I’m itching to play Forza Horizon 4. I’m based in the UK so am really looking forward to racing around the best parts of the rainy British countryside.
At the moment I’m committed to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I’ve said more about it in the other thread specifically about Waypoint’s review of the game. As a big Tomb Raider fan, I was sort of left in the cold by Rise of the Tomb Raider. My main memory of the game was stabbing chatty exposition spouting PMCs from bushes. For the most part Shadow follows exactly the same story - woman comes in to liberate a suppressed people by allying with their resistance - but with an emphasis on covering yourself in mud and shanking fools - fulfilling this weird predator or batman power fantasy in which you make your enemies soil themselves as you lurk in trees, and presumably become the infamous Tomb Raider.
I decided to play it on the hardest difficulty which mutes some of the ambient markers in the game world. The result is a far more engrossing play through, in which I’m savouring all the vistas especially with the photo mode. I’ve taken about 500 pictures so far. I don’t know what I’ll do with them, maybe put them on facebook as a holiday album. One of the problems with the difficulty is the checpoint system. One false move can result in instant death which takes you a long way back - which can be annoying but it is raising the stakes of the game. The old games had you be far more in control and precise with your movements but the new Tomb Raiders play out very much like Uncharted and platforming feels pretty automated.
As the game is taking longer to complete, it feels as if I’ve played a lot of it and absorbed it more intensely than an easy playthrough, I don’t feel as if the game is purely a combat game like I did with Rise where I’m put in these environments that are basically arenas from which to utilise Lara’s bow and stab afforementiond dudes from bushes.
If anything it’s been more a mix of exploration the tombs and jungles in isolation or interacting with the various settlements in the game. The first settlement you come across, is a town of shacks under the shadow of large oil piping. The second settlement is a tribal community in a valley amongst Mayan ruins. It all looks fantastic, and Rise never had that same scope. It almost reminds me of the part in Uncharted 2 after the train sequence, in which you find yourself in this mountain village where no one speaks English and Drake has a conversation with a cow. Almost… By default everyone speaks in accented English, though there is the ability to have the NPCs speak in their normal accent. Though Lara will always speak in English which kind of sucks.
Then there are the tombs themselves which have been expanded and feel more like a prominent part of this Tomb Raider game, when they felt a little like attachments in the last two games. They can be dark and scary, and full of old school spike traps. One false move and (because of the difficulty) it sets me back by 20 minutes.
In a strange, completely unforseen way, Shadow of the Tomb Raider feels suprisingly chill at the moment. Just exploring crypts, finding all collectibles, learning all about the Aztecs and taking lots of photos. I’ve probably used my bow more for creating ziplines, breaking barriers or pulling off badass poses for the photography mode, more so than headshotting PMCs… Come to think of it, the game has given me a bunch of firearms but I rarely use them…
The way you can change Lara’s facial expressions via the photo mode into a benign smile so you can get this perfect ‘gap year’ style image just feel at odds to the way in which the game has been marketed. I’ve just reached a turning point in the game, where things have gotten a little stabbier, Lara’s fallen into the water and emerged as a kind of avenging angel to kill all dudes and shoot all exploding barrels they may be standing next to. Dudes are literally standing in front of me as I approach and though they’re heavily armed and could just shoot me, they’re all worked up into this debilitating fear of me. Kind of falls flat to the genuine feelings of wonder, exploration and descent into these uncharted crypts - which are so very much of the Tomb Raider experience. But the game has thrown another settlement at me, which feels a lot more ‘chill’ again - the quirk of this one seems to be that this one will have a Christian slant to the archeological trappings.
I think a lot of people have written off the new Tomb Raider game and I can see why. There are problems with the game addressed in Dia’s review. Aside from story and the way in which they depict Lara, Partly I believe much of the problems of the game stem from the way it is built on the original engine they used for the first reboot in 2013. Meaning much of the design and mechanics remains the same even if the artistic scope that wraps is far greater. Open world games continue to change and challenge what was the status quo a year ago. So these games, can have a habit of feeling a little creaky, especially when you reach the threequel.
I have no doubt, AC: Odyssey may handle all these things much better, especially with an Ancient Greek theming and hanging off Zeus’s mighty stone phallus. In some ways those games have taken the Tomb Raider throne. And God of War had a richer story built around a mythical world. But I’m still really enjoying Shadow. Despite problems, what I’m getting out of the game has been completely engrossing and satisfying.