Spooky expansion will leave you feeling cold. For all the wrong reasons
Ah, the difficult second DLC. As a dev, do you play it safe, farming out another slice of fan-pleasing content? Or you do play a wild card and shoot for something a little more off-the-wall? This question faces Crystal Dynamics with Lara’s Shadow – and it’s one that seems to have gone unanswered.
Set during, and after, the events of the main game, you play as the goth-styled clone of Lara Croft – the Doppleganger. Being a brand new-ish character you’d assume this is a wild card DLC package? Alas, you’d be wrong.
The Doppleganger manages to sum up the whole DLC in one painful statement – a brief glimpse of a good idea that doesn’t work. Rather than realise the potential of a supernatural Lara Croft, the devs do nothing more than casually add a few effects to an already existing set of moves. So that 800MS is for a new hair colour and some glowing eyes. Ker-ching.
There are some new abilities though. The Doppleganger can enter Shadow Time where everything drops into slow-motion and you can outflank enemies, cling to specific surfaces and wall-run across ledges like Prince of Persia minus the parachute trousers. The link to the Prince should be a good thing, but it comes off as nothing more than a lazy emulation. Lara isn’t built for the fleet-footed bounce like the Prince and having to add another button press during the many wall-climb bits infuriating.
In combat, the Doppleganer feels mildly fresher. Despite having a special ‘Shadow fire’ element to the pistols, they’re robbed of all their bite, so you’ll find yourself relying on melee combat to take out those blue-hued thralls. The mechanics are far from intuitive, but a series of special moves (shockwave, super punch, and the like) add a beefiness that makes CQC less of a drag than with regular Lara.
It’s the premise of Lara’s Shadow that that’s the hardest to stomach though. Set in a subterranean hideaway, you spend half the game speed-running across ledges and super-punching enemies. Then after you pull the last lever, Lara tells you to go back and undo what you’ve done. That’s right, the same place – only this time, there are more foes and some blue flames to make things, y’know, ‘blue’. It’s like a mirrored track in a racing game only it feels like an even cheaper way to pad out this DLC.
Everything about Lara’s Shadow feels half-realised undercooked. The new elite thralls are just the old ones with a different helmet and more health, while the focus on melee combat always feels disjointed. Tomb Raider wasn’t designed to have the smooth combat and combos seen in something like Assassin’s Creed and it tells here. Lara’s Shadow is perfectly playable, but it does nothing new or creative with the freedom it grants itself.
Compared to the retro love letter that was Beneath the Ashes DLC, Lara’s Shadow is the bedraggled offspring of a storyline that’s far too supernatural for its own good. For your 800MS you’ll get an additional 125 gamer points, but a few treasures and a relic do not a good Tomb Raider experience make.