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


This “dismantling” is leveled at basically all satire, all the time. Which is to say it’s a totally toothless critique at best, and at worst the grasping at straws from people embarrassed when they discover a joke went over their head. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with arguing something is bad satire. I think Starship Troopers is terrible satire. But I take umbrage at the people who try to deny the possibility of satirical intent.

Too often in games writing ANY thematic intent is hand waved away as “bad design” or laziness/incompetence. It’s troubling when the critical apparatus for an entire medium often seems intent on infantilizing both the audience and the creators by jumping to these conclusions. Frankly, it’s a brand of narcissism to think you, the critic, noticed a problem 200 people working 4 years of their lives never did as your starting assumption.


I disagree with everything you’ve said, every step of the way, and have nothing more to say, except: in the interest of everyone reading this thread, you should start a new thread if you sincerely want to continue this discussion


While I was listening to the article read I kept having a bunch of questions.

Just for some background - I’m Latino, my dad was born in Mexico and has a Mestizo heritage. I don’t claim to be indigenous, I grew up with my mom (who is white), and have a sort of complicated relationship with my Latino identity because my parents were separated for a long time and I didn’t spend a lot of time around my LatinX side of the family. That’s changed as I’ve gotten older and I’m thankful for it. I’m going to visit the town where my dad grew up in Nyarit next year.

But I kept wondering while listening, and I’m legitimately curious because I haven’t done research and don’t know, what do indigenous peoples want in the modern world?

How do you reconcile the idea that we’re all humans sharing one planet and wanting acceptance and understanding and cooperation between people, while also believing that indigenous peoples should be left alone without any interaction?

Like, I know it’s naive to believe that we’re going to make it to some post-scarcity Star Trek future with the state of the modern world, but the cat’s out of the bag at this point - we’re never going back to tribal nomadic societies.

Obviously colonialism was awful and horrid, but what’s the long-term solution here? That’s what I always end up wondering about. Can we start thinking about the big picture and the fact that human beings are quite literally the only intelligent life that we know exists in the universe?

Is the idea that if we ever get to the point of space colonization that we just leave behind those that didn’t contribute to the technology that gets us there? That doesn’t sit right with me.

If the answer is some sort of moral relativism, that each culture can decide what’s best for themselves, how can you ever justify that certain things are for a greater good? Why bristle and fight against some middle eastern country’s treatment of women?

I’m legitimately curious because I really don’t have an answer, other than an unrealistic future world-wide council type situation that gives a voice to each nation/group/etc… But again, how do you come to any consensus?? I’m not saying any one group should be able to decide what’s best for everyone, but…how do we move forward?


It’s more like different cultures have to respect each other instead of one just swallowing up or eroding the identity and existence of said culture and turning them into second class citizens within their own - which is what basically happened to everyone in the US who isn’t Christian or white, and we’ve all seen how that went. Cultural pride and identity is vital for marginalized groups to even exist and gain some form of power.

In this case, peoples that have been victimized by colonial powers deserve the right to govern their own lands as they see fit and preserve their way of life, because entire languages and customs are just disappearing the more people have had their roots and identity wiped away. You can’t trust other cultures to preserve them or keep them going, only absorb you into theirs.

As for moving forward, I’d argue equality can only occur if we have some sort of respect for one another’s cultural identities, because not having that respect becomes a dehumanizing factor that leads to racist drool and justifications for genocides. After we figure that much out, then we can work on more unified moral lines. The way things are now, that sort of thinking by a large cultural power leads to stuff like China putting their Muslim population in camps and the endless horrors that is the history of US intervention in other nations.


I appreciate the response and agree that there needs to be respect for other cultures without homogenizing them with your own.

However I still wonder about the idea of “the right to govern their own lands as they see fit”, it just makes me wonder how you don’t apply that idea more broadly. Is there anything that would warrant some sort of intervention? Not just regarding indigenous peoples, but any culture? Are all cultures throughout time to be treated exactly equally, full stop?

Isn’t it also a narrow perspective to believe that because a group of people happened to evolve and end up in a particular part of the Earth that they’re the only ones that can ever live there/use it’s resources and that no one else should ever enter that space? Weren’t those lands taken from someone else at some point if you go back far enough?

I hope none of this come across as in bad faith, I’m seriously trying to think and work through these questions.


I highly recommend you (and everyone else that has similar questions) read the book An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as it goes into a lot of the questions you’re asking. It should be a good entry point into a lot of this discourse.


I’m playing through Shadow at the moment. I’m actually really enjoying it, more so than I thought I would, as I had similar reservations with the second game. I would completely agree that the game does have a lot of problems, particularly in regards to Lara herself and the game being… well it is all about you Lara!

Firstly, I am also taking sooooo many photographs in this game. The art direction in this games is staggering. It’s very much a game of vistas and everything looks spellbounding, whether you are gazing over vast gorgeous jungles or submerged underground within the festering crypts you raid. Aside from literally raiding the game world of all it’s collectables, the real game for me has been the photography mode. Given the tone of the story, it’s so weird that you can make Lara smile for her photographs or Again, it’s all designed for you, with everywhere you look semingly rewarding you with some amazing landscape, or shafts of light emanating from above.

