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Shadow of the Tomb Raider review
Meh
by Arturas

While in general terms Shadow of Tomb Raider is a good game, I give it „Meh“ rating, cause it really fails to capitalize on its „natural strengths“. Being the third game for the same generation allows development time and assets, thus you'd usually expect the final part to be above and beyond any expectations. It's frustrating, cause for the fans, that loved previous two games, this one fails to deliver an epic closure — a story is somewhat boring, Lara's battle with her feelings and inner self-gets spoiled very early and later fails to grow into anything meaningful. Lara feels like modern day influencer, strolling around the jungle and offering unsolicited advice to the locals. Dialogue writing is equally poor, indigenous locals without any contact with the outside world, casualy chat in English. Sure, sure... Trinity has thought them English a century ago, yet I fail to understand who updated their vocabulary to modern times. I mean it's a tribe that hasn't even seen plastics! Thus fans are getting more of the same, with some improvement in gameplay and puzzle solving areas. Newbs, on the other hand, will be thrown into a weird adventure and will regret their choice to start their experience from the shadows forever. 
Developers should've aimed higher.


I'll just list most annoying parts of the game in bullet points while saving the good things for last.

• Poor writing - overall story, Lara's self-discovery, dialogues, almost everything except additional writing for manuscripts discovered within the game. A chunk of those is written quite well, offer interesting insights into Aztec, Incan cultures and expands backstory of the Trinity.

• Lazy world craft — none of the inhabited locations within the game feels real, or alive. We visit several villages or cities and all of them fail to feel real, or important. They just exist as weird hubs, with weird secondary quests and even weirder inhabitants. All people in one area have a similar face. Females have slightly more clothing and hair.

• Failed bravery — To be honest, I was fascinated with the developer decision to hide climbable surfaces from a plain sight. Many devs move in that direction and replace outstanding or „glowing“ edges with more subtle solutions, that are directly incorporated into the game world, yet remain easy to spot when a player inspects their surrounding. Within first hour it felt like it works here, yet everything breaks down when lighting conditions change. In caves, sometimes you may fail to see a ledge under your nose due to pitch black darkness, while outside it really depends on many factors. During evening and night, it's hard to spot a ledge further away, while during the day bright light or flares may distort, hide existing ledges, while also creating white'ish spots on surfaces and suggest that a wall may be grabbable or climbable when it isn't. This is one of the key issues with my decision to launch New Game +. On higher difficulties, most of the assists are off, so this issue becomes a real pain in the ass. Not sure if the same problem exists on PS4 PRO and 4K screen though. I could accept the thought that on higher resolutions this problem may be unnoticeable. Anyway, great decision, poor execution.

• Lack of attention to details. Lara falls from a cliff into a pool of water during a cutscene. Water won't splash. Having in mind navigational issues from above, some wooden objects are annoying, cause they look and feel breakable. Same goes for some knee-high obstacles, that we can't pass. I know it's a common issue in many games, but in this case, it really feels like they could avoid that, should they pay a little bit more attention. Same can be said about some random assets scattered on the ground, that look almost identical to lootable boxes and containers. Or piranha schools that form out of the thin water, just because you swim in a weird direction. Or sudden deaths without any reason. Lara's health just starts to drop and she dies :D. Or really stupid checkpoint system, that records a save before short radio dialogue, or throws you half a map away from death location. It feels like the system is more forgiving in an open world, compared to Tombs, but „the rules of the game“ aren't exactly clear. Or fire arrows, that won't burn oil in puzzles, cause that oil is fireproof unless it's a very specific fire... And this list may go on, and on.

It feels like half of all developer attention to details, went straight into the animation of Lara gasping for air. It's also somewhat erotic :D.

• Bugs — there are numerous bugs within the game. Classic ones, like rope arrows failing to stick to a surface, are noticeable, but at least not annoying.  However there's a specific kind of bug, that really damages gameplay. It's a change of Lara's stances and animations in various environments. Lara's stance changes from area to area and sometimes also depending on a costume. With that said in some areas, the square button won't work, in others player can't use weapons and so on. So if Lara enters a cutscene, but player rushes her off the ledge, she may jump, or... jump action may fail, or grappling may fail. This can get repeatable and annoying especially if a recorded checkpoint is bordering on the area where Lara's stance changes due to a sudden call on the radio. I've died due to these reasons maybe a couple dozen times. Few of them actually happened in very hectic sections of the game, where platforming feels more like a series of quick time events (running from flood, earthquake and so on). Those parts of the game are beautiful and dynamic, yet when the game fails to register a clean button press, you tend to ignore all of it and just deal with frustration.
How I deal with bugs? Few — ignore. Moderate amount — just deal with it. One bug too many — make a postcard out of it :D.


