Saturday, 21 March 2020

Top 10 games of 2019

While 2020 is in turmoil, I reflected back on the previous year and thought which games had the most impact on me… It was quite a difficult task, as I do not necessarily play them at the time of the release and it is sometimes hard to keep track of, nonetheless, below is the list of the games which were the most important and I´ve spent many hours playing them:






1. Horizon: Zero Dawn

I was not convinced I will like this from the trailer and early footage, but I was so wrong. I spent about 100h on this game and do not regret it at all. Possibly the best PS4 exclusive there is, story of Aloy and to discover the fate of our civilization has been a thrill. It made me think over every piece of technology we take for granted. Hunting the machines was so much fun with bow and arrow and accompanied by beautiful graphics, Decima engine proves its worth also in Death Stranding.




2. AC Odyssey

As an AC fan, I´ve been playing AC games since they came out. Latest was Origins which was great and when news of Odyssey were revealed only to come out a year after Origins, rumours of copy-paste emerged. Luckily, completely unfounded and now with more focus on RPG elements and allowing you to choose your responses and path through the story, leading to different endings. There is a great deal of wit and funny dialogue which



3. DMC5

It took many, many years and one wrong attempt but Capcom is finally back on track with DMC series! Nero and Dante are back and the new addition in form of mysterious V is welcomed as well. Three different fighting styles, awesome music and visuals, what else to add? Ending hints at a next game, just hope we won´t have to wait another 10 years for it!



3. Resident Evil 2

Capcom is on a roll and RE2 remake delivered – it is everything I want a remake to be. Familiar enough but also having it´s own character. When you hear Mr. X´s footsteps in the room next to you, it sends shivers down the spine! The only problem is that scenario B is nothing like in the original game and is essentially identical to the main one which is a shame. Looking forward to RE3, though.




5. Pokémon Ultra Sun

When Sun and Moon came out, I have decided to wait which turned out as a good decision. Nintendo released the definitive versions Ultra Sun and Moon within a year and while the changes haven´t been as apparent from the start, they mostly tweak little things here and there and added additional post endgame content, which infuriated most of the fans who were asked to pay another full price to get nearly identical game. Ultra Sun is amazing and I have sunk over 100h into it. Most of the complaints I had before (need for HM slave, can´t reuse TMs, etc.) were eliminated and the game is much more streamlined which I welcome.



6. Subnautica

I wasn´t sure what to expect for this one, but it got me hooked quite fast. I love fish and this survival game with a story is well crafted. You start with just one safety pod but eventually you will be able to craft huge bases and explore the depths of the ocean. Story is interesting and it keeps you going until you discovered what happened on the strange planet you are stranded.



7. Return of the Obra Dinn

Unusual visuals and while short tale, Return of the Obra Dinn is a unique experience, where you try to solve the mystery of the return of the long lost ship. Game throws you into the turmoil straight away and you slowly start piecing together the whole picture by returning to the time of death of all the passangers. For that, you must find their corpses first which are not always easy to find. One scene can lead for you to discover another scene. I had many theories as to what was going on and Obra Dinn does well to keep your attention all throughout. You can pencil in the names into the diary and gather clues on who died which way.

7. Spyro Reignited Trilogy

What an excellent remake! With the original music turned on, this is a well made trilogy and even if the controls are not as tight as in the original, it is still fun and visually pleasing game.



8. A Plague Tale: Innocence

A pleasant surprise of the last year, Plague tale brought interesting mechanics and amazing play between light and darkness. Likable, realistic characters and while some aspects are more fantasy like, it is still a solid experience and fun to play through. Atmosphere and graphics are top notch!




10. Abzu

Mesmerizing trip deep into the ocean – short but stunning visuals and sea creatures keep your eyes satisfied during the whole dive. There are only a handful of puzzles but this does not take away from the experience at all.

Special mention: 

Tomb Raider 3: Punas Revenge
I do not think I have ever played this well constructed TR3 custom level. Definitely worth playing if you feel like returning to the coast in TR3 again.

Disappointments:

Shadow of Tomb Raider and Life is Strange 2

Shadow of Tomb Raider was just that – a shadow of its former self, while I really liked Rise of TR, Shadow just wasn´t fun for me and too linear. I have described this in my detailed review.

