Before I explain why, fair warning that there will be spoilers ahead. That being said, let's start with the gameplay.
The gameplay in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is a huge step up, but the combat is generally the same but honestly just feels better. Nicer to control and all that, I guess. The traversal is the best it's ever been though. Just as Rise of the Tomb Raider added upon and fine-tuned the movement and climbing, so did SotTR. You have the basic climbing up and down, then Rise's addition of the climbing gear with a rope to cover longer distances, and on top of that there's steep places you can climb, almost flat like a ceiling, and you can rappel down. The movement in general was also slightly more fine-tuned, making the overall traversal and exploration much easier and much more fun. Good shit. One thing that I found the other games were lacking was puzzles. Sure you have the occasional optional tomb in the first game and RotTR did a little better with this but neither really had a lot of puzzle solving and actual tomb raiding in the main story at least. SotTR fixes this problem though, as there's tomb raiding and puzzle solving left and right in the main story, along with an abundance of optional tombs. This goes along with the story setting up Lara as an actual full-fledged tomb raider.
Speaking about the story…
The story in SotTR is also, imo, the best in the trilogy. You go deeper into Lara's journey than ever before, and she learns from her mistakes. It's the generic "you have to save the world" premise that usually comes with this kind of game but alongside that world saving, you also go through the emotional turmoil Lara goes through realizing she fucked up big time and caused people around her to die. She realizes what it means to be a tomb raider and the consequences of being a tomb raider. They also had one of the best character deaths I've ever seen. It wasn't just killing them off for shock value or to make a sad backstory or something, you get attached to the character over the course of a couple hours and then the death itself is also well-written and all that. I really appreciate the thought and care that went into the story that either wasn't there or I didn't notice in previous games. You also get to learn more about Lara's childhood through a section of gameplay where you run around the Croft mansion as 9 year old Lara looking for something pretending to be on an adventure. You climb the mansion and do a great puzzle section then witness her dad killing himself and while it was a major snap from one tone to another it gave us a lot of info on her life before her dads death, or rather at the time of his death. It's also later revealed that the big bad had Lara's dad killed but I don't know how because it's specifically implied that he shot himself so that's wack. The ending was one of the best endings I've ever seen, and definitely the best in the series. How you end up teaming up with the monsters and give up what you want most to save a city of people you don't know, and when all's said and done you see Lara in her mansion following in her dad's footsteps, but in her own way was such a good way to go. Round of applause for Edios. The only complaint I have with the story is that you still have 1 or 2 moments where you're bullshit strong, taking out helicopters and gunning down dozens of soldiers. This really only happens once though, so it's not too bad.
The music is really good in this game and works with every scene and area really well. It enhances the feeling they want you to feel and sounds great. What's not to love?
The game looks fucking amazing. One of the best looking games period. Not only are the graphics good but the art direction and design of the environments you go through are so fucking good.
All in all Shadow of the Tomb Raider is one the most beautiful, well-written, and fun games I've ever played, and it's head and shoulders above the first 2 games.
- WSIB from my wishlist
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