Lara Croft could be one of the most recognizable characters in video gaming. During her PlayStation heyday, she appeared in magazines and advertising campaigns for sports and energy drinks.
Even though she isn’t quite the cultural icon in 2018 as she was over 20 years ago even the most casual fan knows who she is. 2018 saw a Hollywood blockbuster starring Oscar winner Alicia Vikander as the titular Tomb Raider. Even though the film didn’t do as well as expected by falling just short of breaking even, Vikander has expressed an interest in returning for a sequel.
Whatever happens with the film franchise though it doesn’t seem like Lara Croft is going away any time soon in the gaming market. The rebooted prequel series has helped breathe new life into what was an ailing franchise by making Lara a more gritty and realistic character. At the same time, giving fans an insight into what molded her into the Tomb Raider.
The Shadow of the Tomb Raider effectively brings the rebooted trilogy to an end by picking up after the events of the previous entry. With a new development team behind this entry, we take a look at whether Lara has finally become the ultimate adventurer or if she needs to disappear into another crypt never to be seen again.
30 Best: The Visuals Are Beyond Eye-Popping
The rebooted Tomb Raider series has always been great looking games. Rise of the Tomb Raider was a technical showpiece for what the Xbox One X and the PlayStation Pro are capable of. It’s good news that this years sequel Shadow of the Tomb Raider raises the bar even higher and looks amazing whether you’re playing on base hardware or the enhanced consoles.
The level of detail is outstanding and the realistic lighting shadows really add to the jungle exploration. Additionally, hair rendering is as beautiful if not more so with this release and the water effects which was something that amazed gamers back in 1996 will astound players here.
29 Worst: It Just Doesn't Have Personality Like Uncharted
The new Tomb Raider trilogy is dark in tone and far more serious affairs than previous entries and certainly more so than its nearest modern-day rival Uncharted. This absolutely fine but considering that Lara Croft is one of the most iconic characters in gaming she’s significantly underdeveloped as a character.
When you compare this to characters like Nathan Drake, Chloe, and Nadine from Uncharted and its spin-off The Lost Legacy characterization is still an issue despite the rebooted series being created to address this.
28 Best: Tomb Raiding is As Good As It's Ever Been
One of the biggest complaints from fans about the new Tomb Raider series is that there was either lack of any actual Tombs to raid or that action and puzzle solving ratio wasn’t what a Tomb Raider game should be.
With Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the balance has been corrected as the tombs, platforming, and puzzle solving take precedence over the action. In addition, the puzzles are surprisingly challenging and far more rewarding than the previous two games and Uncharted as a result.
27 Worst: The Violence May Be Too Extreme For Some
Something that may not resonate with all gamers is just how violent and merciless Lara has become. The distraught girl in the 2013 reboot is nowhere to be seen as effortlessly and coldly lays waste to enemy goons in brutal fashion.
While this is as much a plot point to explain the evolution and development of Lara’s character, her lack of empathy and emotion could be quite unnerving to some. Additionally, the leap from frightened survivor to a modern day Rambo in a short space of time could prove to be a little far-fetched.
26 Best: The Story Is Leagues Better (80s Action Film Fans will Love it)
Even though the violence may prove a little too much for some, gamers who have a love for 80s action movies will absolutely lap this element of Shadow of the Tomb Raider up. As violent as they are they’re brilliantly executed and will invoke fond memories of Rambo and Predator.
This is especially true when Lara covers herself in mud to become almost invisible or blends into the foliage of the jungle to expertly and silently execute enemy soldiers. This becomes even more rewarding on a higher difficulty with improved A.I.
25 Worst: Platforming Elements Can Be Simplistic And Frustrating In Equal Measure
The platforming in Shadow of the Tomb Raider has taken a more central role in this time around. There have been minor adjustments and refinements which you will notice if you’ve played the series back to back and they’re certainly better executed than the Uncharted series.
However, Lara’s jumping ability can be hit or miss with combinations of a superhuman ability to leap across huge gaps and successfully latch on to cliffs with her grappling hook. Then there will be times where she completely misses the mark for a seemingly random reason.
