Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third game since the 2013 reboot that brought the franchise into the modern era of action video games, and although this is a polished and accomplished experience, Lara Croft becomes a casualty of her own premise.
Set in Central and South America soon after the events of Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015), this new game, developed by Eidos-Montreal for Square Enix, builds on what Crystal Dynamics established: a satisfying blend of stealth and combat with some platforming mixed in.
The environments are vast and breathtaking, especially when you play on a screen with 4K and HDR, and the tombs, which provide an opportunity to scratch the puzzle-solving itch, are more challenging than ever before.
You adapt your version of Lara Croft as you go, improving skills in combat, stealth, and survival as you prefer. You can also get temporary status boosts while eating plants scavenged from the jungle. The traversal is exhilarating and the combat more refined, adding the ability to get back into stealth mode by breaking the line of sight with enemies.
The Lara Croft you’re playing here has changed too. In the reboot from five years ago, she was a fish out of water, but now she’s a full-on tomb raider. She’s not simply surviving but has become an aggressor, willfully attacking enemies and ransacking ancient sites.
And she knows it. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Croft begins to see the impact she has on the people and places she visits.
This is a dangerous thing for a game in which players kill bad guys and plunder gravesites. And it’s weird for the character to be questioning if what she’s doing is okay when the player is going to ignore that philosophical quandary and do what the game’s systems and mechanics permit.
But players who take the time to interact with secondary characters, like the people who inhabit the fictional town of Paititi, will better appreciate the tension between being one thing and acting like another.