Shadow of the Tomb Raider is set to be the final installment in the origin trilogy that began with 2013’s Tomb Raider. Scheduled to be released on September 14, 2018, this game is being developed by Eidos Montreal in conjunction with Crystal Dynamics, and published by Square Enix. Given that the game was only announced in March, Square Enix is already on the fast train with marketing and promotion for the game, and part of that was their exclusive preview of twenty minutes of gameplay and cutscene footage at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Shadow of the Tomb Raider panel.
We all had our phones confiscated in Yondr pouches, so while I can’t provide you with exclusive screenshots, dear reader, I can describe the footage and plot in lavish detail, so that will have to do, along with lovely pictures of cover art. No, seriously, have you seen the cover art? It’s orange and black and fierce all over.
The plot of Shadow follows Lara as she deals with the consequences of her actions in the previous two games and continues her fight with the organization Trinity from Rise of the Tomb Raider. This time the plot takes place primarily in Mexico and Peru, with the game having a deliberate jungle feel to it, even when Lara’s in populated areas. From the gameplay we were shown, Lara now has the ability to use her jungle surroundings to her advantage, including sneaking along vine walls to hide from the enemy, getting the drop on them from tree tops, and tying them up with low-hanging vines.
Additionally, Lara starts the game with most of her prior knowledge in tact from Rise, instead of having a clean slate. She can grapple, climb, sneak, stealth kill and more, including a few abilities that are new to Shadow. One of the new abilities that was showcased was rappelling down cliffs as well as running along them, letting Lara access a greater variety of places much more quickly. Plus, after two whole games, she can finally swim! And I do mean swim, not the 30 second holding your breath and kicking that she did in parts of Rise. Now Lara appears to have taken lessons from the Guybrush Threepwood School of Holding Your Breath for Absurd Amounts of Time. Still, it allows more gameplay options so I’m not complaining.
The clips of gameplay footage shown don’t shed much new light on the plot for Shadow of the Tomb Raider beyond what was already known. Trinity is trying to set off a Mayan apocalypse and Lara (obviously) is trying to prevent that at all costs. What’s handy is that she happens to have the exact ceremonial knife they would need to use in order to do this … until she loses it to them. Whoops. Shown briefly is the leader of Trinity, Dominguez, who appears to be a promising and well-rounded villain.
Also making an appearance is Lara’s friend/sidekick/cohort Jonah. Their relationship takes an interesting turn in this game, partly as a consequence of their individual character growth, and after a point their interactions are much more strained with each other. In a brilliantly emotional scene, Jonah accuses Lara of being self-centered and not helping the people who need their help right here and now, while Lara thinks Jonah needs to focus more on the bigger picture. However it plays out in the finished game, I’m certainly hoping for a resolution. Or just stopping the apocalypse will do in a pinch, we can have resolutions in later games.
The overall visual detail was also really striking, though I will admit we were watching it at the size of most people’s living room walls. The detail in Sam, Jonah, and their surroundings is gorgeous. The cutscenes, particularly those in the jungle, have such rich detail that you’re not quite sure if you want to keep your focus on the action or just ogle at the backdrop. Compared to the (still good) visuals on 2013, it simply blows Tomb Raider out of the water.
After watching the preview I am now completely stoked for Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Lara has an ambitious journey ahead of her, and from what we’ve seen, it’s looking epic.