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5 Ways Shadow of the Tomb Raider is Evolving the Series’ Formula

2013’s rebooted Tomb Raider not only introduced fans to a reimagined Lara Croft, but also offered amazing new gameplay mechanics, systems, and features. Its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, built on its predecessor’s solid foundation, refining and polishing everything, from the combat and crafting to the very tombs Lara loves raiding so much.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks to maintain this momentum, retaining the formula that’s made the previous pair of game’s such a relic-hunting blast, but also taking that tried-and-true template in exciting new directions. Based on our recent hands-on demo with the game, here are five new features that should make Lara’s next adventure her best—and most perilous—yet.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Become the Jungle

Battle-hardened after thwarting countless goons, Lara’s taking her mastery of combat in some deadly new directions.  Stealing a page from the playbook followed by Schwarzenegger and Stallone in “Predator” and “Rambo”, respectively, the combat-ready Croft will make creative new use of her surroundings, both blending into and weaponizing her environments. We got a taste of this during our play session, when we were able to hide in a foliage-covered cliff face, essentially becoming invisible to passing enemies.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Reach Greater Heights

Lara’s pair of climbing axes returns, as does her rope arrows, but a new traversal option looks to complement her existing gear in a variety of cool ways. From a climbing position, with an axe dug into a craggy surface, Lara can now rappel downward from that point. Additionally, using the same rappelling tools, she can swing and wall-walk. Coupled with her previous skills, these new climbing abilities promise plenty more freedom and options when it comes to spelunking and puzzle-solving.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Deadlier Tombs

Tomb Raider’s artifact-filled crypts have typically been quiet places. While darted with potential dangers for the less sure-footed explorer, their biggest challenges usually involved overcoming their puzzles.  This all changes in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, as the moments to calmly reflect on a puzzle’s solution have been replaced by tense encounters with traps and hazards that want you dead. Thanks to multiple contraptions of the spikey variety, we met our end a few times during our demo.  Being skewered repeatedly, however, was nothing compared to having an oversized water creature put Lara in a full-body chokehold.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Just Keep Swimming

Fans can expect to be much soggier in Lara’s next outing, as the swimming introduced in the last game has been significantly fleshed out.  In addition to taking more dips out in the world, players should plan on spending plenty of time submerged while raiding tombs. A large portion of the crypt we explored unfolded beneath the surface, frequently forcing us to catch our breath in small pockets of air. When combined with the aforementioned water monster, as well as the claustrophobic crevices we had to navigate, the limited air supply had us instinctively gasping.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider Screenshot

Higher Stakes

Lara’s always been pretty good about taking care of herself and her friends, but Shadow will task her with saving more than just the folks closest to her. During our preview, Miss Croft recovers an artifact that triggers a cataclysmic flood, which quickly consumes an entire town. Many lives are lost and Lara’s to blame. This is only the beginning of her woes, however, as Lara’s careless actions have apparently set a series of deadly catastrophes in motion.

By retaining and refining what worked so well in the previous games, while also significantly evolving on that formula, Shadow of the Tomb Raider  — arriving on the Xbox One family of devices and Xbox One X Enhanced on September 14 — is shaping up to be a worthy conclusion to an epic trilogy.