Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the final entry in the most recent reboot of the classic Tomb Raider series. A lot of work has gone into re-imagining Lara Croft as well rounded, nuanced protagonist, and now it’s time for all of the emotional investments from the first two parts of the trilogy to pay off. Developers Crystal Dynamics, with some help from Eidos Montreal, dare not waste a moment in creating the tension, as Shadow of the Tomb Raider starts right off the bat with the high impact plane crash scene that was frequently used in promotional trailers.
Before players take on the mission of getting Lara’s gear recollected from the plane’s remains, they may want to first take a stroll through the game’s option menu. Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s accessibility options on the real unsung hero of the game, giving players the choice of three preset difficulties or the chance to customize a difficulty to their own liking.. Tomb Raider’s game play is often a blend of platforming and puzzle solving, with a little bit of stealthy combat sprinkled in here and there. It’s easy to see a scenario where any one of those game play elements alone could prevent people with a variety of ailments from picking up the game, and even easier to see where the three elements combined could prove problematic for some players.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s accessibility options make it possible for players to create a difficulty that suits their needs. If you find the puzzles out of your league, but you’re an expert at aiming an assault rifle at Trinity’s collection of soldiers then you may find it beneficial to turn up the difficulty on combat to hard, but lower puzzle difficulty to easy. Difficulty settings are not the only way Shadow of the Tomb Raider makes itself more accessible to players, though, as the options menu also features the ability to change in game quick time events that require multiple button presses to respond to a ‘press and old’ option instead. Additionally, crank prompts can be adjusted to respond to directional input, as opposed to requiring players to actually rotate thumb sticks for a response.
While options such as reduced camera shake and adjusting aim sensitivity have become a common part of game play option menus, especially in games with shooter elements, the ability to customize difficulty or eliminate the strain of quick time events are not found as frequently as they should be. These options, especially when coupled with the Xbox Adaptive Controller and the proper peripherals, make Shadow of the Tomb Raider playable to a wide variety of gamers who may have found themselves locked out of the game previously.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider adopts a full scale open world approach, and players can actually take advantage of this to fully explore not just the fantastic labyrinthine tombs but also the overarching cities that function as a hub world. For the first time, Lara can actually approach NPCs and have meaningful conversations with some of them. Some will simply have miscellaneous little stories to tell, while others are more helpful and can give players clues as to the location of some of the game’s 336 collectibles. Others go as far as to give Lara side quests that can unlock valuable gear, though these quests usually amount to little more than mini missions to eliminate a threat in an area or just general fetching.
Speaking of gear, players have the option to customize Lara’s appearance with a variety of customized outfits that do occasionally come with additional perks like bonus experience points or the ability to harvest more materials from resources and hunted animals. Lara’s arsenal is initially limited to her bow and a makeshift knife, but players can eventually add additional pistols, assault rifles, and bow variants to the collection. These weapons can be upgraded at camp fires with materials scavenged from the world, but all items feel effective enough even in their most basic state that it didn’t feel particularly necessary to track down new materials or variants.
What was heavily important to track down and keep a healthy stock of was the smattering of plants that Lara could collect and use on the fly for a variety of status effects. At any point, simply pressing a bumper and Y would have Lara consume a plant that would enhance her perception, effectively changing the saturation of the world and highlighting useful resources or dangerous enemies. Another plant could be used to give Lara a focus ability, slowing down time and making it easier to line up a well placed shot on an approaching enemy.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s narrative sees us through Lara’s descent into obsession with searching for priceless artifacts, to the point of being a danger to herself and others. This theme is hammered home by showing players glimpses of Lara’s childhood and her own father’s obsession with collecting priceless relics. This all comes to a head as Lara inadvertently triggers the beginning of the Mayan apocalypse, forcing her to reconcile with her actions and stop the evil forces behind Trinity. It all culminates to create a high action, mind bending, nail biting experience lasting around 25-30 hours just for the initial play through (and then there’s still new game plus mode to tackle afterward) that nobody should skip out on.