At this year’s E3, I was able to get a behind closed doors look at some new Shadow of the Tomb Raider gameplay, before getting to try some of it out myself. During the gameplay presentation, I got a look at the hidden city of Paititi, the largest hub in any Tomb Raider game, before getting some hands-on time with a section of the game focusing on the jungle combat.
In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara Croft will come across the hidden city Paititi, an area in which an ancient culture has continued to live and evolve in isolation for hundreds of years. In this city, you will hear citizens speaking various languages, such as Aztec and Mayan, as well as finding writings of these ancient languages. Some citizens will also speak English, though the player will have the option to remove the English language from this area of the game if they want to feel completely immersed. The development team behind the game worked with a historian and cultural consultants to try to make Paititi as authentic as possible in terms of imagining what a community influenced by Aztec and Mayan cultures might look like after so much time isolated from the rest of the world. There are still fictional elements, however, such as how these people’s religion has evolved and the new traditions that they have created.
Being a hub, there is plenty for the player to do in Paititi. There are plenty of people to interact with, some of which will be amiable and others who are rude. Some of these citizens will simply want to tell Lara their story, others will send her on side quests and some will offer to sell her equipment or outfits. It was also stated during the presentation that most buildings in this hub can be entered. Also, you can pet llamas.
Upon leaving Paititi, the player can attempt to find a Challenge Tomb hidden somewhere nearby. Entrances to Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s various Challenge Tombs are usually well hidden, as well as possibly containing traps, so don’t expect a walk through the park getting to new tombs. It is possible to find various markings in the environment, such as carvings on trees, that will help lead you in the correct direction when looking for these Challenge Tombs, but those looking for a more challenging experience can choose to remove these clues. Tombs in this game also feature a lot more underwater sections than in previous entries in the Tomb Raider reboot series, since this was a mechanic heavily requested by fans. Many of these swimming sections are very dangerous and claustrophobic, however, with the threat of drowning very real.
After the presentation, I got some hands-on time with a new demo, set in a completely different area and part of the game than the first Shadow of the Tomb Raider demo I got to try a couple of months ago. In this demo, Lara is alone in a jungle infested with members of Trinity, the game’s villainous group. Though more gung-ho players can certainly take on this section of the game guns blazing if they so choose, stealth was recommended and definitely the way I tried to play (though not always successfully). Some of the game’s new mechanics were showcased in this demo, such as the ability to have Lara cover herself in mud, making it harder for enemies to spot her. I was also given access to the new weapon Fear Arrows, which cause the enemies they hit to hallucinate before killing them. These hallucinations are apparently terrifying, since enemies that become subject to them start frantically shooting in every direction. This is very useful when trying to get through areas with tons of enemies, since the Fear Arrows will effectively turn one of them against all the rest, having them shoot down their own teammates.
This demo was also significantly more difficult than the other one I tried, due largely to the fact that there were so many enemies here. Being able to hide up in the trees and shoot Fear Arrows before stealth killing an surviving enemies definitely made things easier, but it was also very possible to suddenly get spotted by an enemy who had just walked into the area, which of course alerts all the other enemies in surrounding areas to your presence. Luckily, there was plenty of shrubbery to hide in and trees to climb into, but if an enemy was on your tail, it was generally pretty hard to shake them off. I probably died a good three or four times, with each death respawning me back at the beginning of the demo, before I finally got through the section. I felt pretty embarrassed about my lack of video game skills until I finished the demo and realized that it had taken me about thirty minutes to get through it, which is how long I was told the demo would last, so I guess several deaths in this part of the game was anticipated. For those looking for a good stealth challenge, Shadow of the Tomb Raider will certainly deliver.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider launches on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on September 14.