Life is Strange 2, while a solid game, just didn´t get me as much as LIS1 did – I just could not feel any connection to the characters and Daniel was more annoying than useful most of the time. It was a good experience but nowhere near as memorable as the first game.

Sunday, 23 February 2020

HMCS Bitter backdoor finally unlocked!

Through the collaborative effort of LOK discord community, the fans have discovered the legend behind the four invisible corner switches as described by Dennis Dyack. For many years these have been considered a myth but proved true, at last. The switches are invisible and in order to trigger them you need to unlock bat flight and most of the locations on the map. A single energy bolt, when shot from an appropriate place, will trigger the "button pressed" sound to indicate this has been done correctly. See the instructional video below on how to get to the HMCS Bitter, ship long thought to be cut content:


Sunday, 8 December 2019

René Auberjonois has died

Today, with deep sadness, has seen the loss of René Auberjonois. He was best known for his roles in M.A.S.H and Star Trek, but for LOK fans he was mostly known in the iconic role of Janos Audron, the greatest vampire that have ever existed in LOK mythology. His stunning performance will always be remembered and forever missed. RIP René.

https://legacyofkain.fandom.com/wiki/Ren%C3%A9_Auberjonois

Friday, 16 August 2019

Soul Reaver's 20th anniversary


It is kinda hard to imagine that it was over 20 years ago when I have first played Soul Reaver Lighthouse demo in March 1999. I was 11 years old when I got my PlayStation and switched from PC gaming to consoles until 2009. Tomb Raider 3 was my very first proper game fully in 3D and I remember I was super excited and disoriented by the new posibilites of moving along all axis in a videogame. I was mostly brought up on side scrolling pixel games so when 3D finally became the norm, it was a totally new world to explore.

We came along way since the old limitations of 2MB memory of the original PlayStation, but back then such limitations gave rise to some of the best games and workarounds in history. Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid, Silent Hill, Resident Evil, Spyro the Dragon, Crash Bandicoot, just an example of a few games which spawned huge series with a large fan following. However, in 1999, a continuation of a forgotten 2D game was finally released after several months of delays and premature magazine reviews. Eidos has released Akuji just a few months before Soul Reaver's release which felt more like an appetiser of what is to come. Soul Reaver released today 20 years ago and was hugely successful. Everything from the intricate design of its characters, breathtaking intro cinematic which got us all hooked on this gothic fantasy straight away and was heavily promoted.

Soul Reaver was also the first (to my knowledge and no, it wasn't Jak and Daxter) to use seamless streaming of the environment. This allowed for the developers to create a series of interconnected tunnels and larger rooms, while the game would only visualize the ones adjacent to the room you were in. Raziel's model itself was a sight to behold (his iconic idle stance is hard to forget too!) and his smooth animations were expertly done. In comparison to rather simplistic cartoon like look of Lara, it really stood out. The gliding and fighting mechanic were a breath of fresh air after 3 Tomb Raider games of pure shooting, I thought at the time, and the grotesque creatures prowling around in a sombre wasteland perfectly complemented the game's dark atmosphere. 

The dynamic soundtrack which changed not only based on the situation but also on whether you were outside, inside, solving a puzzle or battling a boss was an amazing feat which has never been repeated again in the series in such abundant variety. In comparison, SR2 has a lot less of types of music changing, lacking boss fight and puzzle solving section. The distinction between being outside and inside has been removed as well. Defiance even has trouble connecting the music seamlessly (apparent mostly in the Stronghold) and removes music from cutscenes altogether.

To this day is Soul Reaver still my favourite game and there is not a game like it out there. Many tried (Primal comes to mind) but not even Soul Reaver's own successors could reach the ambitions of this game which cut content can be written about for pages. This inner drive to discover Soul Reaver's deepest secrets has brought me here today.

