I love the rebooted Tomb Raider games. When the first one dropped back in 2013, I picked it up during a sale, and figured eh – I’ll give it a try. I was never a huge fan of the originals as I didn’t gel with the control scheme, but after popping the reboot into my 360, I spent the next week stalking around Yamatai as Lara, trying to find every last collectable, and ice axing dudes in the knee at every opportunity. I loved everything about it, from Lara’s reluctant murder spree, to the real but fantastical setting that made me think that it was the best Indiana Jones inspired game ever.
The sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, was just as impressive, and far more in-depth, including a host of survival tactics that upped the ante considerably and made you feel like Lara’s life was always on the edge as she tried to chase down the shadowy enterprise her father knew as Trinity.
When I was offered the chance to review the Art book and novel tie in to the new game, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I jumped at the chance like Lara – without much thinking, while wearing a tank-top – and I’m quite glad I did.
First, lets get this out of the way – the novel? It’s ok. It’s called Path of the Apocalypse, and might be the best written fiction add on for the entire Tomb Raider universe. Still, even with that statement, it’s kind of just ok. The author does a great job with the source material, and even fleshes our Trinity to some degree – a nice welcome change from the nameless grunts Lara stealthily murders with abandon through the entire series. It’s still a rather middling side mission that takes place early (and off screen) in the Shadow game, and doesn’t really shed much new light or provide any impact to the mythos. It is a much better piece of fiction than most of the comic books and other tie ins I’ve seen in the past, so if sales are good I can see more coming from this author, but overall it’s something that Tomb Raider completionists will enjoy quite a bit, and most of the rest of us will say it was fine, and move on.
In the other corner, the art book is an excellent coffee table book with tons of great information.
I’m sort of 50/50 on the general art book idea, as some of them are brilliant, and others are just an excuse to print out a bunch of unused assets, and bilk another 30 bucks out of game fans. This is by far the former, as it not only displays the various assets, used and unused, but ties everything back to how the game evolved and what various plot choices meant for the look and feel.
Be forewarned though – if you’re not done with your Shadow play through, this book is probably best left on a shelf until you’ve had a chance to beat the game. I cracked it open early in my play through and upon seeing quite a bit of plot points from what I just finished – I shelved it until I had a chance to get significantly farther in the narrative. Once you’re done? It’s compelling to jump back to a recently completed area and have a DVD commentary type experience on how the mythology was leveraged for a certain section, or how a puzzle came together from the page to the screen.
Character designs might be my favorite part overall, as it not only touches on some of the current game’s look, but also dives into the recent past – allowing Lara’s various badass looks from the entire reboot trilogy to make a new appearance. The multiple costume options started in Rise come back, with lots of inspiration from Lara’s environment and the necessities of her skulking and raiding mission.
The combination of the two books gives fans a good additional entry into this long running series, with a fairly compelling novel and an excellent art book. If you’re always looking for some shelf additions, and count this excellent reboot trilogy among your favorites, these are worth picking up and digging deeper into the mythos around Trinity and the Tomb Raider.