Review by Darth_Havok
Weakest Entry in the Series
This third installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise is, in my opinion, the worst of the trilogy from a gameplay perspective.
That isn't to say by any means that it's bad, as for me, all three games were very good or even great. This installment, however, adds some nice new gameplay elements (as sequels do) however without the kind of polish one would expect from a game like this.
First off, the game looks fantastic. Graphics are great, Lara & Jonah look amazing as usual. Some of the NPCs, however, look very generic and many of them look incredibly similar, though I'm not sure if this is intentional or not, depending on the location for example.
For me, some of the major issues plaguing the game are jarringly obvious:
- inconsistency. I was playing and my wife was in the room with me, I performed the same platforming sections, the same way, several times with varied results. Sometimes the results were laughable, other times frustrating & some times it just felt perfect. I've seen Lara use the climbing Axe in the middle of a stone wall when I "missed" the pitted, textured wall, I've seen her throw the axe into the proper surface and plummet to her death and then again, the same throw, the same way, and land it beautifully. The inconsistency in actions that are required throughout the game, more than any other, is just disappointing.
- Stealth Combat. Ok, so a lot of games do this & this one's not an exception, but it still has a very negative impact. Later on in the game, there are areas that force Lara to play stealthily. There's many tools at her disposal to distract or incapacitate her enemies, but she has no real weapons to speak of, so being spotted = almost certain death. My issue here isn't that Lara isn't Metal Gear's Snake, or Batman, it's that while using her detection system to view when an enemy is "safe" to take out, versus when you will be spotted, is just plain wrong. I've grabbed an enemy who was yellow and still got spotted by a nearby enemy who was facing the other way. In one rare case, an enemy (not one using thermal googles no less) saw me through a rock-formation. The stealth is poorly executed and there's very little margin for error. My issue with this is, the game's asking for precision play with flawed mechanics. Imagine being asked to perform a delicate surgery with a hammer and chisel instead of a scalpel.
- Swimming and under-water enemies. Another new addition is the focus on underwater activities and underwater stealth as well. Basically you're traversing underwater areas and the sea life is doing what it does, but if it spots you and you don't use the foliage as cover in just the right way, you're toast. Getting caught by an eel is annoying. Getting caught by piranha is worse and in most cases leads to instant death. Funny enough however, there is an area in the game where you're able to climb out of the water and onto a raft to safety, though I did experience an issue once where the fish managed to get to me through the bottom of the raft, but that was only once.
- Another one was getting the game to register that you're in a certain place, to do a certain thing. Like shooting your roped arrow while next to a mounting post, only to have Lara repeated not connect it. Leaving the area & returning seemed to solve the issue, but it happened more than once in multiple areas for me.
Other areas that may not have been as glitchy, but were no less annoying consisted of moments like "puzzle solving" where little clues are given and a total lack of understanding on what needs to be done if you're not paying close attention. Like solving certain puzzles based on numbers in the Mayan dates, not knowing what number represents what for example. Eventually however, unless your puzzle indicator is on the hard setting, Lara will give a clue. Sometimes these clues are helpful, other times not at all.
Another annoying thing is when you're searching an area where you need to do something for example. Pressing R3 to highlight things in the room for you will often prompt Lara to give a hint on what needs to be done... every, single time. So if you're just looking for items to pick up or lore uncover, you're having to constantly listen to "I need to..." or whatever other thing Lara wants to say.
What the game brings to the table that I thought was interesting, though I never quite found a use for, were additions like Difficulty Flexibility, allowing you to change difficulty on Combat & Puzzles separately for example, if one was too hard, without diminishing the experience of the other. Another welcome edition was the ability to craft unique costumes. It does add a layer of grind however, and for me, the results of the "bonus" any particular item gave, wasn't really worth it.
The skill upgrades system seems to focus more on things like status effect duration, or the other "views" now added to the game. Other skills will only unlock once you progress through certain points of the story, or once you complete certain Tomb Challenges. This gives the player more motivation to get out there and explore.
With the wall-run and grapple swinging type mechanics, it feels like the gameplay is heading in the right direction, but this title more than any previous entry feels to me like a bit of a watered-down Uncharted in many ways. (still not entirely a bad thing, since that's probably the Gold Standards in a game of this type)
The story isn't bad, but it isn't great either. I do love that they're exploring the Inca/Maya mythologies and history and thought that the atmospheres were truly amazing.
All in, I'd give this game a 7/10 and would encourage any fans of the other games to check it out. You may however, wish to wait for a discounted, re-released version if you're on the fence.
Product Release: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (US, 09/14/18)
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