To commemorate Soul Reaver's birthday, a number of sites released some interesting goodies with regards to our beloved series. The Legacy of Kain Wiki also shared a collection of manuals, sources, comics and other material. The Lost Worlds released a reverse-engineering toolkit for use with Ghidra, useful for those more technically skilled. The Ancient's Den decided it is finally time to release the biggest archive of Legacy of Kain magazine mentions, reviews, previews, interviews, etc. Many of them contain previously unseen images and information. It is all uploaded on G-drive so you can view the individual magazines and read or download them separately. Thanks to everybody who contributed to this collection!

Monday, 31 December 2018

Raina’s top 10 games in 2018

It is weird writing these every year as I am always a year behind everybody since I usually by games when their price goes down. This year is not any different. It is always difficult trying to remember which games I have played within the first months but luckily Steam to save the date with recently played list of games. This is my personal top ten for pc in 2018:


UPDATE: Added SOTC and moved We happy few in the honourable mentions.

1. Life is Strange series

 




When I have played LIS season 1 the first time, I gave up after first episode in 2017. It felt it a bit sluggish and while the time rewind mechanic was cool, this whole teenage drama did not interest me much. However, I gave the game a second chance and replayed it again almost a year after my first try. This time, something felt different. I have finished the game within 5 days (too bad I did not end up on Friday) but basically could not stop. I devoured 1 episode per day and finally understood what the whole deal is with this series. Although it starts rather slow, everything changes at the end of episode 2 and onwards. I love games about time travel and LIS gave me exactly what I wanted – likeable characters, realistic relationships and engaging story. Getting to know Chloe and Max felt well done just right and many people shed a few tears when they reached the end.

Later, I have also played Before the Storm, which I was avoiding until then. Again, the game proved me I was wrong. While some things got retconned and did not make sense (not sure if by accident or by intention), overall, it was still great finally to be able to meet Rachel and see what all the fuss was about. The bonus episode, Farewell, gives us also the final, teary look at Chloe and Max, before Max leaves for Seattle. Then we got free episode of Captain Spirit and first episode of Life is Strange 2. If you love LOK series and story driven games, give this series a try. LIS series blows Telltale games out of the water and shows them how it is done. This is probably the best investment Square Enix got right in the last years.


2. Assassin´s Creed: Origins

 

 


After a not so great Syndicate (I was a lot more entertained by Unity), here comes the grand game by Ubisoft. I am just about to finish it but still have almost a third of the map undiscovered – the scope of this game is so vast. I found myself doing most of the side quests, not because I was forced to due to level restrictions, but because I wanted. Bayek and Aya work great together (much better than Jacob and Evie ever did) and following their story of neverending vengeance is quite a spectacle. Not to mention the superb exotic and detailed Egyptian environments – this game has more tombs and does them better than any of the latest TR games! I thoroughly enjoyed playing this and the movement, characters and gameplay just feel so right. I am looking forward to playing Odyssey and Witcher 3 after this. Highly recommended.

 3. Shadow of the Colossus (PS4)

 


How could I have forgotten to add this gem? I have spent countless hours on the original ps2 game and to finally being able to see this in proper framerate and upgraded graphics is breathtaking. The developers used the original engine but swapped out all the graphical assets out (except the beautifl haunting music, luckily) and the game feels and plays great. Only complaint is that the preset control scheme has only been improved slightly (jump is finally X not triangle), however, it is still uncomfortable to control Argo (which is solved by remapping the buttons in PS4 menu). Overall, it is an excellent masterpiece where the lonely and abandoned land is the only obstacle between you and giant colossi. Definitely a must play and one of my top games ever, now in modern graphics.



4. Dark Souls III

 





After getting myself sucked into the depths of first Dark Souls game, I have skipped 2 and dove straight into 3. From Software improved gameplay (8-way rolling, yey), graphics and netcode, everything just feels great in this game. Boss battles are epic and this is a true sequel to DS1. Too bad the two DLCs/Season's pass are still quite expensive but are still worth it. The Ringed City serves as a proper ending, although not possibly what everybody expected, it is a must to play. This game is amazing and discovering more about its lore was so rewarding I got a few books right after finishing it. Later in the year I have also tried DS2 but was apalled by the terrible controls which are refined and tight in DS1/3 but in 2, the rotation of the character around its axis is sluggish and feels like gliding, not even mods fixed it for me. DS1 and DS3 are well worth the sweat and tears.



