Some developers announce their game and then stay in the shadows before release, only showing it briefly in preview sessions if they even show it at all, but Eidos Montreal and Square Enix have been more than generous in giving us glimpses of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as we've been to at least three presentations and three gameplay sessions since the reveal in March. The latest of these came via an event in London this month, presumably the last before the full game launches on September 14 (although who knows at this point), except this time we had a much meatier chunk of the game to look at.
The first section of the game we could afford to skip past, as it's the introductory level that we previewed already after the reveal event, but to give the brief summary (spoiler alert for those who want zero story details): Lara Croft is looking for an ancient knife, she recovers the knife, and then an apocalyptic tsunami hits, causing untold chaos. Is it her fault? Who knows, but it appears that way, especially since this is a game where Croft is dealing with the consequences of her reckless actions.
Back to what we played. The extended demo threw us into the section immediately after where our journey in a plane is cut short when a storm hits (again, supernatural perhaps?). We're after Trinity, who are also looking for an artifact that is said to give whoever wields it untold power. After crash landing in the jungles of Peru, we must survive once more, just like in the 2013 reboot, with very little in the way of defence.
Like Bear Grylls we went off to see what we could find to keep us alive, and as you'll remember from Rise of the Tomb Raider, there are plenty of berries, animal carcasses, and boxes to rummage through and get ingredients for crafting. Not long after we land we craft a knife out of broken airplane scrap, which then allows us to cut our equipment down from the tree it had become entangled in. As you can tell, Croft is still as resourceful as ever.
The trouble is, Croft didn't pack her arsenal of warmongery weaponry in one place, so we're stuck with a bow and arrow and a knife in the opening sections, hence why it reminded us a little of the first game where we relied more on primitive survival techniques. It's not all about foraging for resources though, because early on we're introduced to one of the challenge tombs. These are hidden ancient ruins that provide extras for us to discover, such as symbols to decipher and improve our skills in forgotten languages. There's also gold ore to sell to merchants and extra equipment to craft; gear which can improve your abilities by allowing you to collect more natural resources when you scavenge, for example.
Once we'd finished being sidetracked, it was time to look for our pilot Miguel, although he'd met with an unfortunate end after being munched by two jaguars, which we then got to fight. It's survival of the fittest as they say, and unlike the fights we've had with heavily armed Trinity goons in the past, this was all about dancing around our agile opponents, dodging their strikes and waiting for the right time to shower them with arrows.
Jonah's back this time around as well, and we meet up with him later (luckily he didn't end up as jaguar food). The relationship between Lara and Jonah has been building steadily over the past two games, and it's really promising that we've seen so much dialogue between them both in-game and in the cutscenes, since in this session alone we got to see both of them learn some big lessons, and hear about the backstories for the pair. Jonah has always been a good influence on Lara, but now we get to see how they work together.