SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER is the final game in Lara Croft’s origin story. It looks to be her darkest, most ambitious adventure yet.

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a gaming panel at the Tribeca Film Festival. This panel gave a sneak peek at SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s gameplay and story, which is releasing in September.

The TOMB RAIDER panel showed never before seen gameplay footage – not even viewers on Twitch were able to watch it (you can check out the stream here, in case you missed it). I was privileged to attend a post-panel interview with the five TOMB RAIDER panelists in order to receive an even bigger scoop on the game.

The final piece in Lara’s origin story is darker than ever before. The player controls an older, more capable Lara, who is just now coming to terms with her actions. The updates to gameplay, combat, and the darker thematic shift have definitely set the tone for the most ambitious TOMB RAIDER yet.

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER panelists
SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s panelists: Moderator Geoff Keighley, senior game director Daniel Bisson, lead writer Jill Murray, senior brand director Rich Briggs, and performance artist Camilla Luddington.

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s New Gameplay Mechanics

One of the main focuses of the TOMB RAIDER panel was the new and improved gameplay. Many new mechanics were shown in the footage, such as rappelling down ledges, running alongside walls, and, as requested by many fans, the ability to swim underwater.

TOMB RAIDER’s swimming seems genuinely stressful; I was uneasy just watching it. In the scene, Lara had to swim upwards through a sunken tomb, all the while dodging falling boulders and wrestling with an eel. Eidos Montréal, SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s developer, would be remiss to spoil the game’s most stressful moment in this preview, so I am very curious to see how things amp up from here.

shadow of the tomb raider cliff
Lara making use of her new skills to scale a cliff.

During the exclusive interview subsequent to the panel, a mechanic called “Living History” was mentioned. Not much was revealed about this Living History, but it was tied into the mention of multiple vast hub worlds within the game, including an ancient city. Will Lara somehow be able to interact with ancient Mayan civilizations?

Lastly, SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER will have regular DLC updates for seven months post-release. These additions are to include new challenge tombs, narratives, and equipment.

On top of these new additions to the general gameplay, SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s combat differs from previous entries in the series.

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SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s Combat

As stressed multiple times throughout the panel, SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER marks the final arc of a trilogy. Lara has evolved through each of the games and as such plays differently.

Lara is timid and inexperienced in the first TOMB RAIDER reboot. She struggles to survive the game and must avoid being hunted. In RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER, Lara is now an avid predator. Finally, in SHADOW, Lara becomes “one with the jungle.” She has no problems killing and is more than adept at using the environment to her advantage.

Lara’s advanced skill lends to SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER being more stealth-oriented than its predecessors. While it is still possible to handle any situation guns blazing, safer (and flashier) alternatives are available. Lara can now dip in and out of cover — unlike previous games, enemies will eventually lose sight of Lara.

According to the developers, this experienced, brutal version of Lara does not come without consequence. Lara’s moral struggle is one of the key themes of SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER.

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SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER’s Dark Overtones

Over the course of the rebooted TOMB RAIDER trilogy, Lara Croft has learned how to kill. In the newly released reveal trailer, Lara saves a young boy from becoming sacrificed, having to stab his captor to do so. In response, the boy looks at Lara with fear and slowly runs away. Lara drops the dagger, questioning her choices. This question resonates throughout the whole game: Is Lara becoming who she hates the most?

According to the developers, this is the first time in the series that Lara must face the consequences caused by her own actions. Never before has Lara been at the root of the game’s conflict.

As revealed in the interview, the player will not constantly want to take Lara’s side. Will the player think Lara’s actions are too selfish, that her killing is unjustified?

Lara’s friend Jonah makes a return in SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER. His thoughts represent those of the player. He wants the best for Lara and butts heads with her to ensure her safety. The final scene of the gameplay footage showed an argument between Lara and Jonah — to say things got intense would be an understatement. Again, I am very excited to see where the story goes from here and to see how dark it actually becomes.

shadow of the tomb raider dark tribeca
Lara’s adventure literally gets “darker” in SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER.

Tribeca Games Festival — Closing Remarks

Attending the Tribeca Games was an awesome experience. Video games are gaining more public attention as of late, both as pop culture and as art. A whole event dedicated to gaming at the prestigious Tribeca Film Festival seems unreal. SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER seems to be a standout cinematic experience. Games like it show that video games deserve the same artistic appreciation that movies have.

SHADOW OF THE TOMB RAIDER releases on September 14 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC. If this presentation is indicative of things to come, it is definitely a game to look out for.

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