Rise of the Tomb Raider, released in 2015, was an excellent game, so it's no surprise that the new Shadow of the Tomb Raider being demoed at E3 looks and plays a lot like it. There were, however, three small changes that delighted me during the press demo I watched.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider's behind closed doors demo showcased Lara Croft walking through a massive hidden city full of quest-givers, a change from the hostile surroundings of the last game.
In Shadow, Lara Croft has a new crisis to avert: Threat of Mayan apocalypse. Writer Jill Murray was on hand at E3 to narrate a playthrough they were demoing for journalists.
Murray mentioned that at a higher difficulty level, the game will reduce the number of markers there are in the environment that indicate what is climbable. So many games tip players off about what to climb by scuffing areas or displaying certain climbable objects in a specific colour. I'm intrigued to try a new Tomb Raider that doesn't do that as much (she didn't have specifics on if the markings go away completely).
Second, in the interest of increasing player's stealth options, Lara Croft will be able to hide in vine-covered walls, go in and out of stealth more reliably, and, my favourite, put her hand in some mud and smear it on her face in a move that I guess must reduce her visibility. We saw that on display in the game's stage demo during Square Enix's press conference.
The third neat thing is that, while explaining and showing the game's massive social space - a village full of people who had been isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of years - Murray said that players will be able to activate an "immersion mode" that will change the villagers' background dialogue from English or whatever the player's local language is, to original Mayan.
I'm into all of that. More expected kinds of changes are coming with promises from the developers of more tombs, more puzzles, a rappelling system, and more underwater sequences. And that's all mixed with familiar mechanics from the last game, including that neat thing where you can shoot a rope arrow at certain targets and make rope bridges.
This game is being made by Eidos Montreal, building on the work of collaborating studio Crystal Dynamics, which led the development of Rise of the Tomb Raider as well as 2013's Tomb Raider. Shadow is slated for September 14 for Xbox One, PS4 and PC.
Oh, bonus detail for our own Nathan Grayson: There are llamas in the game, and you can pet them.