Should you buy Shadow of the Tomb Raider?

Sep. 10, 2018

What's got the most powerful legs in gaming and a hatred for shinbones? That's right the Tomb Raider series where each title furthers the ongoing fascination was seen the main character enter into a full-body osteoporosis state. Here we've got the third title to this rebooted series. Lara travels to South America just soon after the ending of rise of the Tomb Raider - well yeah raid some tombs fight some bad guys and slowly if the PR's been accurate come into her own as a character. Let's see if she did shall we?

Tomb Raider is gonna be out September 14th for 59.99 for the PC Xbox and PS4. So here's my review for Shadow of the Tomb Raider Muay Thai shinbones cringer from He-man as a bad guy and answering that age-old question, does Lara belong in a museum?

Graphics art first. Yeah its Tomb Raider, which means for the most parts a well laid out an organic world. It's got a mixture of complex architectures for the puzzles and well laid traps from ancient civilizations looking pretty good overall. This really isn't gonna shatter the graphical foundations of current titles as we see, though one area that does look fantastic is when Lara gets covered with mud and looks like a cross between Arnold Schwarzenegger from the Predator and a third-degree burn victim.

Hilarity aside, when Lara leaps into the bushes or crawls along the wall, there's this epic look and feeling to everything and it does a really insane job selling that she's finally actually coming into her own a bit when it comes to abilities. Now character phases and texture and run from okay to excellent but sometimes it can border a little bit on the odd whenever you go to a busy spot you can end up talking to a group of people and all of them look identical warning us of both the limits of technology as well as the dangers of banging our own cousins. Now that being said they still look good or a bit better than Rise depending on where you are but it's the locations that are both the strengths of and the weaknesses here in this Tomb Raider game.

South America's incredibly organic, it's got lush vegetation and location to hide out and wait to put another ventilation hole in an enemy's head or when you dive face-first into a deep puzzle cave like a human submarine powered by only curiosity and a complete lack of personal safety requirements. The lighting overall in those looks fantastic. Also, since you can turn off exploration pathing, the game can go from a spot to spot sprint where it looks like someone painted every single cliff craig carabiner and cavern edge with a white paint like a giant team of safety engineers came before you and said, "man we just can't have people die in here," and then you turn it off which allows you to basically have to figure out and look exactly when and where you can go and this adds a bit of danger that to me is something that I think every game should add if it has this kinda exploration.

Now many of the animations both in and out of combat do have some similarities to rise don't expect anything to be fully different but I think most people understand that. Unfortunately when you look at the locations rise just had more interesting locations overall for me personally. Almost the entire game of shadows based in the jungle and after a couple hours it can feel a little bit samey.

When it comes to performance the ps4 is 1080p on the Pro and the X it's 1080p 60fps or 4k at 30fps and with the PC it's whatever FPS your bank account and throw at it. Now HDR is an option here it works well to increase the overall picture quality but this is not earth shattering HDR. This footage here you'll see from me is both native 4k at 30 as well as 1080p at 60. I found the 60fps better overall as I played with exploration and its safety markers off after initial testing and required a little bit faster reflexes overall.

One element though that rises above anything in any of the Tomb Raider games prior are the underwater sections here. They trump anything that's ever been done they're huge they require a bit of survival thinking as well they're tense and they're fully 360 making it feel like this otherworldly place. It's one of the few games where underwater levels really do add a feeling of exploring something unique and as large as your overworld areas.

I think shadow of the Tomb Raider looks good but it doesn't really elevate itself above Rise. We don't have the ray-tracing because the Nvidia cards aren't here for that. It does look good but there's nothing here that really masters that magnificence of the geothermal valley in the original game. Oo overall excellent but I would have loved a little bit more variety.

Sound, music and voice: Let's do sound first. This is actually really good. This builds on the magnificent sound structure that Rise had and absolutely elevates it. The first time you enter into an underwater abyss of some cave complex long flooded after all the natives inside use it for a cannibal circus, it can get downright eerie with all those sounds muffling perfectly. The sound effects also have an excellent punch to them but when walking through the jungle or just exploring you can hear all manner of environmental sounds which really do elevate the entire surrounding into feeling like you're really exploring a jungle. Sound has never been a problem with these titles and it continues to be excellent here.

