Lara Croft has come a long way since the 90s. Like any lengthy franchise, she’s had her ups (Anniversary) and she’s had her downs (Underworld). In fact, it’s the latter title that encouraged Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics to reinvent the game’s tired and aged formula, leading us all to the most recent of games otherwise known as the reboot series. The major reason for this was that at that time, games were evolving left, right and center. Resident Evil shifted things up with Resident Evil 4 and new IPs such as Assassin’s Creed showcased refined gameplay that felt more in place. The reboot series has gone down a treat, despite some daft decisions regarding timed exclusivity and launch window for Rise of the Tomb Raider, but that’s for another topic entirely.
Tomb Raider proved that Lara still has a relevant place in the proverbial spotlight. With its tacked on multiplayer to the side, the core game was nothing short of spectacular. The gameplay was outstanding, finely paced and thoroughly well developed. Though above all else, the story was interesting, engaging and exciting. The game tells of Lara’s origin story as she sets out on her very first expedition aboard the Endurance ship, in hopes of finding the lost kingdom of Yamatai. Before long, shit hits the fan and Lara finds herself neck deep in trouble. What follows on is an adventure that’s jam packed with action and tension that never fails to let go. Tomb Raider was a breath of fresh air that the series desperately needed and come its conclusion, fans were already anxiously awaiting whatever came next.
Rise of the Tomb Raider followed two years later, using the same winning formula as its predecessor, albeit with more plot emphasis and longevity. The game takes place one year following the events in Tomb Raider, and sees Lara struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder due her supernatural experience over in Yamatai. In the hopes of finding answers, Lara takes to her late father’s research into the lost city of Kitezh, a location that supposedly holds the secret to immortality. Ignoring the warnings of her friend Ana, who is concerned that Lara may get wrapped up in the same obsession that lead her father to suicide, Lara heads off on another expedition to Syria. Though much to be expected, Lara once again lands herself in trouble, only this time with a much more devastating force known as Trinity; an ancient order of knights that now exists as a massive military organisation.
Like Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider housed a great pace with some truly iconic action sequences, as well as more emphasis on “tomb raiding”, so to speak, something its predecessor didn’t do enough of. Unlike Tomb Raider, Rise of the Tomb Raider dishes up a post-credits cliffhanger, seemingly setting up the story for its sequel, Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Without spoiling too much for those of you that may be catching up in time for the latest adventure, Lara vows to investigate more of the world’s unexplained mysteries, further promising to thwart Trinity and their elusive plans. The journey so far has been outstanding and has gone down extremely well with fans and critics alike. Though sadly, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is penned as the last game in the origin series, leaving many to believe that Lara may be hanging up her trusty ice pick, once and for all, or for a good while yet to come, at least.
The story takes Lara to another expedition to Latin America in search of a Mayan relic. Not only is this same relic sought after by Trinity, but it has ties to Lara’s late father. The kicker here is that Lara and Trinity inadvertently trigger a Mayan apocalypse, leaving Lara no other choice but to save the world from this devastating event. Through press intel and general knowledge taken from the net, we know that Shadow of the Tomb Raider will offer up some fun new mechanics. Swimming has been overhauled, stealth will play a larger role than that of its two predecessors and Lara will gain the ability to rappel down a cliff using her rope. Returning features, such as crafting, animal hunting, scavenging resources and puzzle solving, will mercifully be returning.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, much like Rise of the Tomb Raider, will also feature optional tombs. Interestingly enough, the game’s season pass will also include new narratives, missions, tombs, weapons, skills and outfits. It will be interesting to see how the origin trilogy is concluded, especially when we take into account that Eidos Montréal are heading the bulk of the development, where as Crystal Dynamics (now working on The Avengers project) led development of Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. Though, should the series end with Shadow of the Tomb Raider? Or should we see Eidos Montréal/Crystal Dynamics expanding on the series in due course with a maturer protagonist? I certainly hope it’s the latter. If the origin series has shown us anything, it’s that there’s plenty of life left in Lara, yet.
I may be wrong, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Lara taking a back seat for a number of years to come. After all, too many installations in rapid succession will only see Lara fall victim to Master Chief syndrome. Though, with that being said, Square certainly wont be able to merely overlook its decent sales and widespread acclaim. I have every faith that we’ll see Lara again and who knows, maybe Eidos Montréal/Crystal Dynamics will setup some potential story threads in Shadow of the Tomb Raider for Lara to pick up on further down the lines. That probably makes the most sense, given its surge in popularity as of late, something that it was greatly lacking last gen with Underworld. For now, however, we can all but look forward to September to see what Lara’s latest adventure brings us.
Furthermore, giving Lara a back seat for the time being would allow Eidos Montréal/Crystal Dynamics time to reboot some other impressive IPs from their catalog, such as Soul Reaver, something that fans have been asking for for quite some time now. Sure, wishful thinking I know. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is slated to launch on September 14, 2018, merely five months from its initial reveal (that’s how it’s done). Unlike its immediate predecessor, Shadow of the Tomb Raider will not come with timed exclusivity, meaning that it will simultaneously launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. In regards to the Xbox One X, to allow for a more customized gameplay experience, the game will include two visual modes: ‘4K Resolution’ which runs in 4K resolution at 30 FPS, and ‘High Resolution’ which is targeting 1080p at 60 FPS.