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Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an exercise in frustration, and ultimately fails at everything it tries to be.

Gamingtodaynews1e - Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an exercise in frustration, and ultimately fails at everything it tries to be.

Now, there's been enough discourse about the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy, and it's common consensus that most of the criticism is well deserved. However, despite it's shortcomings, these games do have their highlights, and are held together in a sense of 'the whole being better than the sum of its parts'.

I grew up on the Tomb Raider franchise, with Tomb Raider IV Revelations being my favorite entry, but it was pretty evident that Core Design were running out of ideas and had no clear vision on where to take the franchise after pumping out consecutive titles in the span of 4 years (which eventually led to the more uninspired titles, Chronicles and Angel of Darkness) which ultimately led to Crystal Dynamics taking over, and since then, this is the second Reboot the franchise has had, which is where my problems really take root. Lara Croft has had the most tumultuous character development arcs in all of gaming, with abrupt shift in tones, and depth, and somehow recycling it's worst elements over and over again.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a chore to play through, as much I tried to push through, it almost felt like the game was pushing back, never letting you take the wheel. And yeah, it's a linear affair, true, but the game makes the mistake of never respecting the player's progress. Having to unlock skills you already learned in the first two games is underwhelming to begin with, but that aside, the game never gives you an opportunity to put your unlocked skills to use; you just unlocked new weapons? Oh, too bad Lara lost all her equipment. You learned new combat moves? Too bad you have to stealth this segment. This level of handholding ultimately ruins the satisfaction of the gameplay loop, by taking away any sort of challenge that is required to put the player on the spot.

Which basically just leaves player agency to focus on platforming. IF THERE WERE ANY. Ugh, the shame that Tomb Raider had to borrow from Uncharted for it's shallow, linear telegraphed jump-that-glues-you-to-a-surface type platforming, (only this time, shadow prides itself in removing the white markers from surfaces to offer a more challenging platforming experience, sigh) This is my biggest gripe with the reboot.


The Uncharted format utterly fails in this context because Tomb Raider was always oriented towards platforming mechanics with actual depth, where navigation required pulling off precise moves with momentum and grace, special emphasis on 'Grace' because it's a trait that is so iconic to the character of Lara Croft, (much like quick witted quips is to Nathan Drake) that gave her almost a femme fatale like redeemable quality. Don't get me wrong, this isn't about the sexualization of the character, in fact what made Lara Croft so memorable amidst the barrage of Indiana Jones inspired adventure clones is how she always managed to come off unscathed by pulling of moves with so much grace, which again was complimented by platforming mechanics that had actual depth (performing a swan diving off a cliff or carefully having to lower yourself off a platform are simple examples, but go a long way into establishing the mechanics)

Instead the more 'accessible' approach to platforming has made Lara into a clunky bumbling primate, who can somehow leap unrealistic distances at times but cant get over a small puddle in another. Such inconsistencies, coupled with over reliance on cinematics and a hub world filled with fetch quests puts such a bad taste that mid way through, you realize you have zero motivation to see this through.

And man, the FUCKING STORY or the lack thereof recycles the old garbage supernatural plotline with narrative elements that trudge over the same emotional beats over and over again; and yet somehow, three games in to the reboot, they still haven't figured out the tone of the franchise which ultimately ends up meandering between dull and predictable to playing it way too safe, but the game likes to pretend that it's telling you a gritty survival story where Lara realizes the consequences of her actions and takes responsibility for them. Oh, and it's personal this time, why? Because you get to play as young Lara. Sigh.


TLDR: Shadow of Tomb Raider has no respect for player agency, and is ultimately the saddest conclusion to the Tomb Raider trilogy which leaves Crystal Dynamics no other option but to reboot it again.

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