Shadow Of The Tomb Raider's New Tomb Is As Awkward As The Rest Of The Game

Some games’ post-release plans are stingy, others generous, some comically convoluted. And then there’s the seven-part plan for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, an awkward game that is now getting some awkward expansions.

On paper before release, it all seemed pretty good. Shadow of the Tomb Raider would be a sequel to the excellent Rise of the Tomb Raider. It’d come out for Xbox One, PS4 and PC all at the same time. It’d avoid competing with mega-mega-games like Red Dead Redemption 2 by coming out in early September. And it’d give players more of what they probably most want — tombs to raid! — once per month, for an unbelievable seven months.

In execution, it’s all been weird, including the first expansion, The Forge. It came out last week and exhibits some of the same strengths and oddities as the main game, while also being the first of seven expansions for a game that seems to have already fallen off most people’s radar.

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider: The Kotaku Review

The new Tomb Raider’s freshest idea is the floating of a question: What if all this tomb raiding that Lara Croft does indicates that she is a treasure-plundering jerk who wrecks other people’s cultures and, worse, their lives?

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I liked the expansion, peculiar as it is, when I played it a couple of nights after release. It put me happily back in the game’s massive Peruvian environment, adding a new quest-giver to my map in the small town of Kuwaq Yaku. The quest begins with a conversation between our hero, Lara Croft, and the grandmother of one of the main game’s supporting characters, Abigaile Ortiz. Grandma is aware of some secrets about the area and soon enough inspires Croft and Ortiz to seek them out.

In gameplay terms, this means you have Croft climb through a cave to find a piece of an artifact, then find another one just laying near some trees, while Ortiz automatically grabs a third piece off-camera. This is prelude to entering the first bonus tomb of the game. Amid all this there’s a surprising amount of fully-voiced conversation among the three women about what they’re doing and why.

Some of the main game’s numerous tombs were great, while others were forgettable. It made me wonder if the developers saved some of their most striking designs for the paid expansions. Whether they did or not, The Forge turns out to be visually arresting and fun to solve. It involves a huge cavern filled with flames and swinging structures, and then a massive room that is built around a huge pillar lined with a spiral track and a platform that Croft has to figure out how to raise.

The main gameplay gimmick in The Forge is the phenomenon, teased in the main game, of Croft’s fire arrows being able to detonate clouds of gas. Here’s an example:

Looks fun, right?

So what’s so awkward?

A few things:

The new tomb is cool, but the overall offering here is slight, reminding me of the piecemeal expansions for Batman Arkham Knight a few years ago. I really liked that game and was eager for more of it, but one-hour add-ons were frustrating, and I found myself happier to take them all in at once many months later. The Forge tomb costs $7 and also comes with some challenge variations of one of the game’s main tombs (all of the bonus tombs and surrounding quests, set for release through next year, cost $41 in a season pass).

The reward for clearing the expansion is strangely inappropriate. You get a new combat outfit and a special shotgun, which seem to have nothing to do with the ancient tomb you’ve just cleared. It’s odd to get a combat-oriented reward, because there’s barely any combat in the expansion, just one fight with some wolves, and not even that much combat in the main game. You also unlock the ability to craft grenades, which I guess is kind of related to having cleared a tomb that was an ancient place where things were forged?

There’s also the continued awkwardness of Lara Croft’s presence in all of this. Of course she’s in the expansion. She’s the star of the game. But she’s even somewhat out of place in the main adventure, which spends a lot of narrative energy on Croft’s recognition that her tomb raiding makes her a cultural wrecking ball. In the campaign, she tries to at least listen to the people whose lives and societies she’s smashing through, but she winds up playing something of the tropey British white saviour to them instead.

In The Forge, we’ve got Croft going on an adventure that feels like something that Abigaile and her grandmother should be working out. Abby seems capable enough that she could have handled this tomb, or at least we could have stood to have played her in the mini-adventure leading up to the tomb. It makes sense from a game design standpoint to have players raid the tomb as Croft, but she feels like more and more of an interloper

The most surprising thing about The Forge is that there are going to be six more offerings like it. I found it enjoyable but strangely framed, just like the main game. Shadow of the Tomb Raider seems to have come and gone for most people, and I can’t help but assume that this seven-part expansion plan was designed with the expectation that the game would have generated more buzz (and dropped price less quickly) than it did. I don’t know how many other people are with me, but I’m curious to see how this plan is going to unfold, even if I suspect I’ll probably enjoy it more by playing it all at once in a year. I guess I’m in for the whole thing.


Comments

    While, it’s a beautiful game, high on the eye candy and cool locations, it has almost no replay value, awful, stiff dialogue and it’s far too linear for its own good.
    I’m not surprised it’s no longer on people’s radar.
    The game I started playing straight after Tomb Raider 3 is Nioh (it was sitting in my pile of shame) - and while its a completely different game, it’s deep as an ocean, with LOADS of replay value, deep systems and hundreds of hours of gameplay and rewards.
    I’m surely not the only one who wants a little meat in their games, not just an expensive show pony.

    i was waiting for something big like the expansion on rise, the one with the witch

    I played both the reboot and Rise of the Tomb Raider after their definitive versions came out with all DLC and patches. I found the DLC to be completely unnecessary unless you want to 100% the game. I played through each game once and was quite satisfied with the experience, leaving the mini hub areas with a few collectibles still to find and the odd challenge tomb un-raided, but knowing there was more meat on the bone if I felt like chewing it, added a bit of grandeur to the whole experience.

    I played all three of the new Tomb Raider games by Crystal Dynamics and while I enjoyed the original 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider, I felt that its sequels, Rise and then Shadow were both, in my opinion, overrated disappointments.

    Rise felt like a chore to play. It felt repetitive, had awful dialog, a lackluster story and uninteresting characters that I just did not care about.

    Shadow was more fun than Rise when it comes to game play, but still suffered to a boring story, badly written (and performed) dialog and uninteresting characters, with little to no replay value.

    I've finished the first Tomb Raider reboot about three times on three different variations of play (PS3, PC and then PS4 with the Definitive Edition remaster), but with both Rise and Shadow, I finished them once and immediately traded them in.

      I found the second one the most enjoyable. They all have horrendous dialogue and stupid stories, although one has to suspend disbelief when it’s an Indiana Jones type thing.
      Lara herself is not a likeable character and quite vacant also.
      Not as annoying as say Nathan drake but the writing and acting is better in the uncharted games. But I’ve always hated the uncharted games anyway.

      One of my main issues with the tomb raider reboots is that you can easily max out all skills and weapons without even trying, and the currency system is the same, which makes any progression feel like it’s handed to you on a silver platter. Also the weapon feel redundant aside from the bow.
      So all that’s left are the extremely small selection of challenge tombs and an on-rails story.

        I personally really enjoyed the Uncharted games. Nathan Drake isn't the most exciting of characters, I agree, but I guess what captivated me about the Uncharted games' characters, is how well they are all written and performed.

        The writers did a good job creating these characters and the actors did a great job portraying them. Despite the fact that Drake is essentially a mass-murderer (to be fair, he doesn't have a choice, but it seems so unlikely that one man can slay so many people in his life time), he does seem quite believable and 'human'.

        Lara on the other hand... I completely agree with you. I found her unlikeable. She was okay in the first Tomb Raider game, but in Rise and Shadow, I just didn't like her at all. Sure, she does redeem herself of her awful mistakes in Shadow, but to me, she comes across as an uncaring, selfish person. Makes me wonder, why on Earth does Jonah hang out with her at all?

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