Shadow of the Tomb Raider is now available, and before you jump into Lara Croft’s next adventure, Eidos Montreal gives you a few options to adjust the difficulty of your first playthrough.
It’s actually pretty cool, as the developer gives you more control over your game’s difficulty instead of just the typical ‘easy’, ‘medium’, ‘hard’ options. Tomb Raider players know that the game’s three pillars are combat, exploration and puzzles. And in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, each one can be adjusted to your desired difficulty.
So, for my first playthrough, I went with One with the Jungle, which puts everything on ‘hard’. I’m seven hours in, and some of the limitations imposed by that setting improve the experience.
The gunfights so far are what you expect from previous Tomb Raider experiences. With combat difficulty on hard though, you lose the ability to regenerate health while dodging harm. You have to rely on healing supplies if your health dips too low. This adds more tension and rewards careful planning and the element of surprise.
Another source of challenge is the loss of Lara’s Survival Instincts, which lets her highlight important objects and enemies. By default, a highlighted enemy’s color — yellow or red — informs you of whether or not a stealth kill will alert others. But on this difficulty, getting a safe stealth kill requires you to trust your own instincts.. I need to be more patient.
The limitations of Survival Instincts continue into exploration. Since nothing of importance gets highlighted, there’s no longer any point in clicking R3 every time you enter a new area. I have to admit that I’ve been to reliant on this since 2013’s Tomb Raider and had I realized that I would have opted for this a long time ago.
The description for exploration on Hard also includes “no white paint on critical path,” which means it is no longer as obvious where you should go to progress in the game. Together with the limited Survival Instincts mechanic, I end up looking around more and appreciating the game’s astonishingly detailed environments a lot more.
Puzzles on hard is more of a blessing, really. If you go through the normal difficulty, pressing Survival Instincts will highlight all of the key objects needed to solve the puzzle and Lara will give out hints to what has to be done next.
So far, the experience has been rewarding and I don’t see myself getting stuck as often. I’ve yet to encounter one puzzle that would give me the urge to whip out google to get a hint. I’ve desecrated a few side tombs as well and they have just the right amount of difficulty to get you thinking.
The option to really customize your preferred difficulty is one of the nicest touches to Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Whether you find shooting to be a chore or want to test yourself against the game’s puzzles, you can find a difficulty configuration that’s right for you.
And if you want to really punish yourself, and we all know there’s a handful of you out there, Shadow of the Tomb Raider also has the Deadly Obsession difficulty. Checkpoints are removed. That alone makes it sound awful already, so it’s only for the those that hate themselves, or maybe for on your second playthrough, when you feel you’ve mastered everything the game has to offer.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider is available now for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Our very own Matthew is currently going through the game and we’ll have a complete full review soon, so stay tuned and look out for it.