• Lazy approach towards an overall flow of the game. Shadow of Tomb Raider feels exactly like two previous games. Tutorial exploration, a sudden crash, frozen and left for dead Lara gets a knife and a bow. The adventure begins, new, „unexpected“ types of enemies are introduced. Most of them boring, mindless zombies. Not literally zombies, but... 

They had this Rambo idea, until they didn't ;(.


• Lazy approach towards new mechanics — there are several new mechanics within the game, but they're there just to play some supportive role. I really loved expanded stealth mechanics, rolling in dirt, becoming one with the jungle, but there are simply not enough combat sequences. It could have been Rambo, but it isn't. Same goes for underwater exploration. The overall feeling of diving caves, lakes and cisterns is great. I don't even mind that with all the talents you can hold your breath „for hours“. Yet it's just a traversal thing, some underwater combat, more underwater puzzles, treasures and crypts would have been great!  

Now for the things that I loved.

• Overall level/world design. The looks of it, as well as paths, hidden paths and zillions of marvelous frames of jungle, mountains, and crypts. Levels are well designed in terms of fun while exploring, as well as aesthetically. The world isn't entirely jaw-dropping, but it's beautiful enough to carry this game on it's own.

• Diving. Even though underwater adventures are underdeveloped, I still loved diving. It felt just right and underwater levels are mostly well executed.

• Lara's outfits. The idea to bring some old outfits is great, but the new ones are even greater. Another half of attention to detail went into designing those I guess. Outfits also come with certain benefits, yet they're somewhat trivial for the first playthrough, but will serve well for those aiming to beat the game at higher difficulties.


Mandatory outfits feel like a great and yet underdeveloped concept. I mean it feels like it could have been something more, but changing outfits just for the sake of few dialogues is rather annoying.

• TOMBS! Tombs are great in this game. When I passed a point of no return in a story, I was literally counting minutes toward the end. I wanted to be done with the game as quickly as possible, to go back and explore a couple of Tombs I couldn't access throughout my first playthrough. Puzzles are sometimes weird, or weirdly difficult, but all of them are solvable without external help while finding a solution always felt rewarding. I didn't care for new skills Tombs unlocks, just a thrill of a challenge and neat level design. Like, really, some of the Tombs are extremely beautiful, which is weird. They save on assets in an open world, populate villages and armies with clones, yet they pour so much effort into an area that will be visited by just the half of all players at the very best. That is the main reason I left Tombs for the last. I mean, I don't regret a minute I've spent with a game and I'll probably have another run later, but I'm just super annoyed by the fact, that third game in a story ark and within same technological generation just feels like a random game made in a AAA studio. Especially in a context, of other iconic characters and flagship games, that in a couple of last years pushed production values through the roof. Lara simply deserves all the attention to detail (tiny and huge) and developers failed at that. It's just another game, but at the same time, it is also a game I will remember for its Tombs. This alone is rather symbolic. With that said, buy it with a discount — minor bugs will be fixed by that time, there's no story someone would be able to spoil for you, thus there's no reason to play it now unless you're a die-hard fan :).

Not while designing this puzzle, you didn't :D. You probably hated us and I love you for just that! 
«Buggy as hell»
«Disappointment of the year»
Thank you for a great review
Reply

Other reviews6

7/10

+ Incredible cinematic setpieces
+ Camilla Luddington's performance as Lara
+ Traversal is a blast
+ Darker story (even if it never fully commits)
+ Lush visuals and fluid animation

- Middle act pacing
- Not much innovation upon previous titles
- Half-baked RPG elements distract
i thought it was kinda dull with a lot of busywork and fairly rote fighting (melee combat in these games are as bad as lara's childhood) and sorry but the rudimentary platforming is getting really tiresome 3 games in. the dizzying ludic/narrative harmony they managed in the 1st game is completely gone now, we're just left with a handful of tired game mechanics and some fancy shadow maps.

