'Shadow of the Tomb Raider' Tries, but Fails, to Tackle Its Own Colonialism


ahhh…! so the real tomb Raider…is the guys !!


It’s all degrees and shades right?

There are no “perfect” games. There are games that do things well in spots, badly in others, depending on perspective. What we all want is for games to be better, not perfect. I am sure there are versions of this game that are better are recognising and acting on Lara’s character, history etc. while also remaining commercially appealing.

And hence there are versions of this review that would have recognised that, and the headline would be different, the overwhelming feeling more positive than negative. If the marketing was further away from the truth and the designers were able to really get into Lara’s role and sideline her centrality and importance in the game’s world, I’m sure that Dia would have readily recognised this, as other reviewers would have too. [edited for spelling]


Oh absolutely, and I didn’t mean for my post to come off as if I thought Dia had written this game off from the start. I do however think that there is merit to the idea that maybe some things should just be left in the past. Did the world really need another Duke Nukem in 2011, y’know what I mean? Like, I’m not saying that I think it is impossible to make a good Tomb Raider game in 2018 or that it’s past automatically damns it from the get go, but I do think the amount of leg work you have to put into addressing that part in a satisfactory manner can be so great, and take up so much space that it still ends up being more a game about a game instead of the actual themes you are looking to make your game about. At that point I think it’s fair to ponder whether it would be better to just make it a different game without the franchise related baggage.

This is pretty rambly and it’s getting late in my neck of the woods, but I hope it makes sense to you and apologies for maybe not expressing myself as well as I could, lol.


No no, I get it, totally.

I think big AAA behemoth franchises will continue doing exactly that - mostly ignoring or not really addressing “problematic” aspects of their histories. Mainly because big AAA behemoths are successful already - they don’t want to change a winning formula. Lara Croft realising she was the monster all along would have been way too much of a disruption - but also, most probably, not a very interesting realisation anyway.

This is exactly what we should be pushing towards in the AAA space, new stories, new ideas from new people. But, if they keep parading Lara Croft and Kratos, we need to push them out of the status quo, out of the comfort of big AAA trope-induced story telling - hence we need people like Dia and places like Waypoint to ask all these questions.

(And if they do do new things and mess up certain aspects, such as the Horizon Zero Dawn stuff, we need to both welcome the freshness but also call them out on bad execution as well.)


Really enjoyed this review. Listened to the podcast article read just now over my lunch break. Lara has been a deeply problematic character from the beginning and the attempts to rehabilitate her with the new trilogy just make her even more troubling. Her moral arc in the first game was cartoonish as it went from crying about killing a deer to savagely braining mofos with a pickaxe in about 10 hours of in game time. That’s before you even get to the spoiled rich girl colonialism aspects.

What listening to this review did make me sad about was how quickly the critical apparatus dismissed the possibility that Far Cry 3 was a satire. Or, to be more accurate, never considered the possibility. In retrospect the game feels like a point by point response to this particular game and review.


Jeffrey Yohalem is no Paul Verhoeven, I’ll say that.


Is Far Cry 3 the Showgirls of video games?


Paul Verhoeven is the weakest possible example of satire you could possibly cite. But at least people don’t pretend his stuff isn’t satire until it’s pointed out.

I’ll say this, it’s a said statement on the state of games criticism that so many would rather assume game developers are incompetent before they would entertain the possibility that a triple A game was engaged in satire. But then again, the Twitter group-think in the game press has a bad way of poisoning these readings.


Can I just say that I love the inclusion of the actor’s names next to their character roles in this review? It’s a really thoughtful touch that highlights the labor of people who are a huge part of the game’s narrative but rarely get acknowledged as such.


I’m very eager to listen to Dia’s article read and discussion.


Uuuuuuuuuuuhhhhhhhh, that still sounds pretty colonialist to me. And keep in mind that this is a thing that frequently happens in the world today.

Uluru is a sacred site to the Anangu people, and there are restrictions on which parts can be accessed and photographed. And yet, tourists still feel the need to climb up on it and take photos without permission.
Many well-known mosques do not allow photography inside, but there’s tons of travel bloggers who brag about being able to sneak photos.

There’s nothing woke or anti-colonial about going into the sacred spaces of a marginalized group, sneaking around, and refusing to respect their wishes.