Music: So this is actually a combination of composers who work on this with the main music handled by Bryan Oliveira whose use of native South American instruments does a really fantastic job acting as this audio concrete to solidify the foundation of the score with the location, but also you have Martin Anderson who's recently worked on limbo and inside who handles the eerie moments in the underwater sections where the music changes dramatically. That's one thing to remember here is that you have those big changes with the underwater sections where you really are in them a lot. When compared to the other games I'd say this might be a little less cinematic but overall it fits perfectly with the game and I liked it a lot.

Voice: So again we have Camilla Luddington play this character, does a really good job as well as handle the motion capture for the game and she continues to offer a nice sophistication to Lara as you're bouncing around on ceremoniously off the logs into spike pits into fiery pyres in an all manner of hazards. This is a slightly different lower than the past ones where it was a bit more of a silent bravado but also there was some careworn tacked to her voice then. Here she's a bit more vocal about what's going on as a whole and that adds a nice human feeling to it when she starts to realize that somersaulting into someone's ancient tombs and kicking the everliving shit out of all their priceless heirlooms is probably gonna have some kind of repercussion.

Though while I liked Lara and who she partners with I didn't think the main enemy ever really resonated with me at all instead coming across as some generic bad guy whose awesome boss died the day before he was suddenly thrust into a leadership role then just froze. It's not bad it just doesn't really do anything for me. Jonah on the other hand continues to be excellent with a nice rendition of the side dude with the tude being split down the middle with a caring older bigger brother.

And now it's time for the big dog which is gameplay and a bit about the story. Now Tomb Raider starts where let's be honest I think they all should have started and that's Lara and deep shit set a bit after Rise she's gotten herself into trouble once again by setting the stage for the end of the world supposedly she's fresh off stealing an ancient relic that can maybe possibly bring on the apocalypse and then comes right in the crosshairs of an organization Trinity which also wants the relic for themselves so they can reshape the world if they combine it with another relic convoluted you ask surprisingly enough not really you see while you do investigate these main elements as a story much of tomb Raider's refreshingly free of that constant narrative hanging moment and instead shows both a micro and macro side of Lara's actions as she plays out with these big cutscene moments offsetting the more subdued telling of this frantic person trying to fight the wrongs that she's done as well as her continual discovering of new abilities she has.

Take for instance those new skills Lara can stealth with the best of a now covering herself in question really made up mud and hiding in vines for unsuspecting enemies or now she's able to lower and rappel off rock faces which offers a flexibility to movement as well as the puzzle makeup.

But I said it before and I got to say it again it's the underwater areas that astound me I'm telling you she might as well have gills not because she can hold her breath forever though she'd probably make a deep-sea diver a bit jealous it's just that the areas are massive with their own gameplay elements like hiding an underwater Flora's piranha swim over your head and trust me if they even get close to you you're dead now these underwater sections are also silent she can't narrate obviously and it offers an excellent negative space to work with once you start to move around the game's map and explore as you're doing so you're gonna notice some similarities as well as a couple differences with Rise when it comes to similarities of course you're exploring strange tombs finding secrets and discovering new locations and I'm gonna say that there were a couple different climbs that you're gonna find here that give you that stomach tingly feeling as you're thousands of feet above the jungle and the only thing keeping you up is a very suspect cord with a hook at the end but when it comes to the stealth that really does change up the way Lara plays as well as the AI and the ability to break off and come back to battle that I felt offered something unique here now when it comes to the skills they're upgradeable just as we've had before but they have a South American artistic slant to them which admittedly made knowing what each skill did or remembering them actually a little bit harder than I think they over all planned it's a small quibble but you can notice it.