5. The Evil Within

 


This is one of the gems, which I have shamefully omitted since its initial release in 2014. I have fell in love with this and the mechanics as soon as I have started playing it. If you play on survival difficulty, it is quite a test in the first few chapters but well rewarding. The dark atmosphere and gameplay is reminiscent of Resident Evil 4 and the horror elements are like from Silent hill – a perfect match. The enemies do not die permanently unless you get rid of their heads or burn them with matches, but main character Sebastian has only a limited supply, so it is always nerve wracking if the zombie will get up or not. While the ending leaves usually everybody completely baffled, this is remedied somewhat by the DLC where you play as Kidman and the game shows you her side of the story. It is done brilliantly because Kidman does not have weapons, just a torch, so you need to sneak around strategically and the addition of a stalking monster just contributes to the tension. I have found the second game to be not as good as the first one, unfortunately, though.



6. Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy

 



Vicarious Visions remade our beloved furry bandicoot and finally made him available at all platforms after a year of timed PS4 exclusivity. While the versions for PS4 and Xbox1 are both capped at 30fps, pc offers a smooth 60fps with several graphical options, so this is best version to play. I almost gave upon the game on PS4 when it released due to the alterations of jumping collision/distance as the devs had to build this game from scratch, but luckily the controls have been improved since. The music was remade as well and while I think it did it justice, I wish they would have remastered the original soundtrack too and included it as an option. Overall, great remake and looking forward to playing Crash Team Racing!



7. DMC HD collection

 




Everybody remembers the amazing but super slow (especially PAL version) first DMC on PS2. Then the horrible DMC2 came out (which I have not played still) and then the same studio redeemed itself with one of the best action games ever with DMC3. DMC and DMC2 were never ported to pc before, so this is their debut and DMC3 finally got the port it deserves (no more problems with swapped out joy sticks!). As a DMC fan, I can fully recommend this collection and while things could have been improved further (menus are still only 4:3 and cutscenes could be higher resolution), it is a must own for any action fan.



8. Silent Hill 3

 



SH3 is my favourite SH game and I have found a widescreen mod to replay it again. This game barely aged! It certainly profits from all in-game cutscenes as you can put the resolution right up and it looks great, even after all these years. The character models are highly detailed and mo-cap is convincing too. Heather is not your typical hero, but a normal girl, at least at first glance. She shows all sorts of emotions throughout the journey and it was great to watch her grow. This is the true sequel to SH1 and it is a damn good one according to others as well!



9. Silent Hill 2 Enhanced edition

 




Now this playthrough was completely unplanned but I somehow found myself being called back to the silent town just a few weeks ago, right after finishing SH3. I have stumbled upon an even greater mod selection called the Enhanced edition – a selection of best mods available out there all in one page and you can actually select which mods you want to include in your game folder. It enhances the game greatly, something which the atrocious original port failed so miserably when it was released on pc. If you are ever considering to play SH2 again, definitely upgrade your version to include these mods for the ultimate horror experience.



10. F.E.A.R.+ DLC

 




First Fear game and its dlc have a special place in my library – I have already played them over about 3 to 4 times and I might give it a go again at some point. The A.I. in this game is brilliant and I have yet to find a game in which the enemies behave so tactically. The horror atmosphere is also great and this game belongs to my top fps games of all time. While I have played the official sequels, they have lost the appeal of what made the original game so good, which is a shame.



Special mention - Disappointment of the year:

 

 


It pains me to be writing this but I have just not enjoyed the newest instance of Tomb Raider. Eidos Montreal tried to make things a bit different but in the end, their efforts fell flat and while the other games in the series usually lost their pace about halfway through, Shadow just gives up after a couple of hours. The bland gameplay and corridor like levels just were not fun to play through for me even when stealth kills and mud camo was a welcomed addition. Character development is lacking and I found myself just not caring about anybody in this game. The game introduced hub levels as well, where you can't draw your guns or in one instance, change outfits (which is annoying as you spend a lot of time there) and they just slowed down the pace a bit too much to my taste. I have enjoyed both 2013 and Rise but I simply can't recommend Shadow of TR unless on a big sale. I hope the next game will be by Crystal and the deleted ending suggest we might be going back to the roots of the series.

