I’m still not entirely sure what I expected going into the new Tomb Raider trilogy of games but over all each of the games kind of blew me away. Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the final part of the trilogy is easily the best of the three and was an absolutely fantastic experience.

Let’s open up this review by taking a look at the trailer.


Walking through Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations

The Story

This game finds Lara Croft in South America after the events of the previous game Rise of the Tomb Raider, chasing down a high level Trinity leader. It’s a good setup and it’s easily the best setting of the three games.

Unfortunately though, the story is a bit weaker than the previous installments.

The villain isn’t very strong and a lot of his back story and motivations don’t really make much sense.

He’s trying to gather up two artifacts to use them during a solar eclipse in order to get the power of an Incan god but also to possible end the world or maybe prevent the world from ending? This part really wasn’t clear to me and more seemed like an excuse to have a final showdown on an Incan pyramid during an eclipse which I will admit was pretty cool.

You find yourself in an Incan city deep in the jungles of Peru that’s carrying on as if it was still about a thousand years ago with that level of technology and human sacrifices.

There’s a civil war going on in that city with a rebel group backing who they believe is the rightful queen while another person with ties to Trinity leads a cult that’s trying to take control politically.

Add to this an ancient prophecy and another crazy tribe of jungle natives with their own motivation and you have a lot of potential here but ultimately it just doesn’t work as well as it could have.

I didn’t end up caring about any of the characters, the villain didn’t really make sense and a lot of the time I was confused about what was going on.

It all leads up to what is supposed to be a pretty spectacular climax sequence which is pretty amazing to play through but it doesn’t feel earned which is too bad.

The story here ultimately is serviceable but is more just there to get you moving through the different areas which is where the game shines.

The previous game also seemed to be setting up a bunch of stuff relating to Lara’s backstory and family and even though this game has multiple flashback sequences where you play as child Lara it seems to completely forget about what was set up and goes in a different direction.

Another weird choice again is with the character Jonah’s race. In the first game, the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot Jonah was a Pacific Islander, in the second game he was African American. Now in this game he’s back to being a Pacific Islander again. So I’m not really sure what’s going on with that.

Ultimately the game ends with Lara Croft taking over her father’s mantle and kind of becoming the confident tomb raider that I guess is from the original games.


Ancient Incan trial

The Graphics and Environments

Most of this game takes place in South America and I have to say out of all three games this is by far the best looking one.

The jungle environments are absolutely beautiful with lots of Incan ruins, waterfalls and fun stuff like that. They really went all out with the environments in this game.

Like the previous games there’s not a lot of variety here, mainly just jungles, temples and caves but with all the plant life and waterfalls everything looks so nice that I didn’t mind at all.

This game unlike the last two also uses HDR which really makes all the color pop and is a huge improvement to the graphics. If you’re able to then I highly recommend you play this game on a TV or monitor with HDR.

I played on PC and was able to run the game at 1440p with all the settings on max and get a perfect 60fps all the time using an RTX 2070.

The game also has a fantastic opening sequence that takes place in a city in Mexico during the Day of the Dead festival and the whole area is fantastic to explore with lots of unique decorations, costumes on the NPCs colors and secrets.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is easily the best looking of all the games and it constantly impressed me the more I played.


Fighting a jaguar in the jungle

The Gameplay

The gameplay here is very similar to the previous game. It’s an action game with excellent tight platforming, combat and stealth. Plus you have lots of Uncharted-like chase sequences thrown in as well which are very impressive.

The crafting system makes a return and there’s a more complicated weapon upgrade system where you use different materials you find to upgrade different aspects of your weapons. Things like damage, rate of fire, reload speed, etc.

You can also craft various Incan-themed outfits that also offer different buffs and benefits. Ultimately though those benefits weren’t that huge so I mainly just used outfits that looked cool.

This time you have two large hub cities to explore where you can find quests from NPCs, shops and lots of people to talk to for more background of the world. The larger of the two is a massive traditional Incan city which is super cool and a ton of fun to explore.

The optional challenge tombs make a return again and they’re the best designed ones in the trilogy. They’re a lot of fun, almost like mini dungeons and end with you learning a special skill that’s pretty much always worth it.

My only real complaint with the gameplay is with a handful of underwater sequences. Swimming isn’t great and there are parts where you have to sneak swim past piranhas which aren’t too fun, especially since you have to keep getting air. There’s no rebreather item here this time like there was in the last game.

There’s also no indicator how much oxygen you have left which is odd. I always felt stressed during these sequences but I never did run out of air so it must be pretty generous.

Another nice addition to this game is the ability to tweak the difficulty of different aspects like the combat, the platforming and the puzzles. If you’re having trouble in one of those areas you can make it easier while not affecting everything else.


Traditional Incan Village

Sound, Music and Voice

Absolutely no complaints here. All the voice acting is excellent, the weapon sounds are great and the music is cinematic and fits the sequences great. There still isn’t really a main Tomb Raider musical theme which is a bit of a lost opportunity I think.

There’s lots of great jungle ambiance as well.


Ancient Incan Cave Trial


There’s a lot of DLC here and if you play the complete version on PC like I did you’ll get all of it.

One of the DLCs involves Lara taking some kind of jungle hallucinogen and reliving a bunch of stuff from her past which helps her to become stronger or something. This one’s probably the weakest.

Aside from that though there’s a bunch of additional challenge tombs and side missions that are a lot of fun to play through, even if they don’t really add much to the overall story.

These challenge tombs get pretty creative too like one of them for example is a giant wind-powered instrument with flutes and drums you have to platform through while avoiding all kinds of traps.

Most of these open up right at the end of the game before the point of no return into the final mission. I almost skipped most of them but I’m glad I didn’t.


Swinging on a rope during a storm

In Conclusion

I can’t help but compare these games to the Uncharted games. Overall I will say that the Uncharted games have better stories, characters and music. That being said, I think I had a lot more fun playing these Tomb Raider games than I did with the Uncharted ones.

The Uncharted games are mostly just playable movies, you move in a linear fashion from one set piece to another.

These Tomb Raider games are more of a game with secrets, side missions, lots to explore and do and excellent rewards for going out of your way to do everything. There’s just nothing like that with the Uncharted games.

So overall even with a bit of a weaker story Shadow of the Tomb Raider was a fantastic experience and easily the best of the three.

It took me about 30 hours to almost 100% complete everything. If you just did the main story it would be considerably less than that. It’s a great length that offers you a lot to do without wasting your time or overstaying it’s welcome.

The only warning I think I’ll add here though is that if you have claustrophobia or fear of drowning brace yourself going in. There’s more than a few sequences where you swim underwater through very tight caves while almost running out of air.

Other than that I can’t recommend this game enough.

Screenshots are from the Shadow of the Tomb Raider page on Steam and Gamespot used under Fair Use