadow of the Tomb Raider feels more balanced than in the previous games. While this is probably a good thing overall because it asks players to make the most of Lara’s
    toolset, I kind of enjoyed that in Rise of the Tomb Raider I could transform Lara from a fledging archeologist to an indestructible killing machine by allocating my skill points the right way.
  • Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a little more RPG-like than previous Tomb Raider games. Lara can gather materials to craft new outfits for herself that modify her stats for either stealth, combat, or resource gathering. There are also now side quests that involve gathering info by talking to NPCs and solving light puzzles. These additions give players more things to do, but I didn’t really feel like they added much to the game overall.
  • Some of the tombs seemed more confusing to me than they did in previous games. I'm not sure if they were more difficult, or if the objectives just weren't as clear though.
While many of the points I made here may come across as negative, I still really enjoyed Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The quibbles I covered here and the game's aging formula were just enough to knock the review score down a star compared to Rise of the Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is still a very well-made action-adventure game and I think it's a shame it got overshadowed (ok, pun intended this time) by Spiderman and Red Dead 2.

Score: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Completion Time: 28 hours (90% map completion)

Don't make Lara angry
One of the game's many water-based tombs
The plot device that justifies all the aquatic areas
Even though I didn't always understand them, the game uses an interesting combination of Mayan, Incan, and Christian themes

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