Fans who have dug into the depths of the new Tomb Raider have made a discovery that would make Lara Croft proud. By playing Shadow of the Tomb Raider without its day-one patch, they've found an alternate post-credits cutscene. The cutscene includes some easter eggs that weren't in the ending most players saw, and is impossible to see if you've updated the game. It's an ending that the game's developers say "was mistakenly included in the game." Spoilers follow!
The discovery came to light across an extraordinary series of posts over at the Tomb Raider Forums on Wednesday. That morning, a user going by the name Tombstone posted a query: "Nobody has brought up the letter lara gets [from] natla yet? Would natla be the main villain in the next games maybe?"
"There is no letter from Natla. It's a photoshopped image and a rumour," another forum user immediately replied.
"She doesn't get a letter from Natla," another added.
Tombstone seemed stunned. "Yes she does lmao I have the game un patched and the letter says to lady lara croft from jacklyn natla. It's real. Or are you guys trolling?"
If Tombstone was telling the truth about a post-credits reveal involving Jaqueline Natla, that would be a big deal. Natla was the antagonist in the original 1996 Tomb Raider and hasn't been a part of the franchise reboot that began in 2013. Post-credits sequences in movies and games often tease where a franchise is heading next, and tease the return of surprising characters from a series' past.
The patched post-credits scene most players saw includes only the lightest of allusions to anything from the series ancient past. A minute-long clip shows Lara Croft sitting in her late father's estate where she grew up, musing about her future. At the end of the scene, the camera pans up to a child's illustration, framed and hanging on the wall. The drawing depicts a young Croft and her late parents. Next to them are a pyramid and a Tyrannosaurus Rex, iconic elements from that very first Tomb Raider 22 years ago.
There is no letter from Natla in that scene. Yet, across several pages of messages at the Tomb Raider forums, Tombstone spent their Wednesday sparring with other users who didn't believe them.
Post screenshots, they said. Tombstone did. Post a video, they asked. Tombstone didn't have one.
"It's not fake I swear. Why do you guys think it's fake?" Tombstone said.
"Because it is fake and you're being annoying," a persistently sceptical user going by the name SoraSakai said. "It's even passed the point where you could've quickly been like, 'Kidding!' You're just being dumb at this point."
Eight hours later, as some forum users snickered about mysterious letters, Tombstone made a new post. "I had to replay the whole damn game again so I hope you cows calling me a troll and liar eat some humble crow pie." He included a vimeo link to the scene.
It runs a minute long. It features Lara Croft in her late father's office in Croft Manor. It doesn't include any illustrations of pyramids and dinosaurs. It does include an envelope addressed to Lara Croft, sent by Jacqueline Natla. It also includes a glimpse of a pair of pistols, Lara's iconic weapons from the pre-reboot game.
Even that video didn't immediately sway some forum sceptics who couldn't believe that the game could be available to play for over a week without anyone mentioning an alternate ending. The sceptical SoraSakai refused to believe it until they checked with a friend they said lived in a part of Japan with bad internet who had never downloaded a patch to the game. "She just beat the game and got this exact same ending that I thought was made up," SoraSakai wrote.
"So I'll admit that I was 100 per cent wrong. I genuinely thought this was a pointless troll (weirder stuff on the internet has been done. Honestly someone faking this ending really isn't that much of a stretch). So I apologise to tombstone for not believing you, for being so harsh in my not believing you. I genuinely thought this entire thing didn't happen. My language in annoyance over it is also inexcusable."
Since Wednesday, Shadow of the Tomb Raider's most hardcore fans have been abuzz about why the game would have two endings and why one would have been patched out just as the game launched. As is often the case with modern video games, Shadow launched with patches ready to be installed. Notes for those patches mention things like "added photographer mode" and "improvement and optimisation on Lara's hair," but they don't mention anything about the ending being changed.
Yesterday, Eidos Montreal released a statement, initially to fan sites and later confirmed by Kotaku. In it, they said the ending with the letter was, incredibly, a mistake. It wasn't supposed to have been shipped with the game: "During the course of development on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, multiple post-credits scenes were explored. Unfortunately one of the directions that was considered, but not chosen, was mistakenly included in the game. The Day One patch fixes this error, along with many other improvements. As always, we highly recommend that our players install the patch to enjoy the complete and most up-to-date experience."
It's hard to understand how a mistake of that magnitude could be made. Games have shipped with cut content still on the disc, such as the case with the infamously truncated Knights of the Old Republic II. Last year's Assassin's Creed Origins shipped with an interesting but inessential audio message missing, and it wasn't added back into the game for months.
Some studios have even changed their game's endings after release, including BioWare's now-famous decision to change the ending to Mass Effect 3, or more recently, Ubisoft patching the ending of Watch Dogs 2 in order to tease a sequel. But shipping with the wrong ending?
However bizarre a mistake it may be, it feels appropriate that a Tomb Raider curiosity like this would require such careful digital excavation to uncover. From its discovery to the fight over its authenticity to its eventual confirmation, the story of Shadow's buried alternate ending is a treasure hunt befitting a true tomb raider.