I had the opportunity to play some Shadow of the Tomb Raider and attend a presentaton that had a little bit more information on the game. What I did learn is a good fleshing out of Tomb Raider as a series, and that the gameplay is definitely what we’re all used to.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s Lead Writer, Jill Murray, gave the presentation, and she stated that this game offers us the chance to see more of Lara’s social side. There will be a social hub, a large hidden city, which offers the chance to see Lara interact with all manner of different kinds of people, both as an outsider and as a respected person.
The hub is a place Jill wants people to experience and learn about as well. It's a hidden culture created for the game for players to learn about, with their own beliefs and even language. You'll have the option to choose the language of the crowd as well, if you're feeling like you want to be fully immersed you can keep it their language, or if you want to understand them, you can make it English.
Water will play a big part in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as Jill mentioned many fans had been asking for more of it in Tomb Raider. They team has answered those requests, with much more underwater exploration to come in Shadow. Both the presentation I saw and demo I played had a lot of water to go through. That means plenty of underwater passages and caves to go through, dead ends to avoid, and hopefully you don’t get caught out by the odd piranha or two. From what I played, there wasn't much to it other than a device for travel and exploration, though in the final game there may be more going on.
In terms of new mechanics, Lara now has the ability to rappel down to areas to explore even more. Of course this means that she can dangle in the air to swing towards where she needs to go as well. It's a tool I imagine we'll see a lot more of in Shadow, as the demo I played featured it quite prominently. If you've played Uncharted 4, it definitely felt similar to that.
Stealth has been emphasized quite a bit in Shadow as well. Lara becoming one with the jungle is a big theme of the game, and the mechanics certainly reflect that. There is of course the standard tall grass to hide in, but one of the cooler things Lara can do is blend in to the walls. Some walls are covered in vegetation and vines, which allows Lara to sink in behind them as she leans up against a wall, not unlike a certain meme. It seems like a nice iteration on what is the classic hide behind waist high walls stealth. It's certainly much cooler to blend in with a wall than crouch behind a crate.It definitely sold Lara as a jungle predator. Seamlessly going from from area to the next, with some quick action between, felt great.
My favorite thing, and the new mechanic that makes Lara seem particularly menacing, was the ability to cover Lara in mud. It sounds funny and what you picture immediately may seem more like a joke, but man it makes her seem like she belongs where she's at in the jungle. That the enemies she deals with have entered her domain and they will regret it.
In the end, what was shown that was new fits into the gameplay of Tomb Raider that we’ve come to know, and definitely helps further Lara’s character arc. The game felt the same as always with some neat additions. That's pretty much all I can ask for.