Can you believe that it has been more than five years already since Lara Croft was deconstructed and revived as a fresh-faced explorer of the unknown? 2013’s Tomb Raider is a landmark in storytelling and action, a damn fine reboot that paved the way for a new generation of archaeological action that made Lara more human, relatable and more importantly, relevant.
Rise of the Tomb Raider continued that story, and now the tale of how Lara became the Tomb Raider of legend is about to end. Can Shadow of the Tomb Raider bring a definitive end to a saga that has been years in the making? Here’s what critics have to say about Lara’s latest outing to parts unknown and whether or not it’s a Lara fun. Heh.
Lara Croft often throws herself headfirst into the action without seeing the bigger picture. In a way, that’s a good a parallel for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Parts feel rushed with odd scene jumps and some of the gameplay systems feel half-baked. The game has its standout moments, but it’s also full of unrealized potential. Whether it was a more engaging skill system or a bigger map, I was often left wanting something a bit more — yet, I could play it for hours.
As the final game in Lara Croft’s origin story, it just didn’t hit the high note it needed to. Still, that doesn’t mean it’s not a crazy, high-stakes adventure worth taking.
Lara has always played the roles of savior and protector and researcher and badass — almost entirely because those are parts she has been thrust into. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a perfectly good game, but it feels as though it never figures out a way to address the most compelling aspect of this arc: Lara’s personal growth. What path does she want to carve?
What does she want her legacy to be? Maybe she’d be happiest spending her life raiding tombs — all of the danger with none of the world-ending stakes. The glass half-full analysis is that she’s a regular chip off the ol’ block; glass half-empty, she never really escaped her father’s shadow.
With a story that manages to satisfactorily tread the line between high-concept fun and grounded character exploration, Shadow of the Tomb Raider meaningfully wraps up the journey Lara began in 2013 and convincingly leaves her in a place resembling where she was when we were first introduced to her more than 20 years ago. I would have liked a little more incentive to explore the beautiful world Eidos Montreal has created, but I’d much prefer too much content than too little.
There’s so much to enjoy elsewhere in a game that’s stuffed to the brim with ideas and devilishly challenging puzzles. I can’t wait to see where Lara goes next.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider ends this reboot on much the same note that it began, which for its fans may not be such a bad thing. This is a well-crafted and polished experience, and when the game actually gives you full control and leaves you alone to seek out its quieter mysteries, it can render you wide-eyed with wonder. And this Tomb Raider may have motivation and purpose and a vague semblance of an emotional arc but it all rings hollow, particularly when elsewhere there’s repetition and an overall lack of new ideas. This Lara has forgotten herself and forgotten the joy and the thrill.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider ends the story of Lara Croft — at least this version of her. As a young, inexperienced adventurer, we watched her as she was thrust into a harrowing experience on the Japanese island of Yamatai. We saw her evolve into a tough, inquisitive and resilient adventurer in Siberia. And now, in the jungles of South America, Lara has become the predatory force of nature that fans have been expecting.
It’s been a hell of an adventure, with plenty of ups and downs, but in the end, this reboot has delivered in spades, and arguably, Lara Croft has never been better. The prey has become the predator.
Thankfully, the parts of Tomb Raider that make it really fantastic–uncovering the mystery of ancient ruins, solving impressive challenge tombs, and exploring exotic environments–are still here in Shadow, and they are just as outstanding as they have always been. But the core mechanics that have been with the series for half a decade are starting to show their limitations. Making the journey to Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s peaks is certainly an attractive goal, but like the challenging terrain Lara needs to traverse, the path there is getting rougher and more unpredictable.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches on September 14 for PC, Xbox One and PS4.
Last Updated: September 10, 2018