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Video Game Review: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Wait, what Matt? Tomb Raider?

So, it’s a little outside my normal brand with these reviews. I mean it’s not really dark fantasy stuff.

But, well, firstly, this concludes the prequel/reboot trilogy that began with the 2013 game Tomb Raider. Which was a darker, grittier take on the character. So points for that.

More importantly, this story revolves heavily around Inca and Maya mythology and eschatology. So, yeah, kinda fits in here, right?

The basics:
The game play loop has less combat than the previous two games, though each fight tends to feel weightier because of it. Combat emphasizes stealth a lot, with Lara sneaking around in bushes, mud walls, and so forth. Stealth kills feel natural and satisfying, which became my default play style in most situations. Because ammo is not plentiful in many areas, there’s a lot more focus on survival techniques. The bow is great, but you don’t want to be using that against multiple guys shooting at you with assault rifles. Fortunately, there’s enough tricks and techniques to keep things interesting (molotov cocktails FTW).

There’s also the exploration loop. Lots of climbing around, jumping, and platforming stuff that all felt pretty good to me. Rarely challenging, but rarely annoying, either, so mostly fun. What was maybe a little less fun was the sheer number of optional collectibles, going after which did become repetitive (but like I said, they’re optional).

The story:
Series antagonists Trinity return here with their endgame, which roughly involves using artifacts of Kukulkan and Ix Chel to destroy and recreate the world. It plays pretty fast and loose with the source mythology, but I still enjoyed the references.

The story wasn’t anything stunning, but it worked well enough, and the character development kind of pulls it all together. There’s a few moments where you can see Lara close to really going Dark Side and you can absolutely understand why she would after all she goes through.

Better still, her enemies are actually scared of her. I mean she’s basically stalked and murdered her way through an army of Trinity soldiers, and this time, there’s no “she’s just a girl” stuff. More like, “Croft’s here, call reinforcements!” Which is funny when they’re twenty guys with machine guns and she’s one person with a knife and a bow. And then she kills them all and blows shit up. Repeatedly.

So, fun stuff, and worth checking out if you like Adventure-type games.
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