Adam "Moose" Bauer
Review: Shadow Of The Tomb Raider
Updated: Jul 26, 2020
Lara it isn’t you, it's me. We have been through so much together and I feel like I’m asking you to change more than you're comfortable with. Don’t get me wrong you're still an amazing game and twiddling your joysticks still feels as good as it ever did, but not really better than it ever has. Although you're more beautiful than I can put into words and your new animations are jaw dropping and smooth when crawling through tight spaces. You’re not growing in any meaningful way and I feel like I am stopping you from becoming better than you were yesterday. What I’m trying to say is that your stunning looks and smooth animations are held back by no major enhancements from our last outing and, although you’re not doing anything wrong, it’s just the same thing as last time… we're stagnating Lara, and I want better for both of us.
Well that was emotional… and don’t get me wrong folks Tomb Raider is objectively a good game much like the last 2. Buuuuuutttttt not really better than them. The graphics are certainly noteworthy, but with the way the game plays and flows there isn’t much that's offered from what the other games have already given us. The under-water levels were the only new thing and, although they manage a good level of intensity and fast paced thinking, they felt like a gimmick after a while that were nice but nothing that was a grand new addition.
So, as per my usual set up, graphics are where we are starting. This game is honestly stunning when it comes to general looks and animation. Everything here is smooth and feels right. It's not just the textures either, some of the lighting effects in some of the damp caves give this soft reflection that would give its victims flashbacks. This contrasted with these huge sweeping jungle landscapes that have both wild and unexplored places and realistic lived in towns, making the world feel much more real that previous titles. Also, the sound here is really well done, you can hear your gun shots reverberating off the mountains and through the trees. Best part about the sound is that the guns actually sound real and not like cap guns. As per usual the voice of Lara is like a soft pillow, it's like memory foam. We could use this voice to replace airbags. Overall the voice acting is quite good. There isn’t anything bad here but not anything that I think the other games didn’t do almost as well. My biggest issue is that it's Lara in the jungle… again. The world is well designed but it's just a bit vanilla for tomb raider and it gets a bit bland as you make your way through the game despite its masterful craftsmanship.
The game play here has seen a few minor skill and terrain changes. Lara has gotten a bit of a boon to her stealth skills. I am assuming Lara’s in-flight movie was Predator because she now covers herself in mud to assist in the sneaky bits. Now, vine walls are the high brush you hide in but… on a wall. Although this is a nice addition it's nothing groundbreaking. Her new found aquatic levels are a nice change of pace and have their own stealth mechanics which are rather tense as you swim from hiding spot, to air bubble, to hidden treasure. She also has a few new skills that are at your disposal. Combat does feel like a new iteration but nothing here makes it really stand out. I don’t want you to think it's anything but well done. It's just not new.
The story is, sadly, where this game kind of falls flat. It's only serviceable, at its worst. Lara is, of course, lovely and I don’t mean just that her booty could stop wars. (It could but not what I'm getting at.) She has her character delivered in such a way that she feels both strong, caring, and, genuinely, feminine. This is what I want from a female protagonist. She is able to be a bad ass killing machine and believably so. Not because of her being a female or despite her being a lady, I never felt like she was trying to prove she was a hard ass in a world run by humanoid dicks and testicle monsters. In fact, the gender thing was hardly a point. In today’s world of PC culture and needing to show the world that *insert a no flame war inducing statement here about how to overcome social adversity and the merits of pride in yourself with out the defamation of others here* that’s really refreshing to just see a female protagonist be her bad ass self without having to have some self-righteous message or cosplaying as a drunken dude.
Johna, her best buddy and occupier of the world's best big brother relationship or the worlds most demanding friend zone, (… I'm still unsure on this one) is someone I honestly want to have a beer with. He is just as warm, caring, and badass as Lara in his own way. At this point you're saying "Moose you said this part was the lame part yet you’re just praising the games character design and structure" and you would be right, the protagonists are very praise worthy… here is the but (Next gen if you don’t put a picture of Lara’s butt here I will be out a pun and very sad about it). The antagonists … or bad guys for those of you against big words… is where this game falls apart for me. The Trinity cult is back and, well, its kinda dull. I honestly couldn’t tell you much about the bad guy except he has an accent and is like vaguely ethnic and some how the old school Christian cult is part of an indigenous South American tribe. (Called Quest, ha boom nailed it… if you got that joke you can kick it, if not you're letting me down.) It’s the most generic crew of baddies I can think of and the whole world suffers from it. I think it was this disconnect that made everything I was doing feel like just stuff. I never really knew why I was doing any particular thing. I know Lara made a boo boo at the start of the game but the reason for being in area A of place 6 was a matter of this is the next level and not any narrative reason. It's that feeling that kept me from focusing and feeling attached, it was like when you meet a beautiful stranger and things are going well until you smell fart and you can’t figure if it was them or not… I just couldn’t focus on the story and, for me at least, that breaks the flow of the game as it is very narrative driven.
All and all this is a good game that attempts to add to the Tomb Raider formula.Sadly, a flat story and a stunning but vanilla backdrop keeps this game from greatness for me. The stealth has been improved but just by a bit. The sound and graphics echo that sentiment. This is less of a failing of this game but a high standard for this series. It just feels a bit bland despite it being rather well done. I still don’t like the scavenging for materials in what is ultimately a linear game with open areas. The game has some great new traversal options from the rappelling to the rope swinging. It also has a healthy dose of new challenge tombs to test that big old brain of yours. This is still an objectively good game but it just failed to capture me due to the very bland villains and the been there done that environment despite its staggering beauty.
7.5/10 – But I would still recommend waiting for a sale oddly enough