24 Best: The World Design Is Outstanding
The world of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a fantastic example of a detailed well-designed world. It is vast with explorable and interconnected areas that you unlock as your progress through the game. Its world provides near-infinite opportunities to stalk your enemies and become the perfect predator.
The game’s semi-open world is filled with optional tombs, side quests, and secrets for you to discover as you explore its incredibly detailed world. In addition, the game is designed to satisfy those who enjoy a more casual and linear experience too allowing players to focus on the game’s narrative.
23 Worst: It Takes Itself Far Too Seriously
Without going into too much detail Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s plot is quite silly on paper. The game’s story simply boils down to Lara trying to prevent mercenary-like organization known as Trinity from bringing about a modern-day Mayan apocalypse.
Its weaknesses can be easy to ignore and there are worse video game and film plots, the game is overly serious and takes itself far too seriously. This isn’t helped by the complete lack of humor. By omitting any comedic moments Tomb Raider has succeeded in separating itself from Uncharted. However, the issues with the game's storyline become more obvious and less forgivable by having less than endearing characters.
22 Best: The Writing Shines In The Character Dialogue
Even though much has been said here about the lack of humor and Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s unrelenting dark tone the dialogue between the characters is excellent. The relationship between Lara and Jonah is always interesting because he acts as her center by keeping her grounded and challenging her selfish motives.
The game’s antagonist is also very well written and has convincing motivations which reveal themselves over the course of the game and in its final moments. In addition, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s pacing is spot on and this is a testament to good writing.
21 Worst: Immersion Mode Is A Missed Opportunity
Shadow of The Tomb Raider features what was intended to be an innovative option in the settings called Immersion Mode. With this feature on, the non-playable characters and background characters speak in their native language whether it’s Spanish or Yucatan Maya. The intention was to make players feel lost in foreign lands feeling immersed in the experience.
Unfortunately, the execution was a huge misfire leading to awkward looking conversations where Lara is able to perfectly converse with characters speaking a completely different language to her spoken English. Not implementing the language ability to speak to locals and potentially unlock more side quests seems like a huge missed opportunity.
20 Best: Stealth Is Up There With The Best
One of the best elements of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the refined Predator stealth mechanics and you’ll probably find yourself opting to be quiet and deadly over firefights and melee combat. The stealth mechanics go a long way to making you feel every bit the deadly killing machine Lara has become.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider stands with the likes of the Far Cry series in its stealth mechanics. From the brutal underwater takedowns to Lara covering herself with mud Shadow will satisfy fans of taking the more cerebral approach to dispatching enemies.
19 Worst: The Stealth is Great But Hand to Hand Isn't
Clearly, a lot of work has gone into Lara’s ability to hunt down and defeat her enemies silently and efficiently. However, far too often players will find themselves struggling with the controls and the environment when faced with close quarters assaults.
Unfortunately, during these kinds of battles frustration will set in far more frequently during important fights especially the final boss fight. As a result, you’ll quickly realize how unintentionally vulnerable, awkward and clumsy Lara really is when she’s exposed.
18 Best: The Puzzle Solving Will Please Longtime Fans
The added focus on tomb raiding in Shadow of the Tomb Raider opened the door for a more traditional puzzle for gamers to solve. This will be especially pleasing to fans of the PlayStation 1 classics which featured deliberately obscure and difficult puzzles to solve.
This recent entry is far more in line with the old school approach to puzzle solving and the lack of hand-holding especially when played on a higher difficulty is far more rewarding. The tomb raiding aspect of Shadow is at least on par or as good those seen in Tomb Raider: Legends.
17 Worst: Forced Firefights At Odds With Stealth Mechanics
Since the 2013 rebooted series launched one of the series’ biggest weaknesses has been the moments when you’re forced into unavoidable firefights. Thankfully, there are less of these moments in Shadow of the Tomb Raider but they are still there and they can’t be avoided.
Even though Eidos Montreal developers of the rebooted Deus EX series took reigns on this newest entry their expertise in combining stealth and satisfying gunplay hasn’t translated well into the Tomb Raider series with previous issues still present.
