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Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

Lara Croft’s next adventure in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is an equal challenge as she fights through the Peruvian jungle to stop a Mayan apocalypses from happening at the hands of Trinity. The review in Shadow of the Tomb Raider will touch on the gameplay, side missions, collectibles, challenge tombs, and DLC content of the game after its 2018 release.

Continuation of Trinity’s Downfall

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After the event’s of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft and her sidekick cook Jonah Maiava continue to dismantle Trinity piece by piece in the third survivor timeline Tomb Raider game Shadow of the Tomb Raider only this time targeting Trinity’s high council leader Pedro Dominguez to stop him from recreating a world from his own hands.

Not only the goal to prevent Trinity from getting any more artifacts, Lara’s ambitions dives deeper and personal to the point of taking down Dominguez who seems to be responsible for her father’s death because of a discovery he found when Lara was a child growing up.

Dr. Dominguez’s ambitions also pop up on the radar of Unuratu (Paititi’s queen and ruler) as he is not only Unuratu’s brother named “Amaru” but is a leader of KuKulkan cultists that front Trinity to want to destroy not save Paititi from what’s coming.

Chak Chel and Ix Chel Connection

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The stakes of Lara Croft’s next quest is much higher as anticipated on the discovery of both the Dagger of Chak Chel in Cozumel and the Silver Box of Ix Chel found in a hidden city in Peru called “Paititi.”

The dagger itself acts as a key with the silver box to unlock Ix Chel’s heart to summon the power of KuKulkan as part of a Mayan ritual to create and destroy the world to whoever possesses the two items; but, this also means the start of other events happens when the dagger is first taken.

The Start & Ending of the Cleansing

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The ultimate consequence of taking the Dagger of Chak Chel is the start of the Mayan Apopcalypse event known as “The Cleansing” which sets off a number of cataclysms events in a timeline that will bring waves of death with it.

The first event is a Tsunami which happens when the dagger is first taken in Cozumel that will ultimately start the first chain of death to the innocent people caught up in it.

Following a Tsunami is the events of a dangerous storm that will form over Peru…this event could be called a monsoon that even anyone taking a flight through it could be taken down quickly.

The third and fourth events in the Cleansing cycle is a giant earthquake with the final event being a volcanic eruption that will wipe out and finish off the remaining survivors.

The only way to stop the Cleansing is to succeed in joining the Dagger of Chak Chel with the Silver Box of Ix Chel without letting power over humanity take over the decision of the person who possesses KuKulkan power in performing the ritual which is what Lara must do to save Paititi.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Gameplay

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Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s gameplay mechanics are considered generic in third person style walkthroughs similar to what the Uncharted games provide with stealth mechanics mixed into an open world style of gameplay.

Some of the stealth tactics given to Lara that she can use to blend into the environment is using mud patches to camouflage herself while taking cover on a vegetation-covered wall to avoid enemy detection (even enemies that are equipped with thermal vision) while also taking down the enemy when they don’t suspect Lara is standing beside them and using the Eagle’s Talon ability to first shoot an enemy with an arrow then hoisting them up to be suspended on a tree limb.

When enemies are grouped together or possibly too close to one another to the point that hand to hand combat is much more difficult to achieve, Lara can setup a distraction by throwing bottles and other breakable items within an enemy’s earshot to break the enemies up so a stealth takedown can go down successfully.

Speaking of bottles, Lara’s crafting abilities can create some lethal throwable items such as molotov cocktails from a beer bottle to take out a group of talking enemies or burn through some of the flammable debris blocking a path and smoke bombs from a ceramic jar to make a quick getaway when the enemy zeroes in on Lara’s last known location.

In terms of weapons in Lara’s arsenal, a bow and arrow is among one of the best in the game and one of the most silent suppressed weapons that can be customized to improve accuracy, hold times, flexibility, and reliability; but, the other benefit is the selection of different bows that carry their own perks (sorry no compound bows are in this game).

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Pictured is Lara Croft covered in mud and hiding on a vegetated wall to hide from Trinity soldiers.

A few examples is the Heart of the Eagle and Recurve bow in which both have perks to improve on arrow and draw speed as well as damage due to the speed and energy of the arrow given off when fired.

While there is no access to a independent grenade launcher in the game, some of Lara’s arsenal can be equipped with a flare round attachment that will come in handy when getting into fights with the Yaaxil (the Guardians of the Silver Box) in the Cenote.

To acquire some additional gear, outfits, and gadgets to Lara’s inventory, the player can visit merchants within the game to sell animal hide, gold, jade, herbs/fat, and other items in exchange for coins…this is an additional option if too lazy to go out to get the required items need to craft a new outfit or in a bind running low on ammo if playing on the Deadly Obsession difficulty.

Lastly, the Deadly Obsession difficulty in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the hardest difficulty in the game that will force the player to collect the firewood in order to create the campsite save points (instead of the campsite already being created in the easier difficulties) as well as forcing Lara to start back over from the campsite if she dies or falls to her doom and there is no health regeneration during firefights.

If wanting to play on the Deadly Obsession difficulty, the key is to maintain as close to max inventory in order to have medical kits, arrows, and sensing ability packs available…which means don’t run out of ammo in the middle of a fight or it’s bad news.

Updated Skill Tree System

skill tree

Become a scavenger, seeker, or a warrior…these are the 3 skill categories for the skill tree system in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

There are 58 possible skills that can be unlocked by cashing in skill points built up from completing stealth kills, headshots, finding collectibles, and more in the game

The scavenger skillset benefits Lara’s creativity on how she takes down enemies such as the ability to craft lure arrows to lure enemies to a poison grenade that will kill them and the ability to perform chained takedowns when a stealth takedown is performed.