Honourable mention:

 



Wolf Among Us is one of those games I had in my library for a while and I could not be bothered to play. I am super glad I did, as this is the best Telltale has produced to this date. The game is based on Fables comic book series and portrays what has happened in the various fairy tales after their stories have ended. They have been forced to live in our real life world and watching them struggle with every day problems is strange at first and we get to see them from a very different point of view Together with Tales of Borderlands, this is the best that Telltale have produced before its fall and it hurts that we will never see the continuation of this game in the future. 

 




This one is a weird one as I got this for a review and got myself quite sucked in! It did take me a while to get into Arthur's shoes but I got there in the end. The story is quite intriguing and to watch the downfall of once prosperous country is quite a chilling tale. WHF takes place on an alternate timeline, in which the Germans have won in the second world war. Shortly after, they began deporting children from UK until there were none left. I still have not finished the game (only the first section for Arthur) and I am keen to get to the bottom of this mystery. This game is plagued by the early access syndrome, however, and it is certainly not worth the high price tag it got when it released. Tread carefully with this one and maybe get it on a sale.

Well, that was it. I am really wondering what awaits us in 2019 game wise. In the meantime, have a look at Bazielim´s top 10 as well at his Cult of Hash'ak'gik blog.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Legions of Nosgoth TCG update

Since the very first release of Legions of Nosgoth, I have printed the cards and played this game several times. Things which sound good on paper sometimes do not translate into real life, so I have adjusted several cards, cleaned up some artwork and edited a few rules. I have also removed the digital online version of it, so now it only can be printed in order to play. It is a minor incovenience, however, I feel this game works best this way. Even if you do not plan on printing it, it might be worth at least checking the cards out if you are interested to have a look.

The download below includes pdf rulebook, high quality PNGs to print all the decks and the energy cards. Hope you´ll have fun, just bear in mind that one game can take up to 2 hours to finish so best find enough time to play this with a fellow LOK fan!

Saturday, 1 December 2018

Soul Reaver Beta and Blood Omen Alpha new discoveries

It is really hard to believe that now, 15 years later since the last entry in the series, there are still plentiful secrets in our beloved world Nosgoth to find. In collaboration with Ben Lincoln, Gh0stBlade, Eoghan, Aevum, AesirHod, Bazielim, Kevin and Mama Robotnik, we can now show you the exciting new footage, screenshots and comparisons from these newly discovered SR1 beta versions and BO alpha versions. This is the biggest discovery we had in a while so below are links to videos and pages where you can read about our findings: The Lost Worlds and Legacy of Kain Wikia posts. For more about the Chronoplast visions and screenshots read here.

Below are videos from the actual Chronoplast rooms and Blood Omen Chess Match. More content to follow as this post will be updated!






Originally planned overworld map for Blood Omen and various screenshots:








Screenshots from Soul Reaver beta:





Last image is from ModelEx by AesirHod.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

New Blood Omen pc patch!

Do you finally want to play BO in window mode, smooth 60fps and high resolution cutscenes? Well, now you can thanks to Verok! Head over to his blog where you can download the installation package. If you already have the game installed, just paste and overwrite the contents into your game folder. Before you click on Kain.exe and if you are on Win7 just set the compatibility to Win98/ME and you can adjust some additional settings. After that go to task manager and set affinity to all cores to receive speed up in fps. I have done this over an already existing installation via Cuban Raul´s installer and everything works perfectly!

Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Soul Reaver OST v8

It has been two years since the seventh version of the Soul Reaver soundtrack was released and I have considered whether a re-recording might be necessary after some time. In a recent replay of Soul Reaver, I have changed the plugins around a bit and decided it might be worth a shot re-record every track with something which sounds closer to what it would be on PlayStation and on higher bitrate. While OST v7 was recorded with cubic interpolation which has better treble, version 8 was recorded with gaussian interpolation setting. This makes the sound a lot deeper and richer, while losing some of its clarity. I have also renamed a few tracks, added a few which were previously included but missing in 7. version.  The attached read me file goes into a deeper detail on what is new. I hope you´ll enjoy this latest update. I will remove v7 in a week or two, so if you want to compare them or prefer a stronger treble, download the old version here.


