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Shadow of the Tomb Raider Announced
Today, the day of the release of the Tomb Raider movie starring Alicia Vikander, also marks the announcement of the next Tomb Raider game called Shadow of the Tomb Raider. It's release is set six months from now, on 14 September 2018 on PC, PlayStation 4 and XBox One.
On 26 April 2018 I was given the opportunity to try out the first hands-on demo for Shadow of the Tomb Raider at the London reveal event to which I was kindly invited by Square Enix Germany. Square Enix sponsored my travel an accommodations to this event.Shadow of the Tomb Raider will complete the story arc that began in Tomb Raider - where adventure found young, fresh-from-college
Lara Croft, forcing her to fight for survival - and was continued in Rise of the Tomb Raider - where Lara actively sought out adventure to honour her father's legacy. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider Lara chooses to continue searching for great archaeological and mythological mysteries, out of curiosity and her love for adventure, slowly turning her into the adventuress we know and love from the classic games.
In the past couple of years the reboot series had to endure a lot of criticism pertaining to Lara's character and the fact that her weak side was showing, but what people keep forgetting is that the Lara from the classic games (with the exception of Angkor Wat in The Last Revelation and Ireland in Chronicles - which didn't portrait a very believable character if you're honest ;-) - which is okay btw, it’s fiction) was a seasoned explorer in her late twenties or early thirties (born in 1968). Her original storyline was that an event - in that case a plane crash - at the age of 21 made her turn her life upside down, becoming the heroine of Tomb Raider I and everything after. A storyline that Tomb Raider Legend kind of messed up and Tomb Raider (2013) then tried to fix by getting back to the roots, but replacing the plane crash with a shipwreck to add something fresh, instead of doing Legend's Nepal again at the "correct" age. So where in the original game was it written that 21-year-old Lara didn't have weaknesses? I can sympathise with people not loving to play a softer Lara, when we got to know and love her as a tough cookie, but that's over with anyway, and so is this discussion I hope.
Shadow adds a new layer of toughness to Lara. Her body has changed visibly, her well toned muscles clearly showing. Her face seems a little less soft - something that is probably going to be discussed at length on the internet with comments along the lines of "why did they change her face again" - which is only logical given what she has been through in the recent years.
Lara and Jonah are in Cozumel, Mexico hot on the trail of one Dr. Dominguez, a member of the Trinity order, searching for a hidden underground temple holding a key, the "Key of Chak Chel" to some mystery. Lara herself is trying to beat them to it and believes to have the upper hand as a second piece of the puzzle, the "Silver Box of Ix Chel", Trinity is searching for in Brazil, might actually be located in Peru according to her own calculations. The Day of the Dead, or DĂa de Muertos, is being celebrated presenting Lara and Jonah with the opportunity to blend in, Lara hiding her Trinity-wide known face beneath a traditional mask worn for this occasion. With Jonah's help Lara manages to follow Dominguez, whom Lara begins to suspect of being the actual leader of Trinity. She learns that while they are still unsuccessful in Brazil, they might have found the entrance to the hidden complex here in Cozumel. Gaining entrance to the dig site Lara manages to find a cave entrance Trinity has so far ignored. This ultimately leads her into the heart of the complex, an underground Maya pyramid, where she finds a large mural telling the story of
Kukulkan, the creation god, and tells of a ritual that - when combining the key and the box - summons him. But it also warns of many catastrophes, in the order: tsunami, storm, earthquake, and volcanic eruptions. Lara then spots a circular stone tablet depicting the Hydra constellation which is misaligned. After aligning it, the hiding place of the Key of Chak Chel, an ancient ornate dagger, is revealed to her. While Lara marvels at the artefact, she receives a warning from Jonah via the two-way radio that Trinity is closing in. Without having time to think, Lara grabs the artefact and thus inadvertently sets things into motion. "What have I done?" Lara manages to escape the underground structure but is surprised by Dominguez and his men who take the dagger from her and tell her that by grabbing the artefact
she started the apocalypse and that the first harbinger, the tsunami, is on its way. Lara manages to escape the tsunami, while witnessing the destruction it leaves in its wake, and is able to reunite with Jonah. She tells him what has happened and that she has lost the dagger to Trinity and that the foremost thing on her mind is beating Trinity in the race for the Box to prevent Trinity from realising their dreams for a new world order. Jonah maintains that Lara is not at fault for the tsunami. "Not everything is about you." He believes that helping the survivors of the tsunami should be their priority.
