Two weeks ago I was invited to play the first four hours of the upcoming Shadow Of The Tomb Raider game, what I saw blew away expectation. The action, the drama, and scope of this game is incredible. After four hours of playing through the story, “Lara’s defining moment” still hasn’t been unveiled as marketing for the game keeps telling us is in there, though I did witness a moment that distinguishes Lara’s character from any character in film or comics.
In the middle of tracking down her compatriot, Jonah, through a lavish jungle, Lara stumbles into the trap of a pair of ferocious jaguars eager to make her their midnight snack. You’re armed with only a few arrows and some predatory senses of your own in a fight for survival. One can’t help but get Remnant flashbacks as you watch claw tear through Lara’s back flesh. Her agony a sign that you aren’t the apex predator or even welcome in this land. I attempted to roll away when one of these animals would attack me, as it skedaddled the other flanked me as to mockingly say that my strategy wouldn’t work.
Once you get the hang of the game’s on-the-move combat mechanics, you can hit these hunters in vulnerable areas in order to take them down. As you kill one of these majestic and murderous creatures, you’ll see a cutscene where the remaining kitty cat stares you down in an awkward Eskimo kiss. This fierce creature gives Lara her main lesson in surviving the jungle…always remember it doesn’t want you here. This other jaguar then fu**ing drags its dead friend in its mouth through the jungle as if to say if I can’t eat you then I’ll eat this one.
It’s a panic-inducing moment that illustrates how Lara Croft is different. She doesn’t have a metropolis to fly, a New York to swing from building to building, or even a Gotham City to cradle her in its mythology. Lara Croft is constantly traversing a new place in the world, sometimes she’s the reluctant protector while other times becomes the invading force, even if it’s only by circumstance. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Croft is just as foreign an element in this Peruvian jungle as the Trinity army she’s trying to stop.
In the earlier Tomb Raider reboot games, Lara’s character was in denial about the supernatural elements of her father’s work. She not only had to battle evil armies to get to this point but her own skepticism and rejection of what the Croft legacy was. Shadow of The Tomb Raider looks to reconcile her place in all this as this time it feels like you’re not only in a race against Trinity but battling this land that doesn’t want you starting another apocalyptic event.
Up to this point, Lara had simply been seen as the foreigner, some simply believe her to be after riches while others think she’ll bring about another collateral damage filled catastrophe. The end of our playthrough puts you on the path to figuring out which it will be. After climbing up gaming’s most infuriating massive Mayan cylinder of death, Croft encounters a civilization of natives untouched by the outside world in a place created by developers called Paititi. It’s here where you begin to understand the delicate balance of your actions and their effect, but this is also where the game stopped for me.
My playthrough didn’t allow me time to explore some of the secrets I’d stumbled upon such as death trap or challenge tombs, some because I lacked the necessary equipment or skill to open them. For as massive as SOTTR’s story looks to be, knowing you’ll have to play through more than once to explore every bit of this land feels like a daunting task I’m more than up for. But please Square, no fu**ing spiders.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider completes the origin trilogy of Lara Croft when it releases on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on September 14, 2018.