Sunday, 28 October 2018

MCM London October 2018

MCM this year is over yet again and we had loads of fun. Friday was probably the best con day I have ever experienced. Everything was great - no big queues, plenty of space to walk around, enough cosplayers to look at and we could sit and watch any panel without issues. I was planning to cosplay Rachel Amber in the morning, but since we got into our hotel at 11am, I have decided to change into Chloe Price straight away as we had about 15min walking + getting our wristbands at the Excel as well. However, it was liberating to be able to breath freely, take pics with my phone as usually I am struggling to do anything with my hands or move. It felt good to be human again. Baziel was accompanying me as Cpt. Spirit and we eventually found a fellow Spirit cosplayer, which was awesome!

We were not so lucky on the second day. It was already stressful in the morning trying to checkout on time and getting to the venue with nothing but thin layers on us but we made it. Unfortunately, we had to get our badges and go through bag check and the queues were long - we were eventually herded in but I couldn´t help but long for Friday again. The Excel was filled with people at noon and it was hard to move. We quickly stashed our bags at cloakroom and went to walk around the venue and check what is new. I must admit, having Raziel´s cowl on me most of the time was difficult and after 30mins, I just had enough and had to pull it down a bit to get some fresh air. However, it was worth it as I could hear people saying "Legacy of Kain" or "Raziel!" which made me smile inside. Baziel was Moebius and his staff got plenty of recognition as well. Overall, it was really good and even if Saturday was a lot more sweaty and uncomfortable, next time we might go either for 3 days or just Friday and Sunday. Thanks to everybody who stopped and said hi or took a picture. Below is a link to all the photos we took of ourselves and others:


 See you there next year!

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Review

In the shadow of boredom


Lara Croft has traversed many kilometres in her existence. First, she presented herself to us in her blocky form in 1996, but as the polygons got more rounded in the later games, it ultimately led to her demise, in the form of barely playable catastrophe named Angel of Darkness. Originally, AOD was meant to become this grand trilogy, but Eidos had to scrap the rest due to bad sales and low quality of the game. Lara has pretty much disappeared from our sight after this terrible ordeal.

Meanwhile, Eidos was thinking on how resurrect our popular heroine and ordered Core Design and Crystal Dynamics with something exciting. Both studios produced a prototype of an anniversary version of the very first TR, but Core has not learnt its lesson. According to the leaked footage, they were clinging onto the old 3D control scheme, where Lara is basically stuck to the ground and has to slowly turn to switch directions (famously known as the tank controls), while Crystal has shown much modern approach to gameplay. They have moved the emphasis from hanging onto the ledges into automatic grabs and climbing. What has happened after, is history. Legend, Anniversary and Underworld were a successful reboot trilogy, however, failed to reach the success of the original TR.



2013 has brought us yet another reboot of the brand, again in the reigns of CD. This time, they have shown us a much more vulnerable side to Lara, stranded on a mysterious japanese island, her very first adventure with a new group called Trinity in her way. While this part contained a lot of shoot-outs and almost no tombs, the game was widely well received equally by most players and reviewers. After this success, we were given Rise of TR, which gave us a breath taking introduction in the mountains and beatiful Syria and Siberia. Some aspects got better, some worse, but as Crystal was working on the new Avengers game, the next TR game was given to the hands of Eidos Montreal. This for me was the first warning sign, that maybe I should wait for reviews first. So what could have possibly gone wrong with Shadow of Tomb Raider?

We have more tombs, less action and still, the game does not function well on its own. It is difficult to pin-point which aspect Montreal has failed on, but everything which made the previous two games fun such as exploration and discovery of new weapons and tools is just midlessly thrown into the game. I had no sense of Lara herself being motivated or growing throughout the adventure. Yes, you still discover the old forgotten cities and temples, but it does not have the same drive as in the previous titles. You´ll definitely won't be making the infamous sigh which Lara cheesily produced before which is a bit of a surprise as I have seen many reviews giving this game a 9/10. Another thing which made me scratch my head was the arsenal of weapons Lara can get. It feels redundant as there is no reason to buy or upgrade any other weapons besides the ones you find. SOTR suffers overall due to poorly thought out level design and while technically it is well made, it is missing the playfulness of the previous games.



