On 26th of April Shadow of the Tomb Raider's demo was presented on a special occasion in London. We accepted the invitation of organizer Crystal Dynamics / Eidos Montréal / Square Enix so we had a closer look on the upcoming game during the party. Since taking photos and recording videos of the demo were strictly forbidden we cannot actually show you the experience but we would like to share our toughts in this review.
[Beware of spoilers from this point!]
The lenght of the demo was almost 45 minutes long and it was running on an Xbox One. The main menu wasn't that much of a surprise - it looked very similar to the one we got used to in Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider. The background had a design with resemblance of the game's cover art with the pyramid. The menu theme music was pleasant.
The story continues just months after the events of Rise of the Tomb Raider.
"New Game" starts with an intro video. The location is Cozumel, Mexico where Lara and Jonah (who has different looks in this episode) are attending to the local Day of the Dead festival. Sitting on a terrace of a bar (named 'La Casa Mexicana') they discuss the possible whereabouts of an ancient dagger that Trinity is longing for. The malignant society also present on the festival and they trample local archaeologists to achieve their goals. Lara and Jonah want to investigate a nearby digging and they know, who will lead them there. They need to follow a person named dr. Dominguez without his consent. Lara grabs a cape (poncho), a skull mask and her backpack full of supplies and blends in the crowd of the small town.
The controls haven't change since Rise of the Tomb Raider. The nightlife of the first chapter is vibrant: there are people everywhere, it's possible to interact with some of them and if we wait patiently for a while we can overhear them telling interesting stories. The town looks great and the festival seems authentic with all the skulls around as decorations in honor of the day, as symbols of death and rebirth.
Lara separates from Jonah after some time because he upholds some guards to help her creep into the digging site. As soon as Lara succeeds, she throws off her cape and keeps in touch with Jonah on radio.
As Shadow of Tomb Raider's Lara is revealed at this point of the game we can notice the change of her appearence. Her hair and face look the same as in Rise of the Tomb Raider, but her body is a lot more muscular and detailed. The Gear Guide that became available this week shows the range of Lara's gear in the demo. The weapons and tools remained the same as they were in reboot series, however, clothings became more colorful (the tank top even has a similar pattern as the one in Tomb Raider: Underworld) and Lara seems much more prepared for the adventure.
And if we say, prepared, we mean it. As soon as she changes her clothes she has all her gear from the double axes with ropes to the refined bow, her pistol, a machine gun and a shotgun, too. Although, we are unsure about whether it's for real or only for the demo's sake.
As we regain controls the exploration begins. The area is actually a jungle and this site contains breakable vases, artifacts and salvage crates to collect for refinements - this time, the demo went on without any camps.
Soon after we meet our first enemy, a member of Trinity: he is busy with threatening a citizen and we shall interfere. The game pops up a hint about the importance of subtlety and stealth: with the owerpower of Trinity it's wise to use the jungle to hide and ambush at the right time. We listened to the advice and after discovering the small jungle (which looks oddly similar to Tomb Raider: Underworld's Mexican level, probably with some objects and textures "borrowed" from it) we ended up on a cliff by the island's coast. The goal is to get down safely and dive underwater to find the chambers hidden there. Beautiful music plays while we are finding the path - we can state, according to this short demo, that this episode will obtain the reboot series' presumably most melodious soundtrack.
Going under is not as easy as it seems at first... The cliff is crumbling and the obstacles create hot situations. Old-new movements return to life as we need to run on walls and to descend on ropes, known from Tomb Raider: Anniversary and Tomb Raider: Underworld. These will have an important role later on.
Not to mention that during jumping and performing acrobatic stunts Lara's new sound effects are clearly noticeable.
After a successful landing Lara is going underwater. And she is much better at it than she was in Rise of the Tomb Raider: she can swim anywhere and is able to manage her contained breath better than ever. Finding pockets of air is still mandatory of course.
The liberating feeling of swimming stops when we find ourselves stuck in a trap: a rock falls down hitting us and to escape we need to follow the regular procedure: tapping like crazy.
If Lara survives, her reward is arriving at the huge Mayan pyramid she was looking for. This land is packed with traps so moving around needs extra caution. One of these traps was, for example, a rope left behind at ankle height. Kicking them is fatal since they operate deadly spikes.
In the halls of the tomb we stumble upon bats and rats - this time they serve as mere decoration. Lara uses the flashlight used in Blood Ties to lighten darker corridors.
You won't miss puzzles, that's for sure. One of them was so difficult that I had to ask for the help of a staff member. I must admit that I consider this a good sign, because nothing like this happened with me for years. I also note that using Survival Instincts (sounds familar, right?) can help players out.
The final stop of this demanding journey is reaching the pyramid. Another cutscene plays then.
Solving a puzzle of the easier kind makes the dagger appear on the altair, however, a mural warns adventurers not to take the artifact. The reason is quite serious: it states that this act implies catastrophic events on the world. Jonah also asks Lara not to take the dagger but she doesn't care about the prophecy and takes it anyway. An earthquake goes off instantly. At that moment Lara realizes what she has done...
Dr. Dominguez and his mercenaries are after Lara by then so it's time to return to the town.
On our way we've got to fight against a smaller troop of Trinity - we've got no chance so they capture Lara. They find and take the dagger, then they lecture Lara about the consequences of her mistake, the possibility of the apocalypse. This time it's up to Trinity to save the world. They leave by a helicopter, leaving Lara behind, releasing her.
During the next cutscene the player can witness a tsunami that afflicts the town, including Lara. The aim is to avoid the obstacles and if we don't succeed, she can end up with the same results as seen in 2013: being broached by wooden spikes or iron rods.
Arriving on solid grounds is a semi-success: from that point we have to go across crumbling buildings. During climbing, jumping and fleeing we can hear terrible screaming of the innocent and Lara witnesses a boy's death. She realizes of the price of her stubbornness.
They meet up with Jonah and head to Peru in order to stop the upcoming apocalypse...
The event in London
The celebration of the new game took place in The Welsh Chapel that was temporarily remodeled for the sake of the meeting. The entire place had a reference of the demo: Mexican Day of the Dead and the jungle. Candles, skulls and plants were everywhere. Approximately 300 people attended, including journalists, reporters and prominent members of the Tomb Raider Community. The staff invited cosplayers as well. The guest star was Alison Carroll, official Lara Croft model for Tomb Raider: Underworld. In total it was a party with awesome people, good music and fine meals and drinks.
Meeting fellow webmasters and fans of the game was an experience of a lifetime. An opportunity of talking endlessly about our passion for the games. It was clear that everyone is extremely excited over the demo and we expect this episode of Tomb Raider to be the game that we were waiting for so long.
Written by Roli, translated from Hungarian by Zsuzsi