In a culture flooded with reboots of mainstay franchises left and right (ahem, Spiderman), it’s hard not to feel fatigue. Even Lara Croft can’t escape the deadly trap of rehashing the same story again and again, as we saw with this year’s live-action film adaption of the series. Don’t get me wrong, Alicia Vikander was the best version of Lara Croft to date; the film was tightly choreographed, lovingly crafted with the source material in mind (sometimes shot-for-shot), and had enough twists to keep even the most loyal fans guessing. As with any origin story of the spelunking treasure hunter, the only shadow cast on that universe’s tomb raider was, once again, Lord Richard Croft.
With the recent announcement — more a confirmation of something leaked months ago — of the latest game in the series, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, launching September 14, 2018, it seems that the reboot curse has finally been broken, thrusting the once naive Lara Croft into hardened, uncharted territory. Whether a shift in developers from Crystal Dynamics to Eidos Montréal caused a shift in tone for the finale of the “survivor” timeline (Lara’s origin storyline) or not, it’s very clear that Lara’s descent from the naive girl in the first game is leading to a much darker finale than we expected.
The 3-minute trailer, released late last month, shows a very different Lara than we’ve ever seen before. As she stalks through a dark jungle in Peru ruthlessly taking out Trinity paratroopers, we find a more capable, brutal and unfeeling Lara. Cutting back and forth between the jungle bloodbath and the preparation of a Mayan ritual under an eclipse (the perfect makings of a classic Tomb Raider adventure), the trailer’s two storylines collide with a swift end to a Mayan chief — at the hands of Lara Croft’s knife. Lara, voiced by returning actor Camilla Luddington, confirms the darker Croft, saying, “after all I’ve sacrificed, I have to wonder what will I become?”
In an effort to hype Lara’s final adventure before she truly becomes the Tomb Raider, series publisher Square Enix hosted events across the globe to reveal more information about the upcoming title, including allowing attendees to get their hands on the first hour of the game.
If it wasn’t evident that this entry into the series is breaking from the mold crafted and repeated with the first two Tomb Raider games, the beginning of Shadow of the Tomb Raider solidifies that notion. Both 2013’s Tomb Raider and 2015’s follow up, Rise of the Tomb Raider, open with grand-scale catastrophes, in the form of an epic storm at sea resulting in boat that is literally ripped in half in the first and a deadly, isolating avalanche in the second.
Mirroring the uneasiness of the tense and graphic nature of the trailer, the game’s opening is a stark contrast to first two, with Lara, and series favorite Jonah, blending in with a Cozumel crowd during Dia de Muertos, as they track Trinity agents looking for a mythical object. The artifact in question, a sacred dagger that Lara swipes from a local temple, causes the beginning of the end of the world, and the main external conflict of the game.
What’s more interesting than the change in narrative is how the epic, apocalyptic story will balance its grand scale with Lara’s personal journey, growth and the toll her adventures have taken on her. Not only will expect to see Lara fight a fresh set of potentially supernatural baddies along with Trinity, we will get an answer to Lara’s question; after all the death, destruction and inexplainable things she’s seen, what will Lara become before the end credits roll?
As Lara progressed from young, naive adventurer with a thirst for anthropological knowledge to an almost manic, reckless hunter for truth behind Trinity, the supernatural and the legacy her father left behind, Shadow of the Tomb Raider will up the ante once more. In an interview with Game Informer during the hands-on preview of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, lead gameplay designer Heath Smith said, “at the end of the day, what we’re trying to do is create the conclusion to the trilogy, but still make it a standalone experience because this is the game where she becomes the tomb raider. The character she was always meant to be.”
Though the reveal events held by Square Enix didn’t provide anything more than gameplay screenshots to the general public, it’s a safe bet that we will learn much more at next month’s E3 Expo hosted in Los Angeles. What’s on my wishlist? An in-depth gameplay video, behind-the-scenes information regarding the development and where the franchise is headed as Lara Croft hostlers her iconic dual pistols and finally takes up the Tomb Raider moniker.