×

‘Shadow of the Tomb Raider’ to Tackle Incongruity of White, Rich Croft Adventures

We were first introduced to Crystal Dynamics’ reincarnated version of Lara Croft in 2013, when she was a mourning, recalcitrant daughter, straying as far as she possibly could from her father’s legacy with a steadfast belief that the myths and legends he believed in were all phony. In that game, called simply, “Tomb Raider,” Croft suffers a mental breakdown when she’s first forced to take the life of one of the mercenaries attacking her, in a good-faith effort to show that we, the player, were truly starting from the beginning. Crystal Dynamics wanted to slowly ramped up the tension – to layer the scars onto the mercurial Tomb Raider – until the woman morphs into the icy, endlessly confident explorer we first met on the original Playstation. And you know what? I think we’re finally here. The presentation the company showed me at the E3 booth for the upcoming “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” in development by Eidos Montreal with assistance from Crystal Dynamics, ended with Lara popping her head out of a lake, silhouetted by the gassy, apricot flames of an oil refinery she just destroyed. Croft pauses for a moment before drawing her knife – eager to carve up some fresh revenge.

“She’s getting so capable, so powerful, and when you don’t know how to use that power, even a hero can become dangerous. Having the noble goal to of wanting to stop Trinity [the antagonistic paramilitary organization in the timeline] she kinda goes too far,” says Jason Dozois, narrative director at Eidos. “She’ll need to realize that protecting history and protecting artifacts, not just gaining reputation.”

Adds Arne Ingo Gregor of Square Enix: “The first game is about being hunted and surviving, the second game is about setting out on your own accord, and the third game is about mastery.”

Mastery, in the “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” sense, is apparently what happens when Lara Croft becomes The Predator. The game takes place in the dense foliage of the Amazon, and Crystal Dynamics leans into that sense of the primal with glee. You can, for instance, cover yourself with mud, guerilla-style, which will make you harder to spot. You can pick off a wandering idiot from a mossy tree branch, and leave him dead and hanging by a tuft of rope as a strong deterrent for any other enemies on patrol. You have these “fear arrows,” doused with psychoactive toxins, which cause enemies to hallucinate and turn on their allies. You have all the brutal stealth kills you remember from previous entries, as well as that robust, improvisational crafting mechanic that always made the combat visceral. Stealth games generally emphasize stress and vulnerability as dominant themes, and that has been true for “Tomb Raider” games in the past, but in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” that is no longer the case. Lara Croft is not trapped in the jungle with these thugs. Those thugs are trapped in the jungle with Lara Croft.

More interestingly though, Crystal Dynamics are saying that this will be the first “Tomb Raider” game where the narrative will tackle the political tension at the heart of the series. At the end of the day, Lara Croft is a white woman who tracks down riches and artifacts in other people’s homeland, and in 2018, the social consciousness surrounding those kind of adventure stories has shifted greatly. The developers, of course, are mum on the specifics of the emotional arc in “Shadow of the Tomb Raider,” but they did say that by the end of the game, Lara Croft will be “humbled” in some capacity. I don’t envy the development team; it has to be difficult to re-contextualize a beloved franchise in a way that authentically evaluates its colonial overtones, while still emerging on the other side with a canon they believe in, and a hero worth rooting for. However, it’s not like they had much of a choice. The new game is set in Latin America, ground zero for Western imperialism, and the company is at least self-aware enough to know that they won’t be able to get away without addressing that paradox.

Outside of that, I was most impressed by some of the non-combat, exploration stuff Crystal Dynamics showed. “Shadow of the Tomb Raider” takes place in a mythical, fictionalized lost civilization that blends Incan, Aztec, and Mayan influences. Lara gently walked through one of its cities, admiring its temples, apartments, and agrarian districts; dyers dyeing, farmers farming, etc. It almost felt a bit like “The Witcher,” which is a welcome change for the franchise. Before, our tomb raider was constantly skipping through ramshackle base camps and hovels without a single friendly face in sight, so it’ll be nice to have some more leisure time. You know, the chance to pick up side quests and watch the sunset, all those classic RPG-lite touchstones.

“In ‘Rise of the Tomb Raider,’ you could find maps that will point you in the right direction, and we wanted to make that more of a social experience. Instead of a fetch quest – go kill some drones and come back – our missions will be multi-step stories, where you can learn more about the community, and the history behind this world,” says Dozois. “It’s about creating a massive space that feels as connected as possible.”

Popular on Variety

More Gaming

  • Google Stadia Game Streaming Service Launching

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service Will Launch Nov. 19

    Google hardware chief Rick Osterloh gave us an update on the company’s game streaming service Stadia during the company’s fall hardware event in New York Tuesday: Stadia will be available to the public on Nov. 19. Stadia promises to stream games directly from the cloud, with no need to buy a full-blown game console. Consumers [...]

  • Fortnite Chapter 2

    'Fortnite' Emerges From Black Hole With All-New Island in Chapter 2

    After its previous world was sucked into a black hole, “Fortnite” is back — with an all-new island featuring a map with 13 different locations. The latest installment of the free-to-play battle royale game, which publisher Epic Games calls the first season of “Fortnite” Chapter 2, went live early Tuesday at around 6 a.m. ET. [...]

  • Fortnite-Season-X-Out-of-Time

    'Fortnite' Goes Dark: A Masterful Marketing Stroke by Epic Games

    On Sunday, “Fortnite” — the most popular game on Earth right now — without warning, imploded into darkness. At around 2 p.m. ET on Oct. 13, a meteor in Season 10 of “Fortnite” that had been biding its time set off a cataclysmic chain reaction that sucked up everything on the the island and eventually [...]

  • Hearthstone video game

    Blizzard Reinstates Hong Kong Gamer's Prize but Reaffirms Censure of His Speech

    Major U.S. gaming firm Blizzard Entertainment has reduced its punishment for a professional gamer who shouted a slogan in support of Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. But the company doubled down on its verdict about the inappropriateness of his conduct. In a Chinese language-only message on its official social media, Blizzard stated that it would “resolutely [...]

  • Activision Blizzard

    Activision Blizzard Stock Recovers From Hong Kong Fallout

    Activision Blizzard saw its stock recover Friday despite continued backlash over its decision to punish a “Hearthstone” player for publicly siding with Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protesters. The company’s share price was up more than 2% Friday, closing at $54.82. Activision had been in the spotlight ever since Ng Wai Chung, a player of its “Hearthstone” [...]

  • Mixer Co-Founders Leave Microsoft's Twitch Competitor

    Microsoft’s Mixer Streaming Service Loses Its Two Co-Founders

    Microsoft’s Twitch competitor Mixer has lots its two co-founders: Both Matt Salsamendi and James J. Boehm, who co-founded the startup that eventually became Mixer in 2011, have both left the company over the past 2 weeks. The departure comes just a few weeks after Mixer poached famed video game streamer Ninja from Amazon’s Twitch. Salsamendi [...]

  • Trump-Twitch-channel

    Donald Trump Is Now on Amazon's Twitch Streaming Service

    Donald Trump has joined Twitch, the game-focused live-streaming service, apparently in an effort to widen his unfiltered 2020 reelection messaging as the embattled U.S. president faces a fast-moving impeachment inquiry. Trump’s first Twitch broadcast was from his campaign rally Thursday in Minneapolis, where among other targets he lashed out at Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), Somali [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content