Going from the title, that’s a very bold statement to make, I know. I mean for many, Tomb Raider Anniversary sits as the best installation in the series to date. I cant wholeheartedly say that I’ve followed each and every release throughout the years, but I have been there since the beginning. I’ve enjoyed Lara’s ups and downs, be it the spectacular original or the underwhelming Underworld, I’ve been at Lara’s side through thick and thin. When CD announced that they were reinventing the formula, I’ll admit, I was very skeptical indeed.
You see, Tomb Raider Underworld really burnt me out. It showcased how dated the design and the game’s mechanics were at the time. It was slow, riddled with bugs and very clunky to control. We had games like Assassin’s Creed hitting the market at the time as well as other well established franchises changing up their formula, such as Resident Evil 4. Movements like this forced CD to reevaluate where they want to take Lara next and how it would be delivered. The end result was the Tomb Raider reboot, the start of Lara’s origin.
Tomb Raider went on to be an absolute smashing success. The shift in gameplay went down extremely well with the crowd, as did the mature tone of the game. One thing was missing though, tombs. It’s easy to argue that for an origin story, tombs wouldn’t play a significant role in place of Lara channeling her inner capabilities, but it still stung regardless. Tomb Raider’s sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider greatly improved upon this by implementing a range of interesting tombs, but it still lacked that added punch that the originals served up.
It wasn’t a bad game by any means, but there was clearly some room for improvement and refinement. That brings us to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. This game was leaked a number of years ago when an employee was seen on a train browsing the game’s assets, though, it wasn’t until this year that Square Enix formally revealed its existence, stating that it will conclude the origin trilogy. Since then, it’s been all hands on deck as fans and critics alike have enjoyed a collection of previews, heaps of exciting footage and a great deal of detail.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider isn’t set to release until later this year, but going from the bits that we’ve seen and the info that’s been dumped, this may well be the best game in the series so far. I wont put any definition to that of course, because the proof will be in the pudding, but it has to be said that the game stands a firm chance at topping all of its predecessors. Once the origin trilogy is wrapped up, we’re assuming Lara will take a much needed break for the time being, so this truly does have a lot of weight on its shoulders.
With this being an origin story you can bet that by at the end of the game, Lara will finally be the mature Tomb Raider that we all know and love. The story revolves around Lara traveling to South America to thwart the nefarious Trinity organisation and in doing so, will need to save the world from a Mayan apocalypse. Whether or not the Trinity plot will be tied up in Shadow of the Tomb Raider or left open for future installations, remains to be seen. Though, we’re fully expecting a completely closed story come the conclusion of the game.
What gives Shadow of the Tomb Raider a definitive edge over its two immediate predecessors is that it comes with refined tombs that offer more danger, puzzles and traps than ever before. According to the developers, this will be the most difficult Tomb Raider in the series, which speaks volumes if you ask me. Group this with the overhauled tomb design and it goes without saying that it’s already ticking all the right boxes. That’s what the new additions have always needed; complex, multi-tiered difficult tombs with intricate puzzles.
It’s a shame that it’s taken two games to seemingly achieve that, but we’ll take what we can, when we can. Shadow of the Tomb Raider will also be more stealth focused than ever before, much like Rise of the Tomb Raider only better. Of course, the staple mechanics that were present in Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider will also be present in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. This means that you can expect a combination of shooting, stealth and platforming in addition to the aforementioned puzzles and tombs, which isn’t a bad thing.
There’s also a lot less hand holding here too, such as a decrease in map markers that tell you where you should be going or what you can scale. This, to some degree, merges with the game’s stealth elements, being that you’ll need to tread more carefully as you navigate the game. This is only complimented further by some neat little additions, including the ability to wipe mud on your face to decrease visibility. Moving onto the larger new additions of the game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider will also come with a huge sprawling social hub.
Unlike Rise of the Tomb Raider’s Geothermal Valley, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s Paititi offers a large Mayan-like settlement that’s packed with civilians. Here, you’ll be able to shop, upgrade and take on side-activities. I have no doubt whatsoever that we’ll see a stronger focus here too, with fully fleshed out side-quests to tackle whenever the opportunity arises. I’m very much impressed with what’s been shown so far. The plot, the setting, the visuals, the gameplay and everything in between is nothing short of amazing.
All in all, the trilogy’s conclusion is surely shaping up to be bigger and better than ever before. The range of improvements upon the two predecessor titles hasn’t gone unnoticed either, with many fans and other outlets relaying praise and anticipation for the full release. Do you like what you’ve seen so far? Are you excited to dive into Lara’s next adventure? Where do you think Lara will go next? Or, has the new Tomb Raider formula already burnt you out? Get on the discussion by sounding off in the comments below.