Shadow’s lush environments provide plenty to do besides following its main story path, including tracking down treasure with the aid of clues written on monoliths, discovering hidden tombs, hunting exotic jungle creatures, and solving mysteries within the many settlements. For the most part, these side missions are great fun, especially the hidden tombs, but the rewards are mostly pointless. Salvaged outfits for Lara offer meaningless bonuses, crafting materials are so plentiful that they are not an exciting reward, and new skills or weapons are seldom used. It’s disappointing that so much of this optional content and upgrade system is incorporated so poorly.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is one of the most polarizing games I’ve ever played when it comes to gameplay. There are moments where it’s great and moments where it can be painfully frustrating. The game’s combat systems are a perfect example. The stealth mechanics are masterfully executed, with a wide variety of ways to approach each situation. However, once you are discovered, the gameplay turns into a complete mess that often led to me dying on purpose in order to reattempt the assault. The close-quarters combat is the easily the weakest part of the gameplay experience and is a step back from what was implemented in previous games.
Via Square Enix
By contrast, Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s exploration and platforming elements are well-executed and Lara has an assortment of abilities and equipment to aid her through every situation. However, there were several times where I wasn’t sure where to go or what to do next; not because I couldn’t figure it out, but rather a case of something not being clearly marked. I spent a half hour swimming around a pillar that I knew I had to dislodge and finally realized that I hadn’t been in the proper position for a quick time event to initialize. Speaking of swimming, the underwater sections of the game are a welcome addition and make for some interesting exploration and puzzle elements. The suspense of swimming through an underwater cavern and managing Lara’s oxygen while she avoids a school of flesh-eating piranhas is both fun and tense. However, when it comes to the game’s puzzles, I was a little disappointed. I have come to expect near perfection from this franchise in this area, but there were many instances where the route to the tomb was more exciting than completing the puzzle within it.
On the audio and visual side of things, Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks great, with some aspects standing out more than others. The game features several gorgeous locations that are beautifully rendered, with some impressive lighting and particle effects. Environments are full of exotic plants and wildlife, creating an authentic atmosphere that fits the game’s narrative. For the most part, the characters look great too, with the exception, ironically, of Lara Croft herself. There’s just something about Lara’s character model that looks a little “last gen”, for lack of a better term. It was something that I couldn’t help but notice and I found it strange considering how well the rest of the cast looks. That being said, the superb voice acting and character animations made for times where I felt like I was watching a film instead of playing a video game.
Via Square Enix