It wasn't that long ago that we were in London to attend the reveal event for Eidos Montreal and Square Enix's Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and our first preview concerned the opening section of the third entry in Lara's origins trilogy. Square Enix had something different in mind for its pre-E3 hands-off demonstration of the game, however, as we were shown two sections from much later in the game, showcasing two different sides of the journey.
The first of these introduced us to the hub world of Paititi in Peru. To give a bit of context, in Rise of the Tomb Raider we were introduced to a semi-open world, where we were given a hub that allowed us to talk to NPCs, find extras like tombs (who knew?), and get side quests. This aspect has all been ramped up a bit more with what Eidos Montreal calls their biggest hub world in a Tomb Raider game to date.
Paititi itself is a fictional secluded town to which people from all different cultures - including Aztec, Maya, and Inca - have migrated, which is something that the studio says plays with the lines between fact and fiction, since there's no evidence to suggest these cultures all migrated to Peru, but it could've happened (more along the lines of improbable, then, not implausible). As such it's a living space filled with a lot of different people and languages, and the clear conflict here is between the murderous cult imposing themselves on the land and the rebels that are opposing their oppressors.
As Eidos Montreal walked us through the town in Lara's shoes they made clear to us that effort has been taken to make the world feel as alive as possible, as there's a constant hustle and bustle as people go about their daily lives. What's more is that you can interact with the space too, gathering side missions such as when we were asked to recover some lost dice for a sad-looking boy we encountered. This, the developers say, allows different sides of Lara to come through, like her sense of humour, in contrast to the dark and predatorial killer we've seen showcased so far.
Although it's clear that this is a work in progress, we should mention here that we did notice the facial animations and voice acting between Lara and these various citizens was extremely flat and wasn't really all that convincing. We hope this is something that they can clear up in the months they have left, especially since they clearly want players to feel immersed in this vibrant hub.
In the town itself there are various districts to explore as you might expect, including a market filled with merchants, a religious area, and a place where clothes are dyed. We got a good look at one merchant's stock in the market, at which point we saw a lot of old re-used clothing that was in need of restoration; Eidos Montreal said this was in line with what they'd expect from a secluded community like this. Throughout these districts there are various interiors to explore and interact with too, and what's more is that we were promised to be able to visit all the places we can see, including all the large, looming temples in the distance.
After this saunter through town, we went further afield to try and discover a challenge tomb in the jungle, where we were told that the entrance to these tombs will be not only hard to find, but also dangerous too. In terms of the challenge tomb itself though this was more of the same Tomb Raider: puzzles, environmental dangers, and jumping across precarious gaps. The treasure rooms, however, aren't the only draw and there's plenty more to find deeper in the tombs this time around. Oh, and don't worry about the ethical conundrums of collecting artefacts, as we're assured that they're all returned to the people of Paititi, rather than shipped away to some dusty museum.
What's more is that there's plenty more swimming sections this time around (as we've discussed before); just getting into the challenge tomb Lara had to swim through loads of interweaving tunnels, avoiding dead ends and underwater dangers such as eels and piranhas. There are even a number of high dives into pools of water that you can find in the world (as if completionists didn't have enough to worry themselves over).
An interesting side note relates to Lara's outfit in Paititi, as here she ditches her combat-ready attire in favour of dress that's more suited to the South American cultures she's mingling with, which while a small detail is something we enjoyed seeing as it spiced things up a little bit and showed a more human side of Lara than the woman who's ready to shove a knife into someone at any given moment. Here she's becoming one with the culture she's exploring, and we must say the outfit looks great too.