I was going to review Halo 2 this week. But then I remembered that I’d played this one, so it got bumped up the priority list. Sorry, Halo. You’ll have to wait until next week.
While I did have my problems with Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider, I still greatly enjoyed both games. However, when I went into Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I had a strange sense of dread. For some reason, it gave me a similar feeling I got from games like Batman: Arkham Knight and Mass Effect 3. I feared that it would be yet another disappointing finale to a series that I loved.
So, the question is: was I right? Did Shadow of the Tomb Raider fall flat on its face? Well… yes. But also no. It was mostly good! But I struggle with the idea of going back to play it again.
Story: Ending a War and the World
As a conclusion to the modern Tomb Raider trilogy, this story is kind of strange. It does conclude the story established in the previous games. At the same time, however, the plot of this game feels oddly disjointed. Like it wants nothing to do with the other two.
After their adventure in Syberia, Lara and Jonah (heh heh, that’s me) head off to stop Trinity from acquiring another ancient artifact. Unfortunately, when Lara herself takes it, the nearby town is consumed by a massive tsunami. Now Lara must race to find the other artifacts before Trinity can take them and the world ends.
Also, there’s something about an ancient village caught in a civil conflict with Trinity cause the leader comes from there. That part kind of takes everything over by the end.
Okay, let me elaborate. Later in the game, Lara discovers this old village where Trinity’s leader, as well as the game’s central artifacts, come from. And apparently, this village is the most important thing in the history of ever. This is where Trinity came from all those centuries ago, the main bad guy wants to save/rule over it, it’s the most important thing ever.
Funny how it never came up in any of the previous games. Or how the main baddie was never even mentioned. You’d think if these artifacts could mark the end of the world and they were so central to Trinity’s… everything… that they’d not even bother with all the shit they did in the first two games.
This story does feel really disconnected from the first two games. Nothing that happened in either one of them feels like it has any impact on the events of this one. At most, you’ll get a few brief references to characters from before. It feels very isolated, which is kind of a problem when your game is the finale to a three-game story.
Now, I’m not saying the story in this game is all that bad. The pacing is a bit rough, going from very slow at the beginning to blindingly fast at the mid-way point. I’d say this one has the best character writing and dialogue out of any of the other three, but it’s still not especially great. It has some fun twists and turns that make it more enjoyable and surprising, so it’s not exactly predictable. It’s not especially great, but it isn’t terrible.
The big one for me is the dialogue. My biggest complaint in the previous games was that the dialogue was inorganic and uninteresting, meant only to drive the plot along. Luckily, in this game, we do get a few scenes of our characters actually sitting down and talking to each other like people. And these scenes are great! Unfortunately, they’re rare and far-between. Outside of these, the writing is entirely like it was in the other games: meant only to drive the plot along, not to be interesting.
The villain is kind of a step up from the first game, but not by much. He’s a more sympathetic character… I guess. He’s decently intimidating, but he’s more annoying than threatening. He’s still not an especially deep or memorable character, but he is still the best villain in the trilogy.
Even if his boss fight still sucks.
To be fair, this game does do a lot with Lara’s character. We actually get a playable section with little girl Lara that I loved! Plus, she gets another bad-ass moment like the one she got in the first game! It doesn’t hit as hard emotionally, but it’s a pretty solid moment all in all! I also love the brief epilogue scene we get after the credits; it’s a great way to end the trilogy while still being open enough for more.
All in all, this story is… decent. Not especially strong, especially when connected to the first two. But it’s still compelling enough to carry you to the end. In this regard, the game isn’t a total disappointment.
Not yet, at least. Maybe.
Presentation: Look at How Real I Look!!
A, photo-realism. We meet again. Why is it that you look more boring the more convincing you look?
Despite my disdain for this realistic style, I can admit that it lands the mark here. All the environments are crisp and highly detailed, though they do sort of blend together as the game goes on. All the character models are rock solid and they’re animated pretty well. It’s not as impressive as, say, Death Stranding, but it’s still a good looking game.
If you like games devoid of any unique style, that is. But given that this is the industry standard these days, I guess I can’t be too mean.
Music wise… I have nothing to say here. I genuinely can’t tell you if the music is good or bad. Because I genuinely cannot remember a single note of a single tune! When I try to recall any of it, it just flies straight through my mind. It literally went through one ear and out the other.
And that’s about all I can say about that. It’s another one of those ‘Look at how realistic I look!’ kind of games. They’re a dime a dozen. Technically impressive? Absolutely! But visually distinct? Not so much.
At least Nintendo and Indie games still have style…
Gameplay: Adding Too Much
I could copy-paste my entire Rise of the Tomb Raider review here. But I can add more on top of it!
This game is basically just the last game, only with more stuff in it. Which is kind of a problem, considering that the last game had the perfect amount of stuff! But this one just adds more! More crafting stuff, more weapon upgrades, more of everything!
Except for challenge tombs. You know, the best part. Which brings me to my biggest problem with this game: the challenge tombs.
These are shorter in supply, as well as harder to find. They try to make up for it by increasing their length, but I don’t think that works. Part of what made them so much fun in the first two games was their length; you could go in, beat it in ten minutes or less, then move on. But making them longer, even if it isn’t by much, pushes them a little closer to the realm of tedium.
Plus, they play a really annoying animation where Lara pulls out her gear everytime you enter/leave one. It’s cute the first time, but it gets really annoying later on in the game. I get it, she has gear. I’m the one that equipped the shit! I know what she’s got!!
You can also equip all sorts of weapons and even armor. Unfortunately, some weapons are just objectively better than others and the armor is basically useless. You don’t get enough of it to really customize Lara to your liking and the game will, very often I might add, remove the gear entirely for plot reasons.
It’s not all bad, though. The gunplay feels smoother and more responsive, making shootouts more enjoyable than before. The stealth and climbing mechanics have been expanded upon in neat ways, making climbing more engaging and stealth more interesting. Side quests have been expanded, making each one longer and more distinct than what we got in the last game. The dramatic expansion of the mechanics hasn’t been to the detriment of the entire game. Only most of it.
One thing I absolutely love is the customizable difficulty. You can alter the difficulty of exploration, combat, and puzzles individually, each to three different settings. It’s not the deepest customization in a video game, but it’s a nice touch. It’s certainly more interesting than what we got in the previous two games.
Still, despite those gripes, I can’t deny that I had a ton of fun with this game! While I do think the ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, just add more’ mentality doesn’t always work to the game’s benefit, it doesn’t ruin the overall experience. It’s still a fun adventure game from start to end.
But they did sour the challenge tombs, and that is a sin I cannot forgive. 0/10, fucking sucks.
All in all, I can’t say this game was a perfect ending to this trilogy. I don’t think it was as disappointing as Arkham Knight, which I mentioned earlier. But I still found myself wanting just a bit more then what we got here.
Not to say that it’s bad, by any means. It’s still a fun game! While it is a letdown in many ways, it’s still a satisfying experience! Still, it would be a struggle for me to place this one on a list in comparison to the other two. It’s definitely good; but would I say it’s better than Tomb Raider (2013) or Rise of the Tomb Raider? I don’t know.
If you enjoyed the first two games as much as I did, you’ll certainly enjoy this one! It isn’t a perfect finale, but it’s still solid! It’s a decent final chapter in one of my favorite modern game trilogies! And I’m not just saying that because one of the main characters is named Jonah (heh heh, that’s me!)
I’m gonna miss that gag…