The Tomb Raider franchise has had some longevity in the industry. The first game was released in 1996 for computers, the Sega Saturn, and the original Playstation. Here we are, over 20 years later, with the twelfth installment set to come out this September 14. During SDCC, publisher, Square Enix, had playable demos of Shadow of the Tomb Raider at their booth. Though billed as a third person action adventure, the game is so much more. Shadow seamlessly weaves multiple genres into a single pleasurable video gaming experience.
There are aspects of role playing games as you can level up by gaining experience for finding treasure, defeating enemies and completing mission objectives. As a platformer, you need skillful hand eye coordination when leaping from top to top of primitive elevators. You have to also factor in your own weight pulls the elevators down so you better act quickly. There are other times where you perform double jumps off of walls to grab a hold of a narrow ledge. While doing so, the mechanics and controls are fluid and smooth as not to bog down the game.
In order to progress at some points there are even challenging puzzles to solve. When experiencing the actual action sequences, you can take a stealthy approach and subdue the enemies from the shadows or charge in weapons blazing. Combat is more complicated than mere button mashing because you use a crosshair to target your adversaries. There is also an assortment of weapons to use, including melee and ranged, that can be useful depending on your fighting style.
The graphics are clear and detailed resulting in a beautiful and realistic aesthetic. During the cut scenes, though not quite comparable to live action, you can see down to Laura Croft’s individual pores. For the playable scenes, you feel like you’re really exploring shadowy catacombs and ruins. It can be so dark, you need to be extra cautious to ensure you don’t miss any treasures or spring any traps.
Since it was only a demo, the focus was on gameplay rather than story. You do learn that Croft is seeking a relic with connections with her father. At the same time, a paramilitary organization is seeking the same relic. Not only do you face the regular pitfalls and dangers of treasure hunting, but you now must deal with dangerous rivals getting in your way.
Overall, I was impressed with what was playable. It highlighted and provided a little taste of the game’s different aspects like platforming, puzzle solving, and action. In addition, the graphics are top notch and the controls are easy to learn but take more time to master. Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a worthy addition to the series and I look forward to the release next month.