The seeker skillset goes into improving Lara’s survival instincts such as having the ability to reveal traps (tripwires, spike floors, etc.) in tomb locations and important challenge/collectible locations when the survival instinct feature is enabled (the survival instinct feature won’t reveal locations in the Deadly Obsession difficulty).

Finally, the warrior skillset is the “resistance” and “reliability” improvements for Lara’s character such as improving reaction time when triggering a trap to increasing damage resistance when performing another action (this can be a stealth takedown or using a medical kit).

Peruvian Challenge Tombs

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Beyond the main campaign in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the opportunity to explore the same Incan ruins and temples Spanish explorers conquered centuries ago.

There are 9 challenge tombs in game (with an additional 7 that can be bought as part of DLC bonus content) with the ultimate prize of reaching each Incan mural at the end an unlockable special skill to add to Lara’s character that is not available to buy from the skill tree.

Some of the skills that can be unlocked from the completing the challenge tombs is the ability to fire multiple arrows in succession, increase bow damage to armored enemies, and regenerate health quicker which can be important when dealing with Trinity or fighting Jaguars.

Helping the Locals: Side Quest Missions

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From preserving and protecting the coronation tradition of Patiti to becoming a detective in solving mysteries for other locals, Lara Croft’s other quest is becoming the errand girl in helping the locals get things back they couldn’t do with ordinary skills or relying on Lara to perform rescue operations.

There are a total of 13 side quests in Shadow of the Tomb Raider to complete as part of achieving 100% completion with the importance being to complete one of the side quests in Paititi to unlock a special merchant that will be available to purchase special gear that will play a role in collectible hunting.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Collectibles

tomb raider crypts

Making up the most collectibles found out of all Tomb Raider games, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has a total of 378 collectibles (even-though challenges, survival caches, and base camps) scattered from Cozumel to San Juan.

Some collectibles are inaccessible on the map unless the player behind Lara completes some of the side quests which will unlock access to areas of the map while a rope ascender and reinforced knife must be purchased to unblock some paths guarding some of the collectibles.

Just like the previous 2 Tomb Raider survivor timeline games (Tomb Raider & Rise of the Tomb Raider), the average collectible type is mostly made up of documents, artifacts, relics, and murals with some slight differences and additions.

The best strategy in increasing the chances of finding all collectibles is to find all 34 total archivist maps and explorer backpacks that will uncover collectible locations on the map to make it quicker to achieving 100% completion.

Hidden Treasures of Monoliths

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The biggest addition to Tomb Raider is finding and interpreting the riddles of Monoliths that would provide a simple clue to uncover the location of hidden treasures found nearby the monolith.

Each of the 12 monolith’s riddles are interpreted in 3 languages which include Mam, Quechua, or in Yucatec language. Each of the languages themselves have 3 tiers with Lara being able to completely interpret the specified monolith language by the 3rd tier.

In order for Lara to interpret language of each monolith riddle, other collectibles such as artifacts, murals and relics must be found to increase knowledge of each language. By finding each of the applicable collectibles increases Lara’s language fluency anywhere between 5%-7% each time.

The location parameter of the hidden treasure from the monolith would be highlighted by a white circle outline on the map on where the treasure is possibly located.

Just like survival caches, the hidden treasure awards are nothing more than additional resources to help in crafting outfits, poison/explosive gadgets, etc.

Conquistador Treasure Chests

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Lara’s main goal is “treasure hunting” so why would it not be fitting to have treasure chests in Shadow of the Tomb Raider…

There are 8 conquistador-style treasure chests in the game with the prize of acquiring an ancient artifact which can also improve Lara’s language interpretation (Mam, Quechua, or Yucatec) drastically sometimes between 30%-40% and rare resources including rare animal hide, gold, and jade.

The one requirement though to unlock the treasure chests is to purchase a set of lockpicks which are available from the special merchant named “Moraekah” that will unlock upon the completion of the side quest “Find Takiy’s Dice.”

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Personal Views

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Being primarily an action-adventure genre gamer, this was the first time playing a Tomb Raider game and experiencing the point of view of Lara Croft as well as learning from her background story of how her parents brought her up as another generation explorer but also on how addicted Lara’s father was in finding the lost treasure of early civilization.

For me, Shadow of the Tomb Raider was not a challenging open world game despite my playthrough on the Deadly Obsession difficulty that took away the Survival Instinct ability to spot traps and enemy signatures and the frustration of restarting from the most recent base camp after dying but just like always in any other action-adventure game…be patient or suffer the consequences of dying.

While the challenge of the Deadly Obsession difficulty forced me to use strategy and sometimes stealth to get by a group of enemies, the challenge of the hardest difficulty was taken away simply because of the available skills like performing chain kills to make it easier.

For me and other gamers looking for the ultimate challenge, it would have been best to grey out most of the skills in the game to make it come down to gamer skill with very limited “lifelines” from character upgrades to making it harder to find collectibles just like the Uncharted series.

Other than this minor con to a great gaming series, a majority of the game I can give major props for including putting some effort into stealth mechanics for Shadow of the Tomb Raider to make Lara’s character have a stalking characteristic similar to panther-style gameplay. My only recommendation is there should have been more stealth aspects but this opens the door for the next Tomb Raider title if and when it rolls out.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Photo Gallery

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