I think the Myst games might be the closest thing to an anti-colonialist “tomb raiding” game. The villains of the series are explicitly portrayed as imperialists who exploit native populations and destroy ecosystems. You defeat them not through violence, but by gaining an understanding of systems, machines, and cultures. You are not rewarded with fame, glory, or priceless artifacts. You don’t loot items or gain new powers. You are still an outsider even after you save the oppressed peoples. The “best” endings in most of the games are fairly ambiguous about whether the player character even survives or returns home (the “good” ending of Riven literally ends as you fall into an inter-dimensional void). It is not a story designed to empower the player. Instead, the player’s goal is to help Atrus and his family undo the colonial legacy of the D’ni empire.


My point is more that Far Cry 3 does not even rise to the level of Robocop as satire and in point of fact I have extreme doubts that it was ever intended as satire in development at all - if Far Cry 3 is a satire of videogames, then all videogames are satires of videogames. Jeffrey Yohalem only started claiming that it was satirical in interviews after the game was released.

I mean that’s absolutely fair but nobody specified that you had to be doing archaeological documentation against the wishes of the indigenous peoples.

Although in my idea I had thought of setting the game somewhere in the Pacific because there is a wealth of sites to be explored that quite literally have no-one living on them at all anymore. Although it’s worth pointing out that in the last fifty years there has been a lot of really great work done out there in cooperation with the inhabitants of the islands, who are as eager to learn about their deep past as anyone.


They should just make a Tomb Raider where you steal artifacts back from museums/uber-rich douchebags’ estates since that’s an actual job and then the shooting a million dudes/platforming and exploration bits in various ancient or wilderness spaces can be them pursuing her as she returns them to their respective people.


you must have misread “stealthy” as “sneaking”. I meant it as a comparison point to existing gameplay mechanics: careful, delicate movement. I explicitly did not mean “sneaking” or “unwanted presence” because I stated, in this fantasy scenario, that the locals have allowed you to be there in the first place, with the implicit expectation that you leave no trace. Your post is super fuckin condescending!

also here’s a good opportunity to draw attention to the belabored “uhhhhhhhh” and “like???” responses when people disagree with one another. they’re extremely rude and childish, and it’s extraordinarily unpleasant to be on the receiving end of them.


I’m not surprised that Shadow of Tomb Raider didn’t necessarily achieve its goals, though I’m not always sure what the goals many video games are really trying to achieve. Literary significance is rare, and smart political commentary is not something I often find in games either. I couldn’t tell you what the story of the last two games were even though I completed both of them. The moment-to-moment gameplay looks like something I might enjoy, and if it has enough Metroid-style progression, I will probably give it a try later in the year when I have the drive to play it and it’s part of a holiday sale.

I’ve been disappointed that Eidos Montreal has been working on this instead of Deus Ex or something equally cool. That team is really talented, and it’s a shame “Shadow” couldn’t have been better. I wonder how rushed the title ended up being. Of course as a customer, I shouldn’t have to be concerned about that, but I know the creators are human beings and the Tomb Raider franchise has deadlines.


Two things that have always struck me about Tomb Raider and Uncharted, both of which have parts I really love. One is the amount of destruction they both cause, and two, the amount of people they both kill. They’re both incredibly prolific murderers and the body counts they have are really, really high. It’s really offputting.


Don’t think that anyone’s noted it in this thread and Dia and Rob don’t get into it too deep in the article discussion; both the studies of anthropology and archaeology have deeply racist and colonialist foundations and it’s incredibly rare that depictions of either in media manage to escape - let alone address - them.


Right, I was mainly just pointing out the fact that archaeology as it’s been represented in media has focused on the acquisition of objects, and, as @keydemographics was saying, is rooted deeply in the colonialist and racist history of the study. I’d like to see more media avoid that, because it’s non-essential to both those most of those stories and the actual study.


If I did not super enjoy the first 2 gaymes will I enjoy this one more you think? I found the first 2 unchallenging repetitive and pretty boring.


I haven’t played a Tomb Raider game, but it seems like most of the colonialism could be avoided by letting the English archaeologist do her tomb raiding in England. There’s plenty of exciting stuff in just English history: Romans, Druids, Vikings, maybe even get into Arthurian legend. Maybe they’ve already done that, though I’ve only ever heard of Lara Croft being in “exotic” locales half a world away.