The review embargo has been lifted on Shadow of the Tomb Raider, and critics love it. There’s just one problem, and it’s a problem that’s been building with Lara’s recent titles of late…but it’s really come to a head here.
As we know by now, Square’s “realistic” Tomb Raider trilogy, started in 2013, goes out of its way to ground Lara Croft in a far less fanciful world. No hot pants, no dry British one-liners, no wild monsters — just plain ol’ people and animals. You can’t get an injury and just shake it off. And you will never, ever, meet a living dinosaur or tangle with a demi-god.
With Shadow of the Tomb Raider, developer Crystal Dynamics may have gone too far with this whole “realism” thing. A major theme of the game’s story are the moral questions brought up by what Lara’s doing — breaking into sealed tombs and swiping the stuff inside, possibly against the wishes of whoever put it there. Shadow goes far enough to accuse the Tomb Raider series of endorsing colonialism — in other words Lara was meant to be the White Savior to all the unwashed primitives around the world. I doubt that’s what creator Toby Gard had in mind.
They made a game that shames you for doing the thing the entire series is about. You can continue playing the game you just spent $60 on (or more), but if you do, that’s not very woke of you, is it?
The facts are this: if a real-life person stomped into an Aztec tomb and swiped everything to put in her big mansion, we’d hate her guts. That crowd of hate would include the people who have played Tomb Raider games in the past and would theoretically be “desensitized” to the crime.
That’s because those real-world artifacts would not have magic powers and would not be coveted by a massive cabal of shadowy figures. They would not be contained within heavily booby-trapped enclosures patrolled by zombies and dinosaurs. Because this is not real life.
We don’t need Tomb Raider to TELL US real-life grave robbing is bad, any more than we need Jet Grind Radio to tell us graffiti is bad or Grand Theft Auto to tell us organized crime is bad. Because DUH.
This is a video game. It is a story, it is a fantasy. Fantasies go by different rules than real life. And if we’re not allowed to fantasize anymore, we’re not allowed to have fun anymore.
I don’t want a “realistic” Tom and Jerry cartoon that examines real-world violence against cats. I don’t want a “realistic” Mario where he’s confronted by the ghosts of all the Goombas he’s stomped and murdered. And I want my friggin’ unrealistic Lara Croft back. I want the dinosaurs, I want the magic, I want the high gloss and glamour and insanity and everything. And yes, I want to swipe old ancient stuff, like the title says.
if Shadow of the Tomb Raider is meant as the end of a trilogy, then Lara’s next reboot is around the corner. I would like to see TR return to escapism, but now that the series has self-sabotaged itself by holding its entire premise under criticism, CAN they go back?