Despite the sexualized nature of her original, poorly-rendered design, Lara Croft has become a strong source of girl power since 1996. She’s evolved from a messy jumble of polygons to the empowered, competent woman we see on our screens today. In the new trilogy of games published by Square Enix, she’s more realistic than ever.
The three-part series has come to a close with Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the final installment of her origin story. While everyone can agree that it pulls no punches regarding the action and adventure we’ve come to expect, some critics have found it somewhat lacking in other areas.
Everyone agrees that the game is beautiful. A review by Forbes noted the masterfully created environments, and the game offers more than just stunning visuals. The exploration, stealth, and combat are innovative and fluid, and it makes the player feel like they’re the ones stalking through humid jungles and dusty tombs.
However, the graphics, atmosphere, and gameplay are just a small part of the overall experience. While a game can be beautiful, the most powerful gaming experiences rely on characters and emotion. The first Mass Effect has aged rather poorly in terms of gameplay and graphics, and yet people still return to it for the atmosphere and story.
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In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara must master a deadly jungle, overcome terrifying tombs, and persevere through her darkest hour to be forged into the Tomb Raider she is destined to be.
— Tomb Raider (@tombraider) September 14, 2018
Sadly, many critics agree that Shadow of the Tomb Raider might not have the same appeal for many players. Critics have pointed out the weak spots in the game’s overarching storyline, characters, and development.
Lara herself feels like a typical action hero, and while many bland male protagonists have gotten away with this, people were expecting more from the lifelike face we’ve come to recognize as the new Tomb Raider. While Lara fails to feel like a real person, some have pointed out that the game also treats her like a scapegoat. She’s frequently forced to endure pain and guilt, yet she never seems to develop from it.
As reported by Wired, the game feels cruel. Everyone suffers and people die left and right, but there’s little emotional impact. Combined with the confusing, nonlinear plotline, this made for a rather disappointing experience. While the puzzles, exploration, and tomb adventures made the game enjoyable, the story left players feeling bothered.
Fans and critics alike are still singing their praises for this installment of the Tomb Raider series, but many are hoping that the next game is a little kinder to, well, everyone.