'Shadow of the Tomb Raider' Impressions: Latest Demo Offers Best Look at Lara's Next Adventure

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is almost here, and Newsweek had the opportunity to demo the game one final time before its Sept. 14 release date. This demo was the longest offering we’ve had yet at three to four hours, and gave a greater idea of the different situations Lara will find herself in over the course of the game.

SOTTR_2018_08_10_2607 Lara's back in her latest prequel adventure in Shadow of the Tomb Raider Square Enix

The latest demo covered most of the gameplay from the two previous demos, and introduced many new areas as well. You can catch up on the reveal demo and E3 demo now, but keep in mind those were written by esteemed deputy editor Jen Glennon. No offense to Jen, but it would seem I’m a bit more skilled than her at Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

One of Jen’s biggest complaints was in the stealth combat. She felt it was too formulaic, and didn’t allow for a variety of different approaches. While I can definitely understand where she’s coming from, some of the combat encounters I experienced allowed me to play in a very freeform way. A particularly memorable scenario involved a river with a series of bridges built over it. I used the new underwater traversal system to pop above and below the river’s surface, taking out enemies whenever I had an opportunity. Even though I was detected, the enemies would lose track of where I was by dipping underwater, allowing me to get the drop on them.

SOTTR_2018_08_10_2602 Guns are deadly in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, so only use them as a last resort Square Enix

That said, Jen is very correct when she talks about the dangers of head-to-head combat. Do not treat Shadow of the Tomb Raider like Uncharted, especially when there are multiple enemies around. You’re gonna get gunned down faster than you can even draw your own weapon. This is definitely a game where players should approach every situation in stealth first, before making any major actions.

My demo also included a view of Shadow of the Tomb Raider’s sprawling environment. I stumbled upon several exciting areas on my way from one checkpoint to another, including puzzles and even entire side tombs to explore. The lush jungles of South America make exploring fun, and they’re filled with all sorts of beautiful sights and deadly dangers. But just like a real jungle, it’s easy to get turned around. You’ll find yourself having to access your map repeatedly to ensure you’re still on the path you intended.

Gameplay outside of combat works well for the most part, but there still were a few issues where I’d have the thumbstick pointed in one direction and press the jump button, only to see Lara fly off in a totally different direction. There were also a handful of issues where I’d try to swing on a rope or climb a wall that didn’t work the first time either. While these are minor annoyances that are quickly resolved with a reload, they can add up to some major pains. The demo didn’t represent the final build of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, so hopefully these traversal issues are ironed out by then.

SOTTR_2018_08_10_2606 A great example of some of the crazy platforming you can look forward to in Lara's adventures in South America Square Enix

All that said, Shadow of the Tomb Raider has some of the best platforming segments I’ve played in a long time. Almost every puzzle involved several twists and turns, with no straight paths around. You’ll have to climb down to go back up, you’ll stumble upon puzzles within puzzles and at the end, you’ll feel like you actually accomplished something once you climb back out to fresh air, or make it to the top of whatever object you’re trying to scale this time.

I’m cautiously optimistic ahead of the Shadow of the Tomb Raider release. There’s a lot to like in the latest game to star Lara Croft. Hopefully the development team can smooth over the rough patches I encountered and have everything singing by launch.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC on Sept. 14.

So what do you think? Are you excited to see Lara’s next adventure for yourself? What is your opinion on stealth combat? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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