The first big change that you'll notice is the unlocking of the abilities. The skill tree is now shown across the whole screen and you don't need to switch between three categories anymore. On one side, it is a good change but now the icons of the main categories are covering up half the screen for no reason and the actual skills are laid out in a grid like system. In the end, I've found it more confusing than useful. The worst thing about the skill tree is its efficiency. Besides some of the basic first skills you unlock automatically during the story, most of the skills are unneccesary like certain prolonged effects of berries or survival instict upgrades. The only one which was worth investing into was holding your breath for longer period of time (which you get for free anyway in one of the challenge tombs), the rest you can completely forget about as they barely do anything interesting.

One of the new additions in the game is the ability to dress into costumes with separate top and bottom parts as you can now combine different outfits together. Some of them possess certain attributes such as the hide from jaguar which makes you less visible to enemies and the boots from animal skin are less noisy. It is a nice addition but again, it didn't really matter in the end. In one of the hub cities you will be actually forced to wear a tribal costume, which wouldn't be such an issue if you were not in it for almost half of the game. This undermines this whole new system of combining these outfits, so most of them you won't be able to wear.

Swimming in the previous games was mostly focused on the surface but Shadow has finally added submerging fully and it is quite well presented. Lara will get to chance to swim a lot and you will find underwater passages quite often. You can speed up your swimming underwater as many times you might be pressed for time to find an air bubble to replenish your air supply. There are also eels patrolling some routes so you need to be careful and hide in the weed to avoid them. It is a bit of a shame that breathing the trapped air animation is exactly the same every time.


I didn't like such prominent focus on combat in TR 2013 and Rise, especially the passages where you could not avoid and the game made you into Rambo. In Shadow, you can count these on your hand. On one side, I find it nice that the authors listened to the complaints but now we fell into the exactly opposite extreme. The spaces where Lara is facing Trinity soldiers are a lot tighter and in some moments you have to use your knife and stealth approach only. Interesting addition is applying mud to your face and clothing, so Lara can blend in with the environment a lot easier without being seen. Stealth kills are a fun to perform but Shadow suffers from the corner syndrom (so typical for AC series), so all you have to do is to be stand against the wall and press a button to kill all the unsuspecting enemies. I am glad that they have added more ways to kill the enemies but it could have been better and more freely incorporated with the rest of the game.

Some enemies (most of them towards the end) are wearing helmets, making headshots practically impossible without alerting everybody around, which is not fun if you enjoy using the bow. Another new gadget is the thermal goggles, which some enemies start using later on and only if you cover yourself in mud you won't be seen when hiding in vegetation. However, there is an issue when trying to aim for when enemies are up close. The target reticular is a bit big and it can be difficult to shoot things in front of you. I have also noticed a strange way Lara equips the shotgun which miraculously just jumps straight into her hands which looks quite jarring.



Overall pacing of the game is uneven and after a pretty hectic beginning, all goes to a halt. Which, as such, is not a bad thing but when the game offers you two pretty big hubs to explore and there is no combat, everything slows down too much and you find yourself doing the boring sidquests in the hope of receiving something of value. Nope, sometimes you get a piece of outfit, sometimes just a mark on your map where a rare animal is or a challenge tomb is hidden. Things you can find easily yourself as the maps are very restricted and linear. TR 2013 had its charm in its uncharted island and Rise in its superb snow effects and they both have what Shadow is lacking – variability. Yes, both of these ran out of steam about halfway through, had too much action, explosions and had predictable story but at least the gameplay as such was still fun and environments were interesting to look at.