Now the skills run the gamut from auto searching enemies during kills to swimming longer finding more items and stashes and so forth nothing really surprising here and a good connection to the prior games there are a couple cool skills when it comes to story unlocked ones of course the one thing we've heard a lot about is this hub world kind of area and how the game offers side quests it is massive I'll give them that with a couple city towns that do an excellent job offering a more subtle background to the action-packed antics of the prior games here you can listen to native stories discuss the ongoing situations with those that didn't have it the towns and even trade for items at shops that's actually one of the bigger changes is it does sort of allow for these folks who maybe are missing out on one element when you're playing that you need to craft something with and it gives you the ability to just outright maybe buy that if you want to sell some of your other valuable items it's a nice changeup and it didn't really break the pace Tomb Raider though would suck if of course the control wasn't pretty spot-on and I can say it is mostly depending on the difficulty you can turn off the auto aim which offers a nice extra bump and skill but the way the aiming works seems like there's some sort of acceleration just enough that finding a bead on the enemy can take a bit more time than it should or at least getting used to stealth kills of course are amazing but the AI is not really improved since the original game sure you can now sort of hide from enemies and disengage and scuttle around but they're not really much more intelligent than they were in the last game so if the AI bothered you in the last tumor a derp probably gonna bother you here one thing that this Tomb Raider does is it adds a ton of accessibility options so you can make combat easy and puzzle solving hard and exploration in the middle ground or set them all to the hardest then in the audio section you have a ton of settings like the ability to hear the Games NPC is talking their native tongue or in your specified language you can do big subtitles colored subtitles and a couple other options this is very useful for those who may need that kind of thing or sit far away from the TV and maybe you can't see a subtitle this game lasts about 15 hours for the main story which is pretty much exactly the same as the last game and then you add in the challenge tombs and all of the secrets on top of it in fact overall is a bit longer than Rise because it does have more challenge tombs as well as those extended water exploration sections which of course just due to their makeup don't allow you to really rush like the Overland sections do all this of course also depends like I said on the difficulty on if you play stealthy or shoot it out and so forth fun factor so there's really no denying there are some amazing moments here like wrapping an enemy around the neck with a well-placed rope arrow and then yanking them to choke them out or that first time you leap into the roots overhanging a cliff and Lara sort of blends in and you want to whisper her hair like the predator these are amazing moments in the game and it does seem to sway a bit more towards the tomb raiding and not the life finding that the past games have had it does in fact overall feel less like you're exploring the jungle one enemy death at a time versus actually exploring it yourself that being said that sense of exploration for me despite the massive and amazing underwater areas was hurt a bit compared to Rise it's that lack of incredibly defined locations that Rise had that made it feel like such a difficult act to follow shadow tries to up the ante with this large hub based area and tons of people to interact with but they suffer the same thing I think the smaller locations and Rise actually did and that's limited interaction I liked those spots though they just didn't really offer exactly what I was hoping for with Rise I really felt like one thing that elevated it was those challenged tombs and I gotta say deep in a challenge to him here my god the game can be a blast well greased ancient mechanisms that somehow move easier than your own kitchen cabinet doors do await you at every turn as you try to figure out how to get a puzzle with countless pieces all moving in the same direction all while staving off myriad traps and dangers set around you it works really well so as you guys know every games on a bye wait for a sale rent or never touch it again rating scale with rent being replaced by deep deep sale on PC this is a buy but it's tentative you really need to understand what you're going into if you like to rise you'll probably like this if you like the challenge tombs of Ryze you will probably like this even more there's a lot of unique elements and those underwater spots in this game really do show what somebody could do if they aimed and focused just on that at the same time though when you're exploring you do notice that most of the time it is just that jungle and that can get a little bit dreary over long periods of time I gotta say I was pretty surprised this game I wasn't necessarily expecting it to go away from the bloodshed of Ryze and just the over ballistics that that game sometimes offered and sort of set it back just a little bit here offer more challenge tombs and that exploration in that sense of tomb raiding in this game is incredibly high so for people who maybe weren't a fan of rise as much weren't a fan of that ballistic exploration you didn't rise where apparently you're using shotguns for compasses this sort of replaces that.