Lara Croft grows up again.
Developed by Eidos Montreal in collaboration with Crystal Dynamics, Shadow of the Tomb Raider follows Lara as she tries again for The Order of Trinity to find artifacts capable of destroying the world. It is a harrowing story for Lara to come to terms with her own morality and realize the value of friendship, although it rarely gels together in a satisfying way.
The final chapter of the Lara Croft re-trilogy trilogy is complicated. It is at the same time the most accomplished chapter so far, but it also continually travels under the weight of its own ambition. Whether it's narration, combat or exploration, very little in Shadow of the Tomb Raider feels as good as I'd like. That does not mean it's bad, it's always great, but it ends up sitting in the shadows of his contemporaries.
The accelerated pace and a strange mixture of performances prevented me from really investing, and the absence of the talent of the writer of Rhianna Pratchett is definitely felt. The bows are set without having been paid in a significant way, or else they walk in limbo without being touched for hours. It's frustrating. Yes, Rise of the Tomb Raider might seem generic, but still managed to weave an excellent thread.
The opposite is true here. Things end in a very anticlimatic final act that is not fulfilled thanks to a clumsy narrative that combines too many elements when none of them has enough depth. Lara spends time talking about her dead parents, realizing her own wrong intentions or defending herself from Trinity, an evil organization whose motivations are murky and inconsistent.
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Shadow of the Tomb Raider begins with the literal apocalypse. By stealing an ancient dagger, Lara is warned by her enemies of the cataclysm that she has set in motion. This becomes immediately apparent when a haunted tsunami travels through Mexico, killing thousands of people and leaving our heroine shattered. Jonah's shoulder is the only one left to lean on, a close friend of Lara whose relationship is a pleasure to bear witness.
The relationship between Lara and Jonah is brilliant. It is full of history and genuine care that shines until the end. It should have been the main focus, but instead it is on the sidelines as prominence is given to multiple arcs, much less intriguing. It seems that Eidos Montreal was not sure how to conclude this trilogy, which resulted in a cavalcade of hollow but profusely produced scenes that take you from one set to another, and all are, fortunately, an absolute pleasure to experience.
In addition to some custom locations, most of your time will be spent in the Hidden City of Paititi. Discovered in the opening hours, this former home is really huge, acting as the main central area to which you will return again and again as the story progresses. It is cleverly designed and full of life while citizens follow their daily routines. Lara is a stranger in a strange land, and her occupants react accordingly.
You will receive questionable looks as you explore, either looking through an empty house or discovering ruins that have remained intact for decades. There is a comedy element in Lara Croft that explores primitive huts as a student in her sabbatical year, but it is also the place where most of Shadow pokes her head: exploration. Trip through hidden crypts (essentially miniature tombs) to find a useful update and some knowledge tidbits is an interesting delight, developing the game world in ways I did not expect.
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Challenge tombs are the highlight. Expanded to a great extent with respect to previous games, they now feel like levels within themselves, since you can spend more than 30 minutes trying to solve a riddle created diabolically.
Tomb designs can vary from a Spanish galleon crumbling in the middle of the cliffs to a mix of labyrinthine canals that will captivate you in seconds. Each one is polished to perfection, idyllically placed when it is found throughout history. Some are hidden in and around Paititi, and you would do yourself a disservice if you did not look for them.
Eidos Montreal emphasized the enormous size of the world of Shadow of the Tomb Raider before the launch, and it was worth doing. You can easily lose hours finding all the relics, crypts and hidden tombs scattered around the place. Citizens can provide secondary missions, but they are painfully boring, paralyzed by the same dull writing that weighs on the main campaign. It is sad that the dialogue feels so inconsequential. The history of this city is fascinating, but it is hidden in descriptions of artifacts and rarely stands out from them.
The solo campaign is possibly the least convincing part of the entire package. Leaving aside the spectacular action sequences, it is an endless tour of a world in which I was waiting to be unleashed. Within seconds of unlocking the ability to travel fast, I went back to previous locations to sweep everything I missed. Doing so is an exercise in satisfaction, in large part thanks to the progression of Lara's update, which does an excellent job of maintaining interest in the wider universe.
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Divided into three different skill categories, Lara can update and acquire skills that will become the key to combat, exploration and resource collection. Each one feels like a big step forward, especially if it turns out that you are now able to knock down a chain or shoot three arrows by simply sliding the shoulder button. Despite making a real difference in the way you play, the improvements in hunting and gathering plants seem trivial, as I always had enough elaboration components, and as a result, going out of your way to sacrifice animals feels great. useless part.
When Lara Croft is not destroying monuments or attacking tombs, she finds an assault rifle in her hand and an endless number of corpses at her feet. Although it is a little less free than previous entries, Shadow of the Tomb Raider still morbidly delights in Lara's talent for slaughter. She will hang enemies through the treetops before slaughtering or setting them on fire. The change of tone between a shy adventurer who is almost ashamed of his own actions before a mass murderer psychopath is hard to swallow and does not have the charm of Uncharted to help carry it out. Do not even make me start with their death animations.
At least combat is useful. Armed with a bow, a pistol, a shotgun and an assault rifle, Lara is a force to be reckoned with as she defeats the soldiers almost twice their size. The weapons can also be updated, providing a reason to mix things with different accessories and quirks. A personal favorite of mine was a flare accessory for the pistols that could distract the enemies and set fire to the innocent. Although I think that stealth is the most pleasant route.
Almost all encounters can be conquered without a single bullet fired thanks to the new stealth mechanism. Lara can now cover herself with mud before sinking into a nearby wall, waiting for Trinity to fall into the massacre. This feels fantastic and chaining a dozen attacks while hiding in bushes or over the trees never grow old. Therefore, it is a pity that the combat encounters are surprisingly few and far from this time as another victim of Shadow's mediocre pace.
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Enemies range from cannon fodder infantry to more powerful variants that you'll have to strategically think to dispatch. Those with helmets can ignore head shots while enemies with heavy armor are not as vulnerable to sneak attacks. Here there is a reasonable amount of nuances, but only if you are willing to follow the rules of the game. Otherwise, a constant rain of bullets will make mincemeat of anything .
Crossing the Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a real achievement, even if certain segments can be fussy. Climbing irregular mountain sides with ice spikes before descending downward into a small, tight ravine are just some of the places that induce vertigo.
Visually, it's a master class in environmental detail and genuine spectacle. I played on Xbox One X, which is capable of running things in a native 4K resolution with HDR at its side. Apart from some performance issues, it worked without problems at 30 fps. If you are a fan of a juicy frame rate, there is an option to prioritize this previous resolution to run the game at 60 fps, and it still looks wonderful.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a fun action adventure for the most part, but it is often the victim of a disorderly narrative and a structural rhythm that prevents the end of the trilogy from really being highlighted.
The evolution that was about to reach its crescendo in Rise of the Tomb Raider is set aside here in favor of an experience that feels unnecessarily disjointed, making the mainstream campaign seem like a distraction from the exceptional secondary content .
Challenge tombs are a pleasure to navigate, while the abundant relics and treasures expected in the city of Paititi and its surroundings are a frequent explosion to discover. I'll be back for more, and I'm excited to see where the series is going, but I can not help feeling disappointed when everything is said and done.
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