Shadow of the Tomb Raider E3 2018 Hands-On Preview: Keep On Raiding
Microsoft has a playable demo of Shadow of the Tomb Raider at its E3 media showcase, so naturally I had to take it for a spin. I’m glad that I did, because based on what I played this third entry in the franchise reboot could be its best thanks to it having two games of lore and world building that came before it, but also for it being the best looking and performing game in the reboot to-date.
The demo took place at an undisclosed point in the game, but as you may have guessed, Lara is back to trying to save the world through finding old magical relics before the evil forces of Trinity does. It was set in some sort of underground cavern or tomb, and I was tasked with finding a knife relic, which required all sorts of environmental puzzles to be solved, as well as plenty of platforming and climbing to get to. The puzzles themselves weren’t overly tricky, and actually played very well with how they were used in the environment. I never found myself wondering for too long on what, or where to go next, so I appreciated the intuitiveness of the exploration and puzzle solving.
I actually found the platforming to be the trickiest aspect of the demo, because the particular tomb I was in required multiple precision jumps to get past, which took me out more often that I would have liked. I wouldn’t blame it on the gameplay as much as me the player, but at times I felt like Lara’s grip detection was a little unfair, which led to more death falls than I care to admit. On the other hand though I do like that platforming isn’t just about getting Lara to sticky latch herself to a clearly marked surface meant for climbing like other games that feature climbing and jumping, so there is more skill required than just blindly Spider-Man-ing yourself to every ledge you can find.
For the most part though the gameplay didn’t feel much different than what you have experienced in the first two Tomb Raider reboots, which is just fine considering that the gameplay has always been solid for this franchise. I just would have liked a bit more forgiveness in some of the more daring jumps Lara is asked to make, but overall the platforming and puzzle solving felt just as solid as the previous two titles.
In terms of combat Shadow of the Tomb Raider also doesn’t skew away from the formula previously used. You can choose to go stealth and stick to the shadows, or you can confront enemies head on if you’re not surrounded. Stealth seems to be the preferred method, at least in the section I was playing in for the demo, because anytime I’d make and open attack, I’d usually get swarmed and would end up dead very quickly.
What stood out to me the most about this demo though was the visuals. Like most of the game’s I played at this event, it was running on an Xbox One X to fully support 4K and HDR, and it showed. The crispness of the graphics is much greater than what we’ve seen so far from this franchise, and the textures and lighting are equally as impressive, if not much more so. The lighting and shadows in particular stood out thanks to the underground setting, but overall this is the best looking Tomb Raider to date, as it should be considering the hardware the developers now have to work with in the console space.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is definitely shaping up to recapture the magic featured in its predecessors, and thanks to the improved visuals, it has a chance to be a stand out if its narrative holds up. This sequel is a given for fans of the franchise, so stay tuned for more developments as they become available. It definitely has my vote of confidence after giving it a spin at E3 2018.
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