There is plenty to see and do at this year’s Comic Con Africa expo being held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit and International Convention Centre — most of it involving spending copious amounts of money on geeky things — but we also spent far too much time hanging around the video game demo areas. That is, in addition to checking out the amazing work in Artist’s Alley, the ground floor merchandise money-pit and the upper floor board game and esports sections.
One of the demos we got hands-on with was Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the third instalment of the Tomb Raider reboot trilogy that has been charting gaming hero Lara Croft’s transformation into the adventurer we’re all so familiar with.
The section available to was from fairly early on in the game and Square Enix were nice enough to slice out some of the possibly spoiler-intensive sections. What was left was quite a strong overview of what players will face gameplay-wise in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which launches today. Along with some of the story that the final game conceals — they didn’t remove everything.
What we’re looking at is an even more human character than the previous games have portrayed. Lara Croft seems to be a little more flawed this time around — at the close of the demo long-time friend Jonah blasted Lara for her attitude towards the events that are unfolding. That’s not something we’re used to with the Tomb Raider games, where Lara has been portrayed mainly as a survivor.
But if there are differences in terms of character and story (which seems to be the case) there aren’t quite as many differences in terms of gameplay. Which may not be a bad thing — navigating an underground tomb to a subterranean pyramid gave us plenty of opportunity to play with Lara’s toys. The bow that changed the game in the initial reboot is still in evidence and it’s still a valuable aid in getting around the game world, as are Lara’s twin climbing axes and a makeshift blade.
Traversing the underground area on show was fairly perilous and the developers have left in the graphic death scenes that occur when you mistime a jump over a chasm or lose your grip on a piece of climbable wall. Just as graphic are the stealth kills players can execute from cover, taking out enemies soundlessly before melting back into the foliage. That’s quite a neat little enhancement. A short stint of gunplay, which cut off too soon for us to get a proper sense of that side, later and we were back performing precision manoeuvres to get to safely.
Another neat thing is the set of changes to the environment. The underground areas on offer may have their wider areas to play in, with lots of secrets to be divined, but there are also a greater number of tighter areas, where there’s an actual sense of claustrophobia. An underwater scene with the potential for a very unpleasant death for our hero drove that home extremely well. There’s a greater sense of vertical movement, at times, offset by sections where it feels amazing that you’re able to move at all.
The gameplay demo was over in a little over twenty minutes, which isn’t a lot of time for an exploration-heavy game like Shadow of the Tomb Raider. But it was enough to see that developers Crystal Dynamics have been hard at work to tweak the current Tomb Raider formula without changing what made the first two games work. It also made us very keen to get our hands on the final product so… that’s just what we’re going to do.
Keep an eye open for our full Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which — based on our reaction to the snippet available at Comic Con Africa today — should be turning up here sooner rather than later. In the meantime, stop by the Shadow of The Tomb Raider demo area at Comic Con Africa if you’re attending this weekend — you may find yourself adding an extra purchase to your list of items.