16 Best: A World Full Of Secrets To Get Lost In
When Eidos Montreal took over from Crystal Dynamics to lead the development of Shadow of the Tomb Raider fans were worried that the transition from a supporting role wouldn’t go as smoothly.
Thankfully, their experience in creating immersive and explorable worlds absolutely jam-packed with secrets. Finding Shadow of the Tomb Raider's secrets functions similarly in how their discovery feels far more natural than found in the likes of Far Cry and even Uncharted.
15 Worst: The Underwater Sections Are Frustrating And There’s A Lot Of Them
Underwater levels in modern games seem to have a tendency to look very pretty but are often slow, frustrating, and cumbersome to play. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag and Assassin’s Creed Origins are prime examples of this.
With its instant kills, you can now add Shadow of the Tomb Raider to this list too. To make things worse you will too often find yourself limited in time, defenseless, and the schools of piranha make the sharks in Black Flag seem like goldfish in comparison.
14 Best: The Jungle Atmosphere is As Unnerving As It Is Beautiful
The game's Jungle setting is an incredible sight behold especially on the enhanced consoles. Yet the environment is so much more than that. It’s filled with the kind of unknown danger and dread that would commonly find in some of the best horror games on the market.
Many gamers often compare the first in the rebooted trilogy to films like The Descent. However, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is more comparable with The Predator, Congo, Apocalypse Now, and The Lost City of Z. The jungle feels alive, thick and atmospheric, and is a far more villainous antagonist than the main bad guy.
13 Worst: Despite Its Improvements, It's Not A Revolution
Much has been said about Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s improvements in visuals, stealth mechanics, exploration, and even its combat. However, despite these nice refinements, it’s not exactly a step up in the gameplay department. Fans may complain that its essentially the same that played five years ago on the last generation of consoles, and they wouldn’t be far off the mark.
The prospect of what the future holds for the series depends on how well Shadow of the Tomb Raider sells and although it will be exciting to see what adventures await a more seasoned Lara Croft there needs to be some work done to make the game feel revolutionary.
12 Best: Sound Design Is Some Of The Best In Gaming
The immersion and stunning presentation don’t stop with the game’s graphics because the sound design is just as impressive. Again taking cues from the horror genre the world of Shadow of Tomb Raider comes to life through its terrific soundscapes on par with games like Dead Space and Alien: Isolation.
Whether you take in the sounds with 7.1 surround speakers or a good set of headphones you’ll definitely lose yourself in the varied environment branches blowing in the wind, animals sneaking, chirping or whistling in amongst the trees.
11 Worst: Outfit Perks Are An Annoying Chore
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the many outfits that Lara can collect through purchases from merchants provide different perks. You can find unique outfits as well as skills and weapons that are specific to the path you chose whether it’s Eagle, Jaguar or Serpent.
However, you’ll often yourself changing outfits far too frequently to complete different tasks. It becomes a further irritation because you have to constantly change outfits when communicating with different factions too. Unlike the recent Spider-Man game there’s no way to combine perks after you’ve unlocked the outfits.
10 Best: New Game Plus Mode Add Replayability
In order to add further replayability Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the game provides a new game plus mode. This allows players to start a new playthrough carrying over all the skills and equipment from your first time with the game.
This means that you will be able to take a different approach by choosing a different path. So if you opted for the stealthy approach the first time you can now take the Jaguar path for a more melee focused challenge while retaining your Serpent abilities.
9 Worst: Lara is Quite Unlikable For The Majority Of The Game
For those that choose to play Shadow of the Tomb Raider by taking a more linear Uncharted-style approach will only see the side of Lara Croft that the main story wants you to see. Unfortunately, the darker more selfish Lara is quite unlikeable for the majority of the game’s narrative.
It’s true that her friend and confidant Jacob is there to try and keep her anchored down in reality and to make realize the path she is taking. Unfortunately, this only tends to highlight Lara’s unrelenting personality which can wear thin very quickly. In addition, the conflicted combination of Lara the super predator or the likable and clever adventurer we know and love seem to be at odds with each other.
