In a world of powerful graphics that portray both unsettling and visually powerful environments deep into the hidden layers of South America, Shadow of the Tomb Raider (2018) blends its action-based narrative into something more powerful.
In the rebooted trilogy of the Tomb Raider series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider captures a wonderful conclusion for the newly developed protagonist Lara Croft. This conclusion is because the series has focused more attention onto Lara’s heroism and adventures through a realistic sense, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider is where this development has never been more clear. But, that is not to say that the game is without its wonderfully crafted tomb’s and puzzles to overcome. All the previous features within the game are still present, but it is Lara herself who becomes developed further and takes centre stage.
Lara embodies an array of emotion. She is shown as sentimental as she looks back upon her childhood and her interaction with both her parents. Importantly, for a series that has incorporated Lara to significantly associated with her father’s name and one of a male presence, Shadow of the Tomb Raider introduces more of the relationship Lara had with her mother, showing that she need not be defined by her father’s role in her life. In addition, Lara shows compassion and empathy as she wishes to right her wrongs in the games narrative, always putting others before herself, and with additional side-quests where Lara has the option to aid the natives she meets across her journey. The emotions that are portrayed in the gameplay and cut scenes are what allow players to see how far Lara has come as a character, and more importantly as a heroine. From the dialogue, to her actions, to the way Lara is visually represented and her relationships with the games characters throughout, there is a beacon of hope for how we can continue to portray more than one-dimensional female protagonists.
In her plight, above all, Lara is still learning how to be human. She needs to make her mistakes in order to grow, and that is what she has been doing in the rebooted series for the past 5 years. Lara is learning that she does have a choice, and echoes this motive throughout the game. Not only is Lara learning she has her own choices to make, but she is learning that everyone else has their own choices to make too, and that this should not be rash or in a nature of revenge and resentment. Lara and Shadow of the Tomb Raider show how the world continuously has a lot to lose, but also a lot to gain. There are further questions surrounding how we deal with situations, what routes we can take and how we can carry on despite whatever consequences there may be. The game continuously makes us question who Lara is, why she is on her quest, and how and why she should be on her mission more than any other Tomb Raider game has done before due to its apocalyptic theme and Lara’s emotional and character development.
With less of an action-based narrative in favour of a more explorative one that aids Lara’s character depiction, Shadow of the Tomb Raider provides more insight to its players to allow them to get to know the character we have seen continuously portrayed, yet have seen no real changes with apart from physically. From interacting with the world in the game, Lara has the possibility to listen and talk to a many number of the non-playable characters in the game that can grow to her appreciation and understanding of the world, which ultimately becomes part of her job. Lara’s main lesson in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, aside from learning not to accidentally create an apocalypse, is that it is her duty to try and protect the history, relics and treasures in our world to try and preserve them. Lara learns that she should not be the one to take them in her concluding statement in the game, and this links back with her realisation that we all always have a choice in the face of adversity.
Lara is a character who is not bound to live in a shadow, a shadow that is embedded in the previous attitudes and discourse around her original character depictions. Instead, Lara is now growing towards an even more hopeful, brighter future that has been carved for her, and it is exciting to see where she may end up next, and what more can be done to bring the character to life.