OTOH the set pieces when you're running from/to something and the scenery falls down around you are still good and this game looks incredible holy hell its nut that games look this good. oh and i liked when you played as kid lara for a bit that was cute as a button

i think you'd like this game if you like games that think they're movies. 
An astonishing game that takes out the needless complexity of the previous one to make a more streamlined experience that will leave in awe for it's beauty! 
IMO the best of the trilogy!
Translated by
Microsoft from Deutsch
The Game has become really pretty and is really fun to a certain Extent. ' But P1tt1 why can't you recommend it then? ' Easy! Take the Pros and the Kons Pro:-The Graphics are damn chic (if you have the appropriate Hardware)-The Story is really well told And compared to priority parts also make the Characters what their side quests are super too main Story Join. -Music and Language are great. Performance very pleasurable-You can adjust the Difficulty for Puzzles, Combat and Environment individually as you want Cons-Main Story to short. If you play through the Main Story and leave the Rest out of The game in about 3 Hours, the Game is over. All that makes the Game Time go in the length are above all the whole Collectibles. -The Map as a whole seems too small and far too empty! Many Areas are very ordinary Hoses, often used only to represent a Path to get from A to B. The larger Areas are almost flooded with Collectibles that I got an Assasins Creed Flashback. -Too few and often too short Fights you get a Bunch Of tools of Devastation at hand, only unfortunately too few Possibilities let off steam. Everywhere, Stealth is just being imposed on a stealth (actually, I love stealth) whether it's With Bushes or with overgrown Walls. Even the new Feature of hanging Enemies with the Arches of Trees on them is there, but there are few real Applications for it. Nice that there is the Feature but without Application it is unnecessary. The Areas where you joyfully get beat with Trinity are connecting empty. Not a single Enemy left that you could remix even in the afternoon. After The end of the Game, the only Fights you can still contest are against Predators. -The Crafting is a Joke In the Process you get lots of nice weapons to wheel and Costumes to make this is a pretty boring Thing but a pretty boring thing the "any" Ressouce is easy to collect and you have chronically too much of it from a certain Point "Except" jaguar furs. You need them for a Bunch Of Upgrades to the Weapons. But It only Gets from Survival hides. Interesting! Since you have too much of everything else and too little of it is in relation. Btw. Jaguars as the "only" of the animals there do not have a Farm Spot. -Useless Raw Materials There are Rare Animals from which you can also get rare skin/Feathers. But you get these in such a Crowd that it's a Joke. As an Example: Rare animals usually appear in pairs and You get 5 Furs or Feathers every tier at 5 furs or feathers so go 10 for once and that's more than you need for the "whole" game. Achja you can sell the Stuff really but the Gold you can have not only has a Maximum but at some point there is no longer even a Way to use the Gold yet because you don't need to buy anything anymore. -Costume Regulations You get when you take the Croft Edition or even Previous Parts has a nice Palette Costumes. You choose a Costume, you are happy about the Look, but then you also realize that some of the Costumes give Bonies and others don't. You are pushed to take a Costume with bonuses and come to terms with It. Further into the Game you then realize that the Equipment you get in the Course of the Game are not complete Costumes, but are almost upper and lower Body and let yourself be combied freely and swubs are the great Costumes that you got beforehand, still More uninteresting. But not enough, the Game starts the whole thing again. Once in Paititi, 80% of the complete costumes can no longer be used as long as you are there. Worse! You are forced to wear certain Costumes so that you can talk to the People there at all and in one Area you can only stay with a certain Costume. Even switching when you're inside is not possible either. I expected a lot from the Game and have unfortunately been very disappointed, Visually the Hammer but Playfully weakens it all the way. Should something change I will like to govern myself but in the current State I can only recommend waiting until the Game is in the Sale, because 60,-are clearly too much for so little.
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Haiku Review: Library, ancient / Archeologist working / Smash with my ice axe
Favorite Thing: A crazy story plus an action packed finale.
Least Favorite Thing: Mashing the survival instincts button every few seconds so I don't run past everything.

Date Completed: 2018-10-21
Playtime: ~ 14h
Enjoyment: 7/10
Recommendation: If you've played the first two, definitely. If you haven't I would highly recommend playing them.