By Melissa Farinelli
Tribeca Games Reveals new look at the upcoming Shadow of the Tomb Raider, with exclusive game play footage
As Tribeca looks to expand its media content for their annual festival, they've added a couple of gaming panels to the mix with the year. One of those panels was an exclusive sneak speak at The Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third and final installment of the Tomb Raider origin story that began with Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix's reboot of the beloved franchise in 2013. Much of the panel was limited on details but large in scope as a majority of the content was teased be revealed at the E3 conference in June. Though the Q&A portion was streamed live on Twitch, all cell phones, cameras, and media devices were locked away as the opening portion showcased twenty minutes of exclusive gameplay footage only available to the press.
Opening up the event with a formal introduction was Senior Game Director Daniel Chayer-Bisson, hyping the audience with his genuine enthusiasm for the material. The first video was the release trailer, which featured our heroine as a shadowy figure maneuvering about the Amazonian jungle of Peru as she handily takes down one masked merc after another. The scene is juxtaposed to the iconography and ceremony of what looks like a tribal human sacrifice ritual. “I've come so far...” Lara growls as the trailer expands into more action and cinematic scenery of her traversing canopies and cliffs as both stories converge at the top of a ceremonial pyramid. If 2013's Tomb Raider was about survival, and Rise of the Tomb Raider was about self-discovery, Shadow is about Lara's demons, personal and external. Will the ends be justified by her means?
First thoughts: the jungle settings that many fans missed from the original games is a welcome sight. Lara also sounds and looks far closer to her original counterpart than the naive student she started out as five years ago. More seasoned, more capable, and more ruthless.
After the trailer, it jumped straight into the demo. It opens with a cutscene of Lara and her faithful companion Jonah as they examine a map of South America, speaking about misconceived translations leading to alternative locations. It moves into gameplay that expands the Trinity storyline and adds new players to the board. Now she's going after the top brass, and her determination is as resolute as ever. But maybe to a fault...
The demo itself was a bit choppy. It was clear they wanted to show new mechanics and feature upgrades of the old favorites, but a lot of story time was cut in between, either to preserve potential spoilers or keep it on track for the allotted 20-minute runtime. One thing that stood out was the heavier emphasis on stealth. Lara has more creative options on how to hide and the kind of takedowns she can execute from those hiding spaces. There is also an added element of social stealth as you move through alleyways and street fairs to eavesdrop on conversations and retrieve items. Repelling, underwater swimming and wall running have also been added to her skill set. One interesting addition is the challenge of underwater exploration with active oxygen conservation. Will that cave lead to salvation or death? Another thing gamers might notice is Lara beefier physique. The lady is cut. Being that her early renderings were often the subject of ridicule and debate, it's nice to see the effort put into giving her a more realistic form. After all that swimming, climbing and running, she would be athletic.
Once the demo was complete, Lead Writer Jill Murray, Senior Brand Director Rich Briggs, and Lady Croft herself Camilla Luddington joined Chayer-Bisson on stage for a Q&A session with moderator Geoff Keighley. Much of the talk was carefully directed at the new direction Lara would take in the story and the type of gameplay upgrades you could expect. The overall mood is darker, mirroring the Apocalyptic setting, and Lara is arriving at moral crossroads with herself and her actions. According to Murray, Lara still has much to learn and mistakes will be made on her journey, with a new villain, the ambiguously named Dr. Dominguez, challenging her decisions and beliefs along the way. Gameplay will be the main driver of the story and feel more nonlinear, putting the emphasis on open world exploration and discovery, and cutting down on pre-rendered cutscenes. Briggs also mentioned they've created the largest hub map ever for a Tomb Raider game with a lot of opportunities for salvaging and added in-game exploration. There was less clarity, however, on the roles, tombs will play but they assured everyone tombs were in the mix. Luddington also spoke briefly on the challenges and perks of getting to play the iconic treasure hunter for the last 5+ years and the journey she's gone on with her from wide-eyed youth to Seasoned Raider.
Though a bit truncated with the pending E3 reveal, it's a welcome glimpse into the conclusion of this energetic installment of the long storied franchise. Any worries the series would lose some steam with its transfer to Eidos Montreal seem to be misplaced for the moment. Looks like we are in for the most action-packed and viscerally emotional TR yet.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider, coming to PS4, Xbox One, and PC September 14th.