These games have always looked good but I think the creative design team have gone beyond what they’ve done in the previous games. The tombs in the last two games did feel like rudimentary puzzles, particularly in the first game where they felt like an after thought, but in Shadow they feel bigger and some of them actually feel hard (though I am playing on the hardest difficulty which lessens the ambient hints throughout the environment. The tombs are a joy and it’s genuinely a thrill discovering a new crypt and venturing forth. For an old school Tomb Raider fan who is so nostalgic towards those old 3D levels, feeling like you had discovered and were exploring this ancient hollow. That’s everything that appeals to me in video games.


The story is the weakest aspect and it’s something that was present in the last game to be honest. Again, as a big Tomb Raider/Lara Croft fan, I did think the character needed to be rebooted. Tomb Raider [2013] did do that Christopher Nolan esque deconstruction of the icon fairly well, I remember that game being set out more as a bunch of challenges this character had to overcome. A young Lara shipwrecked on the worst island in the world with a bunch of psychopath members of the He Man Women Hating Club. There was no shadowy organisation suppressing people Lara needed to liberate, it was more survival based but it was always with trepidation that Lara looked towards the next objective. Like she had to go out of her way to climb the radio tower to activate the distress signal. Each set piece scarier than the last. Of course that game just turned into - “I’m going to murder everyone of you fuckers now” but as one of those games goes - I felt Lara was more endearing as a character and was sort of setup to become the heroine that made her iconic.

It’s just the story in the second and now third game just feels as if it is treading water. They brought in Trinity, which are the boring shadowy antagonist organisation for Lara to shoot arrows at from bushes. Both games have Lara going to some remote region, one snowy, one jungley, each being suppressed by the big bad, something something end of the world, skip to the end Lara saves the day. Added to the fact that the titles implied that we were yet to see Lara actually grow into the Tomb Raider. Whatever that means…

In Batman Begins they take their time before you see Batman standing on a gargoyle looking over Gotham, they find time to pave the road before going up against the Joker. They did the same with James Bond with Casino Royale. Cynically, this style of reboot is just away to take all the fundamental concepts audiences are familiar with and padding them out slowly as payoffs as legitimate beats over a series. Rise and Shadow both seem to be poised to usher in Lara Croft as Tomb Raider - whatever that means in this day and age.

Who is Lara Croft really? She’s a British adventurer, aristocratical background, she’s an orphan (which iconic character isn’t), she fires the two pistols, she maybe wears hotpants but I don’t know if you really need to go down that road tied to the Lucozade swilling 90s conception of the character anymore. I think this Lara is free to go in a completely different direction. I’m just not sure if Crystal Dynamics really knows where to go from here.

Which is fine, because I do.

Lara Croft - badass British adventuring aristocrat. In a world where everyone is angry at everything - a lot of people hate Lara Croft. Residing in her ancestral home of Croft manor - itself a tomb and monument to the Croft dynasty - a lineage that Lara has no volition to continue. She’s an icon in global celebrity culture, even though she doesn’t want to be. Rich and jetsetting, beautiful and for reasons the tabloids can’t fathom - not married. The animal rights activists hate her because she has been known to kill many endangered creatures during her adventures. The archeological community hate her because she never shares with them her discoveries, whenever she finds a tomb, she raids it, takes the prized artefacts and leaves the crypts half demolished. She retains all the artefacts in her home - for her own pleasure. She has all the resources financially, all the technology and the physicality to go out there and get whatever priceless artefact she wants. It would be alll about Lara Croft, but then maybe being Lara Croft isn’t what it’s all cracked up to be. She can only find solace cut off the world, pushing her body to the absolute limits in pursuit of whatever priceless thing she has her sights on.

I guess my Tomb Raider, would end with Lara having successfully collected the macguffin artefact and then putting it on display behind a glass box in her home. She sits down and looks at it for a while - reflects on all the experiences she had in getting it. She then turns her head to look out of the window at her next adventure, and lets out a massive sigh. Fade to black.


And it still frustrates me whenever I think about this Tomb Raider reboot as a whole, and how it came out in the same year as DmC: Devil May Cry. Devil may Cry didn’t need a reboot, 4 had set up a great direction for the series, proven now I feel by how dope DMCV looks. And yet, DmC still knocked out a homerun by focusing on the right parts of the gameplay and story to build something extremely fresh, outside of a few story missteps. Meanwhile, Tomb Raider absolutely needed a reboot, the series was in a constant tug of war with itself over weather Lara was gonna be a progressive leading lady or a sex symbol, often flip-flopping between the two within the same game. To say nothing of the advertising material. And then the reboot that it got was the most Videogames-Ass-Videogame that dropped pretty much anything worth keeping in favor of Far Cry 3 with less colours. And like, I’m sure it’s fine, I’ve never played it, a lot of people love this reboot series, or at least like it. I’ve no interest in guessing weather it’s a good game or what the story is like. But I grew up watching my dad playing Tomb Raider games for years. The series was a notable part of my life, those games hold a place in my heart. And I can’t even muster an ounce of interest in playing any of these reboots. The direction they chose to go in voided my interest in the entire series. And that bugs me all the more because of how DmC got it so right.

Honestly the only thing I’d dispute with this pitch is that the best part of OG Lara was that she wasn’t even really into the Tomb Raiding buisness for the artifacts anyway, at least not after anniversary. She was 100% doing it just because she was really into Shooting Things Until They Died. The most compelling version of Lara I think you could get is someone faced with all the things in this pitch, hated by basically every archeology and archeology-adjacent professions, while not really caring for the actual work she does, but knowing that if she stopped she’d have to confront the worst parts of herself and the reason she’s been keeping this up for so long.

And honestly if nobody’s willing to go in that hard I don’t know why you’d bother.