Shadow of the Tomb Raider review: A triumphant conclusion

Square Enix
Square Enix /

This triumphant conclusion to Lara Croft’s origin will leave you in anticipation for her future.

Title: Shadow of the Tomb Raider
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Platforms: Xbox One (version reviewed), PS4, PC
Release Date: September 14, 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider concludes the epic journey of Lara Croft in the most outstanding way possible; struggling to step outside her father’s shadow as she has been hiding in for the past few years. Not only is this installment in the series a coming of age story for Lara, but also serves as a wake-up call.

This story pulls back the bandage revealing Lara’s faults as a character, making her more human than previous games have depicted. Revealing these faults made me enjoy the story more because they pushed it along and it made me like Lara more than I already did. It also allowed me to relate to her on a scale past games failed to do. Faults are a big part of people’s personalities so, applying those to Lara strengthened her character creating a more believable one.

Along with a great story, comes an expansive South American landscape that is waiting to be explored and is all the more beautiful. Playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider in 4K was very impressive with a minuscule amount of framerate drop, gorgeous jungle vistas and water environments. Cinematic cutscenes and portions of gameplay have a seamless transition impressing me at every step of the way.

Lara faces off against the rampant organization Trinity who has affected her life so drastically. For this reason, she acts quickly without giving much thought to what she is doing. Her lack of planning and thought causes the central problem of the story, which she quickly acts to correct. Even after Lara’s oversight of the issue, she is unable to stop and look at the mess she has created. This single act or the lack thereof is crucial to her development as a character and flawlessly builds her into what she becomes at the end of the game.

Support is exactly what Lara needs through this journey as she begins to lose who she is as a person.

Jonah, Lara’s best friend and companion, is truly an amazing character who keeps her grounded and focused during the story. He is one of the primary reasons Lara makes it through this story as he is the main person supporting her throughout. Jonah was by far my favorite character. There are several times he is Lara’s north star leading her to the next objective making him the best supporting character. His warm and sometimes funny demeanor sets the tone for many of his and Lara’s scenes.

Support is exactly what Lara needs through this journey as she begins to lose who she is as a person. With her father’s legacy still rooted in her life, she is still trying to find those who are responsible. With that emotional toll and the one she has caused herself, it is outstanding for Lara to overcome her past and present for her future.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider does an outstanding job at culminating what has happened to Lara’s life over the past 20 some years. Flashbacks to her past set the tone for what she is missing and what was taken from her by Trinity making the journey ahead that much more wanted.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider - Jonah and Lara
Square Enix /

Unlike past Tomb Raider games, Shadow of the Tomb Raider focuses more on exploration and discovery rather than combat. This change in focus gives the gameplay a laid-back feeling allowing me to explore at my own pace. I could then decided to go back to the story which would give me the fast-paced, high octane story I was craving. The world building for the rainforests in South America is extensive as it ranges from mountaintops to underwater caves each presenting new threats.

The expansion of the underwater world is truly mesmerizing as it presents new challenges and gorgeous environments such as the need to breath and schools of piranhas. Aquatic exploration was some of my favorite because I wasn’t sure what to expect. The swimming mechanics work excellently as I had no troubles reaching objectives or picking up items.

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  • Exploring is by far the best part of the open world aspect, which contains numerous locations to find such as tombs and crypts. These two types of activities return from the previous games but provide different rewards I found very beneficial. The new rewards gave me a better reason to find them and eventually explore them.

    Tombs and crypts now reward the player with skills and craftable clothing respectively. The skills unlocked from tombs are exclusive to that activity, so you will not be able to unlock them any other way. This requirement made me more adamant about exploring open areas and taking paths I normally wouldn’t.

    Exploration in previous games was not as rewarding as it is in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and the majesty of the South American rainforest makes it enjoyable here. Crafting the clothing from crypts required specific skins from animals furthering the exploration aspect.

    One other feature improved upon in Shadow of the Tomb Raider are side missions. Before, they were quick missions completed in almost minutes. Now, they are extensive cutscenes building the world and characters around Lara. Many of these side missions took me to locations I would have had a tough time finding so completing them was favorable. Some exclusive equipment can be rewarded once completed, so I sought out and thoroughly finished these missions as often as possible.

    Shadow of the Tomb Raider
    Square Enix /

    Even though exploration is a large focus, Shadow of the Tomb Raider still provides an engaging and smooth combat system. Although most combat is weighted to the stealth side, players are still able to run and gun all they like. The combat is kept fresh with new enemy types presented throughout the game, requiring new tactics and gear to overcome the growing challenges. Stealth and gun combat are both pleasurable as the controls are intuitive, unlike cave exploration.

    … Shadow of the Tomb Raider concludes Lara Croft’s origin story in a way that is still mesmerizing.

    When trekking through caves for tombs or crypts, there are some control inputs that are not easily remembered. This requires constant reminders of when to use them through the game which is presented with floating text in the direction you are going.

    Immersion in the game world is lost here as I was presented with constant tutorials on controls. Forced, odd camera angles while exploring caves also presented a problem but were usually capable of being overridden by a flick of the analog stick.

    Regardless of the unintuitive climbing controls or odd camera angles, Shadow of the Tomb Raider concludes Lara Croft’s origin story in a way that is still mesmerizing. This coming of age story truly projects Lara into her future rather than being stuck in her families history she has been desperately trying to escape for the past two games.

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    . Shadow of the Tomb Raider. 9.5. Shadow of the Tomb Raider tells an outstanding coming of age story Lara Croft has so desperately needed to propel her into the next chapter. Gameplay focuses on exploration and discovery through the expansive South American rain forests making for a stunning adventure.. Square Enix

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.