Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Definitive Edition launches next month so we've decided to reflect on Lara Croft's underappreciated coming-of-age finale.
Shadow Of The Tomb Raider launched last year and Square Enix has now announced a Definitive Edition for November 5th (the same day as Red Dead Redemption 2 lands on PC). While the base game's sales were good enough and nowhere near horrible (despite a "weak start"), we've decided to reflect on the experience in order to argue why we feel it's so underappreciated.
We say underappreciated rather than underrated because it had relatively decent reviews with mostly scores between seven and eight. No one really seemed to hate the experience as it was an adventure typical of Lara Croft's modern trilogy in-spite-of Crystal Dynamics not developing it.
Yet, although the game was received well enough by critics and most fans, it does feel like an adventure that has undeservedly been forgotten about.
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Shadow Of The Tomb Raider launched at the worst time
One of the biggest issues with Shadow Of The Tomb Raider was the timing of its release. Although the developers were confident in Lara Croft's ability to compete with a spider, the game's position between Marvel's Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 was a recipe for disaster.
It resulted in the game being undervalued for not looking as remarkable as the competition, and it also resulted in no one having any time to appreciate Lara's journey as superhero and cowboy shenanigans were calling.
Spider-Man and Red Dead Redemption 2 were responsible for Shadow Of The Tomb Raider appearing average and not worth the full price of a new AAA game, and their overshadowing also showed that Lara Croft is no longer a juggernaut in the industry. She is historically, but in 2018 very few people cared about her thanks to bigger and better games.
Square Enix's portrayal of Lara Croft was boring
Aside from its horribly-timed release, another reason Shadow Of The Tomb Raider isn't as revered as it possibly should be is Square Enix's boring portrayal of Lara Croft.
The British tomb raider is one of the most iconic characters in the industry because of her looks, charm, theatrics, over-the-top caricature and pizzazz, but in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider (and its two ancestors) she was a boring whiner with zero personality.
She wasn't interesting to look at, watch or play as, and it didn't help that she had the most basic and annoyingly squeaky clean sidekick following her 24/7 in Jonah. Eidos Montreal attempted to give her some edge by making her responsible for a tsunami that - gasp - killed a random boy, but it didn't help as she almost immediately went back to being a charmless bore.
Nathan Drake and Indiana Jones are two protagonists from similar IPs who were always captivating thanks to feeling larger than life. Lara Croft didn't in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider as she just came across as an average person shoehorned into larger than life moments, and it's this disappointing portrayal that has likely resulted in the game not being talked about nearly as much as it should.
Rambo or Tomb Raider?
While the underwhelming portrayal of Lara Croft and the game's release date were fundamental drawbacks, Shadow Of The Tomb Raider should be more revered than it is because of its survival gameplay and combat. Granted, it wasn't as revolutionary as Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, but it's still one of our favourite stealth games of the current-gen.
One of the best aspects of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is how it allowed players to create as easy or hard an experience as they wanted. This allowed players to turn the game into either a survival mode or a fully immersive movie where enemies were simple but pathways and puzzles weren't marked with obvious instructions via ancient white paint.
The third-person combat was fairly standard but good, meanwhile its stealth was excellent and a huge step-up from Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Players could pretty much turn into Rambo by hunting prey through jumping from tree to tree, hiding in the leaves on walls and cloaking Lara in a bath of mud.
Deus Ex Mankind Divided is one of the best stealth games on modern consoles (bar its horrible ending), and Eidos Montreal were fully able to work their magic with Shadow Of The Tomb Raider. It didn't have the most complex and in-depth stealth options available, but the act of silently taking someone's life as a dirty lass was incredibly satisfying.
A necessary throwback
The portrayal of Lara Croft was weak and boring, but the gameplay was ultimately a necessary throwback to the series' foundations: exploration, platforming and puzzle solving.
One of the biggest gripes with Tomb Raider and Rise Of The Tomb Raider is that they were action games more in the spirit of Uncharted. Shadow Of The Tomb Raider had its Uncharted-esque moments, but there was way more of an onus on exploration and traversal than shooting.
You could go hours throughout the game simply exploring the jungle without killing a single soul, and platforming around the world had the feeling of a puzzle thanks to the option to remove white paint. The sheer number of tombs was also a delight thanks to how sparse they were in Rise Of The Tomb Raider.
If Square Enix had transformed Lara Croft into her beloved older self rather than the Katniss Everdeen no one wanted, then Shadow Of The Tomb Raider would be way more revered by fans because of its puzzles, exploration and landscape. All of those elements are severely underappreciated because they were part of a mediocre story with lacklustre protagonists and villains.
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The Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Definitive Edition launches for PS4, Xbox One and PC on November 5th.
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