With a game titled TR I would also expect minimum bugs. I was especially looking forward to the fight with the jaguars. The music got more intense as I was drawing near the jaguar's nest but as soon as I got there, something was off. I found my foe crouching in the grass in the middle of the arena, just standing still, occasionally letting out a roar. Confused, I started to fire arrows into its back but the beast did not care at all. Only after I walked really close, it suddenly shot out of its position directly into a… wall. Luckily, the animal came to its senses and started attacking but the whole excitement of this fight evaporated. I haven't seen this bug since but it was a big letdown to see this within the first two hours of the game. Another issue happenes when you play the game under DX11. For some reason, as soon as you enter the first cave in the game, there is a horrible stutter, making it impossible to play. Only setting the game on a higher priority in the task manager remedied this but previous titles did not suffer from this problem.


Graphically, Shadow is on a similar level as Rise, there are not many major improvements. At the beginning I was enjoying walking in a deep mud and quite dense dark jungle enveloped in a light mist. All of the atmosphere was gone as soon as the sun came up and the whole feeling of being stranded kinda dissipates. Some views in the game are still nice but in comparison to its older siblings, I had barely pressed F12 besides getting a few screenshots for this review. Maybe it is due to jungle for not being as interesting during daylight as darker environments. Unfortunately, the music is again forgettable. I guess the days of iconic melodies from the nineties are long gone now and replaced with a bunch of repetetive tribal motives. Less is sometimes more and I would have enjoyed the silence of Lara's footsteps and occasional mysterious cries or squeals coming from the depths of the tombs instead. The constant drumming can get irritating when you are trying to focus on climbing or just absorbing the atmosphere around you.

The story of TR was never its strong point. Even going back to the oldest TR games or the previous trilogy, the story was always the weakest part. It is a bit confusing why is it such a hard thing to craft a more compelling story than the premise of finding an artifact and get home. Even employing Rhianna Prattchett for TR 2013 did not help much but it at least they gave us a backstory on the various Endurance crew survivors through logs and camera footage. Rise had a bit less of it but Shadow completely gives up pretending to make you care. In the beginning, Lara is trying to cope with her deed which caused a major cataclysm, costing hundreds of lives by stealing a sacred mayan dagger from its final resting place. This apparently puts a whole prophecy in motion which will ultimatley lead into the destruction of the world if Lara does not prevent it. She regrets the whole ordeal for like few minutes, shouts a bit at her companion Jonah and then goes back to the peaceful exploration of the cities and fetching side quests. Any sense of urgency is just not present well here. Trinity are forgettable as ever together with their leader whose motivations do not make much sense.


The only moment which stuck in my mind was when Lara finally gets angry with everything and there is a cool scene of her rising up (those who played know exactly which one), but there simply isn't such an iconic moment till the end of the game after this. The finale was a letdown as well. You just run to the end of the level while things explode and helicopters can't hit you if you keep moving (because plot armour) and the final confrontation is just completely emotionless. Even when the devs had a chance to make a meaningful impact, everything is suddenly all okay. There is just no progress, no lesson learned and Lara just moves on as if nothing happened, just another day with an a new artefact in her possession. The post credit scene does not give us any resolution or a hint of what is Lara up to next. That is not until you witness the alternate ending which got released with the game by accident and that gives us a lot more closure just by adding two little nods to the old games.

The game is also a lot shorter, almost twice as short as Rise of TR, which came as a bit of a surprise. I was expecting a longer experience, but on one hand I was happy that I didn't have to play more of this game due to lack of fun factor. It was supposed to be the pinnacle of the new reboot series but instead, it fell short. I can feel that the authors tried to play it safe while not changing too much and just adding bits and pieces here and there but in the end, it just felt hastily tacked on and without much cohesion. Possible explanation could be the DLC packages and first one called the Forge will add a new area and a co-op mode. However, not even NG+ mode will save it for me and while I felt that I wanted to replay TR 2013 and Rise again, Shadow left me with a bland aftertaste. Alas, I've just found the game boring as a long term fan of TR series. There were simply a lot more things I didn't like about it. I can just hope that the authors will improve upon their mistakes, that is if Square Enix will even give them the next game after questionable quality of this . As it stands now, it is a pale shadow of the Tomb Raider legacy.


6/10

- uninteresting characters and story
- jungle becomes a chore after a while
- boring gameplay
- fetch sidequests
- barely any action
- unnecessary skill tree
- linear progress

+ more tombs
+ some locations look good
+ underwater swimming
+ mud camouflage and stealth