In the first part of the demo Lara explores the town square and has the opportunity to interact with a couple of people, by talking to them, and learning more about their lives; a gameplay mechanism that has been introduced in the Reboot, where Lara could talk to the other Endurance survivors and returning in Rise where minor interactions with the Remnant were possible. But Shadow takes the whole thing a step further, as the whole market scene is not really relevant for progressing with the main story, but gives the environment a more lively feel. The market also offers the first resources in the form of a medkit and some herbs.Another gameplay element returning is the fluent switch between cut scenes and playable scenes, when Jonah distracts two goons to allow Lara to sneak past and explore the back alleys and reach the dig site, which is well guarded and locked down. She then reaches another exploration area, a nice and quiet location with the remains of ruined Maya structures where more resources can be found, including resource crates and where Lara uses the wall scramble, the move that gets her up and over high walls. Lara's use of the climbing axe has also improved, offering new ways of traversal
not seen in the reboot games yet. Besides climbing on craggy walls, she can now attach the rope she carries to rappel up or down, to use that rope to perform a so called rappel swing and reach far off platforms, and to perform wall runs to again reach far off platforms.Lara finally locates a cave entrance allowing her passage to yet another type of area, where she meets her first prey in the form of the well known and difficult to shoot rats that can be killed for hide and +25 XP. The new gameplay elements introduced here are the ability to disarm spear traps by cutting tripwire ropes using the knife Lara carries and the improved diving skill that gives Lara a new freedom when exploring under water. Unfortunately Lara has not brought the rebreather from Rise along but she is now able to use pockets of trapped air to extend her time underwater. After making her way through the underwater passages Lara finally reaches the interesting bit where a series of counterweights waits to be figured out to allow her to ascend upwards. Through the use of carts that can be pushed, tethered to other objects like cranks, or rotated around on a turntable, Lara can use them to break through walls and to weight down platforms. It seems like more of these kinds of puzzles have made their way from the challenge tombs - of which there were none in the demo by the way - into the base game. (Concept Art)Another well known gameplay element is a water slide scene, where Lara has to be steered down a torrential stream, avoiding deadly traps. The axe can still be used to pry open doors, widen cracks in walls and even to break windows in this game.The resources found in Shadow of the Tomb Raider are more plentiful if we are to believe what the developers told us and besides the known resources like herbs, cloths, hide, hardwood (which can also be dug up from hidden caches) we were able to spot ready made medkits and stimulants. More known elements returning are murals - which will now improve Laras overall knowledge of the culture rather than her language skills in particular - shootable targets as part of a challenge and explorer backpacks or maps - that give Lara the location of hidden collectables.
Let me begin with Jonah, because he's right there at the beginning of the demo. I have spoken with quite a few fans who thought that reboot Jonah seemed a lot tougher than Rise Jonah and who missed that tougher side of him. But in Shadow tough Jonah is back. While in Rise I got the feeling that Jonah wasn't really there of his own free will but coerced by Lara to be there, but in Shadow he's back and seems genuinely interested in the adventure. He actively helps Lara by distracting mercenaries. The two seem like equals, two adventurers who can both hold their own, no one in need of comforting and supporting (Lara by Jonah in the Reboot) or of rescuing (Jonah by Lara in Rise). Something that does return from Rise is their occasional difference of opinion resulting in heated discussions not unlike the one that occurred in Croft Manor in Rise of the Tomb Raider.
The Cozumel part is a little reminiscent of the Syria section of Rise. It has Lara finding a hidden tomb or temple, it gives a kind of introduction into traps, but Cozumel is a little more bombastic adding a calm town exploration to it (a little like the very beginning of Peru in Tomb Raider Legend but without the town folk hiding in their houses - a better comparison would be another game that is not Tomb Raider where such explorations of towns with lots of friendly characters is common but I'll refrain from such comparison at this point, you might not own a PlayStation :-) ) The climbing sections shortly later are a little like the beginning of Thailand in Underworld but with a more impressive environment, with a view close to the one enjoyed at the Coastal Bluffs in the Reboot. (Or, possibly passages of number 4 of the PlayStation game I am not mentioning here. ;-))And finally: The top Lara was wearing in the demo (a different one from the one in the screenshots) is getting closer to the classic outfit we know.