Shadow of the Tomb Raider (PC, PS4, XBOX ONE)

“That’s right! Run you bastards! I’m coming for you all!”

Tomb raider

Yes, the only reason I am review this is because it was free for PSPlus users back in January. I thought I would just get that out there. Since I am still without anything new to play and still without a PS5 to elevate my gaming into the next generation (not that there are many PS5 exclusives available). I’m still going through my backlog of games of at least minor relevance still. So to that end here is the 3rd installment of the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider still follows Lara Croft, still saving the world from the bad guys at Trinity who are still trying to use the worlds ancients doomsday devices to be up to no good because otherwise there would be no plot device. This time around for a change it’s Lara who accidentally starts the Mayan apocalypse before Trinity can do so, Lara must then take it upon herself to undo her fuck up and stop Trinity from capitalizing on it.

My relationship with the new Tomb Raider games have changed with each installment. If anyone would care to remember my original review of the Tomb Raider Reboot despite my gripes about it I did enjoy it. 5 years later we’ve seen some marginal tweaks, a few scenery changes and very little else. With the 3rd installment what felt like a breath of fresh air originally is now starting to feel a bit stuffy.

In the first game a lot of my problems with it were due to me feeling like I was mis-sold the experience. Going into the game I felt like it was going to be a lot grittier than the game ended up being. I was expecting a greater fight for survival, having to scavenge and hunt for food, find shelter from the elements and in essence do what was needed to survive. In the end all we got was some scavenging and hunting for resources for the arbitrary crafting system all games seem to require these days. Fast forward to the third installment and I kind knew what I was expecting. I went in expecting more of the same and that’s sadly what I got.

My main problem especially in this and the previous games is that of Lara herself. She has absolutely no growth as a character, she’s just as vanilla at the start of the game as she is at the end. At least in the original reboot she showed glimpses of evolution even if it did come with a truckload of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance (for more information on Ludo-Narrative Dissonance see link). At least in the original series Lara was a seasoned archaeologist and that’s exactly how she acted, the new series tries to make her relatable by making her more “girl next door doing what she needs to do to survive” but she’s scaling impossible cliff faces, shooting like a seasoned professional and absorbing mental trauma with absolutely no signs of PTSD. Therefore I must conclude that Lara Croft is either a sociopath or a psychopath.

I’ve noticed myself I’ve not really done much talking about Shadow of the Tomb Raider specifically. This is probably because there’s nothing about this game that is particularly good or bad, it’s all very safe. Crystal Dynamics seem to have a formula for the Tomb Raider series, it’s not a winning formula by all means but it’s one that’ll get anything they make across the finish line. In doing this they have made the series boring and generic. It’s OK, if you enjoyed the previous games you’ll also enjoy this one but you won’t gain anything from it. You won’t leave the game with a lasting experience, just something to kill some time between now and the grave.

As I’ve said previously and I really can’t say it enough, the series could have been so much more. It was there in my minds eye when I saw the trailer for the reboot. I saw a darker, grittier, more realistic Lara Croft where she would be fighting for survival and barely holding her head above the water, not just against her enemies, but against the elements and the very environment itself. Have her need to find food and fresh water and if she doesn’t make it so she can’t run as fast or climb as high, have her need to suture bad gashes, create splints for broken bones or find different medicinal herbs with different properties (e.g. pain killers, antibiotics, ointments etc.), have her need to find shelter and warmth to prevent hypothermia. These things would have improved Lara’s story immensely and as such build her as a character because you’d be able to really see her struggle and watch her come out the other side a changed person. Make her a true survivor like the games advertise her to be.

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BONUS CONTENT: Ludo-Narrative Dissonance: Saying One Thing, Doing Another

Lets start with a definition for those who aren’t aware. Ludo-Narrative Dissonance was coined by the game designer Clint Hocking in a blog post in 2007. The term is used to describe the difference between the narrative told by a games story and the narrative of it’s gameplay. In his post Hocking singled out Bioshock where he explained that the narrated story demands the player be selfless but all the while the gameplay mechanics enforce a selfishness and the pursuit of power.

This was something I was thinking about as I wrote up my review for The Last of Us Part II. How Ellie would stab, shoot and blow up several people just so she could kill one person for killing another. Any kind of self-reflection would tell her that if it wasn’t for the camera crew following her around she would be the bad guy in this story. Abby by contrast is on a mission to kill someone who slaughtered her father as well as many others and succeeds in doing so without anyone else dying. This in contrast to the Ludo-Narrative consistency of the first game was one of the few things that rubbed me the wrong way about the game.

Another example that comes to me is that of the Tomb Raider remake. Again this was a game that I thoroughly enjoyed and had it not been for The Last of Us would have been my Game of the Year. There was a moment in the game where Lara kills her first person. You can see the terror in her and see the very moment that a piece of her soul breaks. This as a scene in isolation really brought depth to Lara’s character, However from that point on she starts gunning, stabbing, exploding people like it’s going out of fashion rendering her early breakdown almost meaningless.

The use of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance isn’t always something to avoid and if used properly can be a powerful story telling tool. To illustrate this lets look at Spec Ops: The Line where the use of ludo-narrative dissonance was a conscious choice. The actions of Walker are seen as a horrible warning to enforce the games message of “War is bad and you should feel ashamed for enjoying this game”. The game uses the hypocrisy of the playable character to reinforce the message of the story. This is how the Ludo-Narrative Dissonance differs from that in Spec Ops then it does in both The Last of Us Part II & Tomb Raider. Ellie & Lara never get that revelation that what they are doing is a bad thing, Walker on the other hand gets to the end of the game and it’s brought to light everything he’s done in the game and he realises his actions cannot be justified.