8 Best: Mayan Culture Is Brilliantly Realised
Where the writing really shines in Lara’s latest adventure is the clear love for ancient history, in this case, the ancient Mayans since its story is based on the triggering of a Mayan apocalypse. A lot of research went on explaining the culture’s knowledge and fascination with astronomy and important events.
Focusing on the ancient Maya and the Aztecs are perfect for an Indiana Jones-style adventure which does a great job of mixing the real and supernatural elements, mythological creatures into its world. It’s so well done that you come away from Shadow of the Tomb Raider learning something new.
7 Worst: Damage Direction Is Still Missing
As stated, one of the more frustrating aspects of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is being forced into firefights. Everything about the gunplay mechanics is functional but they are clearly an afterthought in comparison to the stealth and melee takedowns.
There will be several points in the game where you can’t avoid a gunfight with multiple goons with guns. What makes this so irritating is there’s no way of telling which direction that you’re taking damage from, which be a huge hindrance.
6 Best: The Lost City Paititi Is Amazing
To say that the Hub world in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is huge is an understatement. Based in the legendary Inca Lost City of Paititi, Eidos Montreal used historians to help them be as accurate as possible by referencing the ancient Mayans, Inca, and Aztec peoples culture as inspiration for the Paititi locals.
Paititi is filled with merchants, people to converse with, activities and side quests to keep players that love exploring every inch of the game world busy for a very long time. It’s here where the real game of Tomb Raider opens up.
5 Worst: The Pacing Slows Down In The Middle
We’ve mentioned here that The Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s writing and pacing is very well done even if the story leaves a lot to be desired at times. However, some gamers may take issue with its length as the game starts to slow down around the midway point before picking back up again in the final acts.
This isn’t going to be an issue for the completists out there that like to sidetracked by raiding tombs, exploring crypts and getting sidequests from the locals but those that like their action nonstop will have issues with pacing slowing down.
4 Best: The Side Quests Help Lara Develop More As A Character
For those willing to explore Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s world to its fullest there are lots of sidequests to take on. While most of these are pretty simplistic in nature especially when it comes to fetch-quests they do a good job of developing Lara as a character beyond the scope of the main story campaign.
In addition, they help show that Lara isn’t completely heartless and single-minded when it comes to achieving her goals. It doesn’t quite live up to the likes of Horizon Zero Dawn or The Witcher series but it definitely helps show our heroine in a different light.
3 Worst: Side Quests Can Be A Chore...Literally
The side quests offer a nice distraction from the main game and help flesh out Lara’s character significantly. Unfortunately, these sidequests can become something of a chore to complete especially when you’re literally asked to complete some pretty mundane chores for the locals before getting to the main part of the mission.
On the plus side, the rewards are definitely worth it enduring some of the more boring quests. However, with tasks along the lines of finding and talking to a lot of NPC's to complete more chores like, finding medicine or going to the market they quickly become tiresome.
2 Best: Lara's Evolution Into The Tomb Raider
The rebooted trilogy in the Tomb Raider series is prequel series set before the events of Lara Croft becoming the character we came to know and play as across three generations and 12 games before the reboot.
So even though The Shadow of the Tomb Raider is to set up its own story for Lara it does a great job of coming full circle for those already familiar with the franchise before 2013. In addition, SotTR will genuinely make fans excited to for what the future holds and new story arcs that Lara will face in the inevitable follow-ups.
1 Worst: Tomb Raider Is No Longer A Game That Can Be Played By Everyone
When all is said and done Crystal Dynamics set out to completely redesign Lara Croft into a more realistic character in her looks and personality. In the past, she was a polarizing character because on one hand she’s a powerful and strong female lead but on the other hand her unrealistic proportions made her a negative role model for young girls.
This newly design Lara corrects the unrealistic proportions and maintains her empowering image. However, her status as a positive role model for younger gamers is hampered by the fact that the games are completely unsuitable for a younger audience. The next step in Lara’s evolution is the perfect opportunity to take her character back to the familiar romanticised version of Tomb Raider that evoked fond memories of movies like Indiana Jones and even Romancing the Stone.