Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Review – Guerilla Girl

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Review – Guerilla Girl. The Lara Croft who appears in Shadow of the Tomb Raider has made a ton of discoveries, lost a lot of friends, and killed countless living beings. She has incredible drive and self-confidence, and her enemies fear her. It’s taken a lot for the character to get to this point, and if you’ve been along for the ride since her excellent revival in 2013’s Tomb Raider, you may be pleased to hear that Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the same style of experience we first saw in 2013, only bigger and with more added to it. In fact, there’s seemingly very little, if anything, that’s changed dramatically or been discarded from the formula. But while that means Shadow retains a lot of the components that give Tomb Raider that fantastic, timeless sense of wonder and discovery, it also means that Tomb Raider’s interpretation of blockbuster action-adventure mechanics is starting to feel half a decade old.

It’s a little unnerving to spend time with the seasoned Lara of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, because her experience has changed her into a hardened, obsessive, and selfish individual. She’s reached true colonizer form, determined to get the game’s McGuffin, blind to the collateral damage, much to the concern of her lovable partner Jonah. Her demeanor is reflected in a renewed focus on stealth, where the new mechanics and the jungle setting give Lara the opportunity for Predator-style ambushes. She can cover herself in mud for additional camouflage, string enemies up from a tree, and craft Fear Arrows, which cause humans to freak out and attack each other. You’re also now able to transition back into stealth after being discovered, provided you can get away and break line of sight. There’s a big emphasis on these new abilities, as tooltips throughout the entire game will continually remind you that they exist. But while her expanded skillset gives you more options to confidently and quietly hunt everyone on the map, it also highlights the cracks and inconsistencies in Tomb Raider’s enemy logic and the limitations of the game’s relatively unsophisticated core stealth mechanics.

Sound still does not play a significant factor in Tomb Raider’s stealth. While firing at someone and throwing objects will draw attention, moving through rustling vegetation and making loud footsteps don’t seem to faze anyone even though the game suggests that it will, nor will taking out a soldier right behind another with his back turned, but those rules also seem malleable. There were times when my attempted stealth approach went wrong, a gunfight broke out, and after the dust settled I was shocked to discover an additional patrol of guards in the same area, only a few seconds away from the action, carrying on with a conversation as if nothing had happened.

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider Review - Guerilla Girl

Lara’s Survival Instincts ability once again will give you information on which enemies are safe to quietly take down without alerting others, but it can also reveal puzzling inconsistencies in enemy AI. There were too many times where I was able to get away with taking out a guard with one of his coworkers staring right at us, only meters away. Other times, the game will tell you it’s unsafe to take out an enemy because of someone with line-of-sight halfway across the arena. You can’t always trust your own perception of the map, even if it seems obvious, and using Survival Instincts feels necessary to constantly verify that the game agrees with your idea of what is safe or unsafe–expect to be taking out a lot of bright yellow men in monochromatic environments. When playing on Tomb Raider’s hard combat difficulty, which removes enemy highlights, this uncertain behavior makes stealth tougher than you might think.

The new abilities also have their quirks. Though camouflaging yourself with mud rightly makes you harder to notice, you can abuse it to the extent where you can roll right under the nose of a guard–it’s thrilling for you, but makes you pity the enemy. Mud is also typically available at the onset of major stealth sections, or very close to hiding spots that require it, making the mechanic feel more like an innate ability rather than a tactical option you need to seek out. Fear arrows have disappointingly varied results, too. More than a few times I would find myself stalking a patrol of men from a tree, shoot a fear arrow at the shotgun-toting soldier, and watch as he proceeded to miss every point-blank shot.

There’s still some satisfaction to be gained in Shadow’s stealth, though. Waiting with bated breath for patrols to move on, and figuring out the order in which to eliminate guards like some kind of violent logic puzzle, is still enjoyable. But the new mechanics don’t really add anything significantly interesting to that baseline experience–the big spotlight on them suggests a more sophisticated stealth system that isn’t there. You get the feeling that Lara is a cold-blooded predator, that much is true. But it’s not satisfying when the prey is so dumb and easy.

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