So to sum everything up, if your game is show signs of Ludo-Narrative Dissonance you can do one of 2 things. 1) Fix the inconsistencies by either adjusting the narrative or gameplay elements so that both elements go hand in hand; or 2) Highlight these difference in such a way that the contract makes the player question their in game choices and actions. The latter is more difficult to pull of but if managed successfully can make for a deeper gaming experience and give the player something to ponder once the gaming is done.

BONUS CONTENT: Game of the Year 2013

I have had a lot of time to write this week and as such I have 6 posts scheduled for posting and another 4 in my drafts close to completion. Although I have now been sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting for Friday and the next post in the queue. However, I got bored so as such decided it would be a good idea to inform you all of the Game of the Year winners in my hiatus. I will try and do these updates year by year in-between my main Friday pieces. I may also add some smaller posts once I’m up to date with my awards.



  • Assassins Creed IV: Blackflag
  • Bioshock Infinite
  • The Last of Us
  • Papers Please
  • Tomb Raider


The Last of Us

I did write a review on The Last of Us and mentioned It would have been my Game of the Year 2013 but now I’ve officially given it its due. The Last of Us was a beautiful written, beautiful executed experience. I didn’t spend as long paying it as I did Assassins Creed IV but The Last of Us is a lot more “straight to the point”. As well as some beautiful aesthetics and characters, The Last of Us is sure to be a fan favourite with anyone who enjoys a deep and enriching story coupled with some of the greatest cinematics on the PS3, which is further improved by the Remastered version on the PS4.

Tomb Raider (PC, PS3, XBOX 360)

Today I find myself yet again sitting behind my desk with nothing to do. So instead of the usual (watch QI) I’ve decided to do something a little bit more constructive. I’ve decided to go on an adventure. Searching for the lost kingdom of the Yamatai on a remote island deep inside the Dragons Triangle far off the coast of Japan. It’s here I must learn to survive if I’m to ever find my way home. I am Lara Croft and I am a survivor… I’m not really, I’m actually overweight and jobless. Anyway, here’s Tomb Raider.

The opening sequence begins with Lara and the rest of the Scooby Gang sailing towards the lost kingdom of Yamatai, which just happens to be located within the Dragon’s Triangle, a dangerous no go area for all things maritime. This scares the jinkies out of some of the crew, but not Lara, no. She’s out to prove herself as a real archaeologist like her farther before her. Naturally as to be expected, shit goes down, the ship gets ripped in two and Lara and the rest of the Village People are stranded and looking for a way home.

I’ve enjoyed the Tomb Raider series since the beginning but given the fall in standards throughout the series it was defiantly due an over-haul sooner rather than later. So when I heard that a reboot was on the way I was really looking forward to it. When the first trailers and game footage was released at E3 in 2012 I was even more so. Then I got a copy, played it, put it down to sleep now and again, then completed it and thought to myself “For a reboot they really haven’t changed a lot”. The story still had the stain of the weird and wacky like all Tomb Raiders before it. Which is a shame because it starts off so well. Trapped on a remote island, good, island is a home to a psychopathic cult, understandable, psychopaths believe that the storms surrounding the island are caused by a goddess’s vengeful soul, far-fetched but as long as they aren’t right about any of th… oh, they are right? Dam, and I was hoping the series had before serious.

Tomb Raider is a good example of why you shouldn’t get excited about a game based on it’s trailers alone. For example, the trailers would have you believe that the game had a whole island to play around on, nope, you explore less than a third of the island even then it’s just linear interconnected corridors with the odd larger area to roam around. Also if the trailers were to be believed there would be survival mechanic in which you must find time to eat, sleep, drink and heal like Metal Gear Solid except without all the snakes. Again, you’d be wrong, there’s one moment at the beginning where you must hunt deer and make a fire in a tutorial esque fashion and after that it’s never seen again. It’s as if the game suddenly caught a bout of amnesia, came to next to a copy of Uncharted and continued like that was the norm. Now, I like the Uncharted series, but I like Uncharted being Uncharted, not Tomb Raider being Uncharted. The jumpy explory bits expected from a Tomb Raider game are as good as it’s ever been but when the actiony shooty bits start you might as well be playing Uncharted if Nathan Drake was a British, student girl on a gap year gone horribly wrong.

The game was described as telling the story of how Lara changed from a young naive child to a battle hardened, stone cold killer. Bless the game because you can tell it’s trying to humanise Lara but fails in it’s consistency. For example when she first kills a deer, she’s crying and is apologising to it. Or when she kills her first person after her attempted “rape” she’s crying, in distress and mentally and physically exhausted, feeling hopeless and overwhelmed by the situation she’s in. At this point you think “wow, this is a pretty dark, serious Lara”. Seconds later however, she capping crazy psychopaths like it’s going out of fashion. At that point all seriousness is lost and the series falls back into old habits again.

Now for my final thought. Tomb Raider really does suffer from a lack of ambition. It starts off very well by characterising what a good reboot should be. It’s new but has a sense of familiarity to it. Sadly though this drive isn’t continued throughout the game, it’s lost after the first half an hour, becoming less like a new spirit child and more like the old one in new pyjamas. The set for a serious, darker Tomb Raider is lost in favour for the same old song and dance from years gone by. Not that it was a bad game, in it’s own merits it’s one of the stronger games of the series but it had the potential to be so much more than it is. And on that bombshell it’s time for me to end, thank you very much for reading, Goodnight. *Then plays Jessica by The Allman Brothers*