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Shadow of the Tomb Raider will show us a new side of Lara Croft in her rebooted role — going from a silent killer in the jungle to a single-minded enemy of Trinity, the evil organization that killed her father. Now, we’ll find out just how far Lara is willing to go to achieve her ambitions.

The Eidos Montreal and Square Enix game debuts on consoles and the PC on September 14, and it will be on display next week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. I love the strong character that the Tomb Raider developers have been creating, and I’ll never get tired of seeing Lara’s many faces.

Gone is the innocent Lara from the rebooted Tomb Raider in 2013. In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, she has an encyclopedic knowledge of archaeology and mythology, but she has also learned to be a cold-blooded killer when facing the evils of Trinity.

Lara Croft doesn't mind putting mud on her face in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Above: Lara Croft doesn’t mind putting mud on her face in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Image Credit: Square Enix

Now, she’ll spend time hiding in forests and jungles in a race to uncover a Mayan secret. In her ambition to beat Trinity, she causes what could be a world-ending catastrophe.

Rather than stay and help those who are immediately suffering, as her friend Jonah does, Lara sets out in pursuit of Trinity to fix her mistake. That causes a rift with Jonah, and it sets up Lara’s clash with light and darkness in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

I had a chance to play an extended demo of the game in advance of E3, and I liked the little thing that Eidos Montreal has remembered in crafting this tale: character development. It matters — and so does a good story.

The deadly Mayan jungle

Lara Croft causes death from above in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Above: Lara Croft causes death from above in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Image Credit: Square Enix

In the jungle, Lara has learned to strike fear in the enemy. She paints mud on her face and body to blend into the terrain. She sneaks around in the trees, plunging downward with brutal strikes. She can use her bow to achieve silent kills or come in close with a knife to skewer her foes. Now, it’s about mastery, and Lara becomes an “apex human predator” as she goes after Trinity.

“Shadow of the Tomb Raider is about a defining moment, as she becomes the Tomb Raider and learns the one thing that separates her from someone else,” said Jill Murray, lead writer for the game, at a media event.

She becomes one with the jungle, blending into the greenery and climbing the trees to escape notice. She can use psychological combat to strike fear in enemies, who can kill each other in moments of panic.

Lara hides in the shadows and strikes fear in her enemies.

Above: Lara hides in the shadows and strikes fear in her enemies.

Image Credit: Square Enix
In one part of the game, the developers have created the world of Paititi, a native Mayan (yes, a reason exists for that) hub in Peru. It is three times bigger than any previous hub in a Lara Croft game. It’s a bustling ancient city, teeming with life.
Lots of side missions are here as well. Lara can find tombs and explore them. She uncovers the culture of human sacrifice in these underground locations. In pursuit of artifacts, Lara will go deeper into these tombs than she has in the past. She’ll rappel down into the depths and journey into scary dark places.

The flood

Lara Croft faces tough choices in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Above: Lara Croft faces tough choices in Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

Image Credit: Square Enix

But just as Lara becomes confident in her abilities, she oversteps. She grasps at an artifact and, through her ignorance of it, sets in motion the wheels of the apocalypse. Seemingly a consequence of her actions, a catastrophic flood ensues.

And that sets in motion a huge set-piece moment, where Lara has to do everything she can to keep from having the flood sweep her away, which involves holding her breath for a long time and using her wits to escape the rising tide.
“We call those our ‘OMS’ moments. It stands for ‘oh my shit,'” said Chris Johnston, brand manager at Crystal Dynamics, in an interview with GamesBeat. “The kind of cinematic, blockbuster moments in the game and the franchise, the things that make that wrapper on top of everything else the player is experiencing.”

Lara has so many close calls in the flood scene that I started to wonder if the action was ever going to end. It was an exhausting experience.

As much as we appreciate Lara’s need to right something that she has done wrong, Jonah fires back at her, saying, “Not everything is about you.”


Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Above: Shadow of the Tomb Raider

Image Credit: Square Enix

Lara’s story is moving along a timeline toward greater experience and veterancy. I find the middle of the journey to be the most riveting, when she has doubts and anguish. It’s so much more interesting than when she has 100 percent confidence and unforgettable swagger. Let’s hope that she never fully gets there. The plot of Shadow of the Tomb Raider has her moving along in experience level with her mastery of the jungle, but just when she gets overconfident, the flood sets her back and humbles her.

I like this story, and I hope the choices really come through as difficult and life changing.

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