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Xbox Game Pass Just Added Lara Croft’s Definitive Adventure

A thrilling conclusion.

'Shadow Of The Tomb Raider' brings the iconic character to Cozumel, Mexco.

Lara Croft has been one of gaming’s most enduring representatives. Even 28 years after her debut on the PlayStation, she’s still one of the medium's most recognizable heroes. But, as the recent release of Tomb Raider I-III Remastered has reminded many of us, time has not been kind to Croft’s humble beginnings. Clunky platforming and combat controls, obtuse level design, and far too much backtracking bog down an otherwise charming romp through the halls of gaming history.

Thankfully, the recent addition of 2018’s Shadow Of The Tomb Raider to Xbox Game Pass means players who didn’t have the patience to trudge through her 90’s exploits can instead play Lara’s definitive and often-overlooked adventure from the last decade.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the third and final game in the reboot that started with 2013’s Tomb Raider. The trilogy follows Croft as she grows from a competent archeologist following in her late father’s footsteps, to the globe-trotting, guns blazing badass that people are familiar with.

If you haven’t played 2015’s excellent Rise Of The Tomb Raider, Shadow does little to explain where the previous game left off. Instead, Shadow begins with Croft aboard a plane falling out of the sky before showing you the hours leading up to this dire situation.

Croft mixes it up with a fair share of foes from the animal kingdom this time around.


These opening hours are linear, doling out basic tutorials and story beats. Its story is straightforward: Trinity, the evil, religious, paramilitary organization she’s been at odds with since the first game in the trilogy, gains control of an ancient dagger capable of destroying the world in a series of cataclysmic events. They want to use that dagger to “reshape the world in their image,” (typical bad guy mumbo-jumbo) and it’s up to Croft and her partner Jonah to save the day.

Shadow’s story is serviceable, albeit the weakest of the three games. By the start of Shadow, Croft is comfortable in her role as the titular Tomb Raider, growing beyond the traumas experienced in the first game. Shadow teases that Croft may be a little too comfortable in that role of professional murderous pillager, a welcome bit of character introspection from the game’s otherwise action-movie-like presentation.

When the game finally opens up a few hours in, however, Shadow hits its stride. You navigate a series of interconnected levels stuffed with obstacles, hidden tombs and treasures to uncover, and combat sections to fight your way through.

There’s a genuine sense of discovery in the world of Shadow Of The Tomb Raider.


Shadow, like its predecessors, places a strong emphasis on exploration and leaping from platform to platform. Levels are brimming with artifacts, treasures, and secret locations, many of which are inaccessible until you unlock the right tool or upgrade. The trilogy is very much a Metroidvania, and Shadow doesn’t stray from the strong foundation built by the first two games. The tools are found in the game world or crafted at camps dotted throughout its sprawling map.

In between the open environments, are hub worlds that act as a reprieve from the crux of the gameplay. Here, players can talk to locals, accepting short, narrative-driven side missions that flesh out the characters, as well as reward weapons and other improvements to Croft’s toolset. Croft can also visit merchants for upgrades and other crafting resources.

In Shadow, combat takes a considerable backseat. There are only a handful of encounters compared to the first two games, and most of them end as quickly as they begin. Thankfully, these encounters are challenging, as enemies are smart enough to coordinate flanks and push the play out of cover with explosives and gunfire.

Fewer combat encounters means puzzles and level traversal really shine through in the series’ third entry.

Eidos Montreal

The reduction in combat goes a long way in making Shadow more thematically aligned with the original games. There’s a noticeable focus on environmental and physics-based puzzles. The game’s nine challenge tombs in particular are engaging enough to make the player slow down and think about their goal and how they’re going to pull it off.

It’s a bold choice by developer Edios-Montreal to double down on a more methodical pace of Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Players looking for something more action-heavy may be surprised by just how little shooting there is to break up the time spent learning ancient languages, pushing and pulling objects and levers, scaling walls, and carefully jumping between platforms to avoid deadly hazards.

There’s something truly satisfying about how the game pairs fun platforming with the Metroidvania formula. There’s momentum not only in how Lara moves but how she slowly peels back the hidden layers of the world. There’s joy in leveling up her understanding of the subjects and civilizations she’s studying, improving the tools at her disposal, and revisiting previous areas for things you missed. It’s the kind of game that you’ll want to play more of after the credits roll since hitting that lauded completionist achievement is actually a whole lot of fun.

In hub sections, players can take on side quests and upgrade equipment.

One final element worth mentioning is Shadow’s fully customizable difficulty settings. At any point, players can adjust how easy or hard combat, exploration, and puzzles are independent of each other. Want to breeze through combat sections so you can get back to uncovering old mysteries? Dial combat down to the lowest setting. Or perhaps you enjoy the satisfaction of the game’s daring platforming sections? Crank up exploration to cut out the white paint that guides players forward. The game lets players lean into whatever they want out of the series, a really nice touch that more action games should implement.

Across Lara Croft’s pantheon of games, the most recent trio of Tomb Raider games always feel like they’ve been forgotten. In a post-Uncharted industry, 2013’s Tomb Raider, 2015’s Rise Of The Tomb Raider, and Shadow of the Tomb Raider are seldom recognized for building a strong foundation for the franchise. They lack the sharp writing and likable cast characters featured in Naughty Dog’s signature series. But Shadow, like the rest of the series, more than makes up for it in exhilarating thrills, gorgeous levels to explore, and cohesive gameplay mechanics that are a blast to play through. If you’re a lapsed fan of the series or just looking for a well-made adventure game that actually lives up to the term “adventure,” you owe it to yourself to check this one out.

Shadow Of The Tomb Raider is available on Xbox Game Pass.

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