Shadow of the Tomb Raider, released earlier this month, is the long-awaited sequel to 2015’s Rise of the Tomb Raider. The new game promises an even richer, more rewarding experience for Lara Croft, one that ostensibly pokes fun at the nature of adventure games in general, and challenges Lara’s motivations as a character.
We spoke with Eidos Montreal’s Jason Dozois, the game’s narrative director, to find out more.
A lot has been made of Lara’s growth as a character in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Could you take me through how the narrative team conceived this more mature version of Lara? What thorny, or conflicting, aspects of her character will players be introduced to that we haven’t seen in past Tomb Raider games?
Shadow of the Tomb Raider evolved out of the momentum of character choices made by Lara in Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider. In this, the end of the origin story, we wanted to add more layers of drama and conflict and more emotional challenges for her to overcome. We still have external conflict, like surviving horrible weather events, but we’ve added more interpersonal conflict and internal conflict to the mix.
Lara is very driven in this game, proactive to the point of obsession. Early on in the story, Lara inadvertently triggers a series of catastrophic events by taking an artifact that Trinity was after. Lara will have to learn moderation, taking on a strategic — rather than tactical — approach to solving problems and work with people in order to fix her mistake and finally become the Tomb Raider.
We’ve seen a few instances of this pop up in trailers and playable content. For example, whereas past version of Lara may not have thought twice about pillaging or desecrating a tomb, this version of Lara is faced with the consequences of her actions when an artifact she takes causes a natural disaster that kills innocent people. I want to know why you felt it was important to explore this idea?
Becoming the Tomb Raider for us is taking on a more mature vision of archeology. Which means more emphasis on culture and history as well as artifacts. People, being surrounded by them, is the main differentiator of Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Lara is not naturally comfortable around people but with the help of her friend Jonah, and other characters she meets during this adventure, she will grow and mature as a person. Responsibility and learning that her actions have consequences are at the heart of the story of Shadow the Tomb Raider, so it was important to us to use an element and emotion that video games can do very well: guilt. We have our hands on the controller as we play videos games and the actions we take as we play have a stronger impact than simply watching idly as events happen on screen.
Zooming out from this point, do you feel games have a responsibility to examine, and comment on, current political and societal issues? I feel like a lot of blockbuster games often hint at this in the preview stages (when trying to drum up interest in the game) but when the games finally comes out, it’s evident there is very little analysis or commentary happening.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider aspires to tell a universal story about maturity and responsibility. Early in the game, Lara does something that has disastrous consequences for herself and many innocent people and the story of Shadow of the Tomb Raider revolves around her trying to fix that mistake. In that journey, she learns from other characters and grows as a person.
I think one of the most jarring things, for me personally, was the violence. More specifically, the way that Lara does not seem to have an issue with how violent and brutal things end up being. As a character that is supposed to be undergoing a bit more self-reflection than past games, how do you plan to balance these two aspects of Lara’s character in a way that doesn’t make the characterization and growth of the character feel cheap?
All of the violence in this game is contextualized. It feels more brutal, at times, because of the context. Lara is becoming one with the jungle and needs to use it to gain an advantage since she is often outnumbered and hunted by a highly trained paramilitary force; she is often in a kill or be killed situation. Her character growth is linked directly to her drive, her sometimes obsessive drive, and the consequences that can have other people. She needs to learn to work with others and to have all the context and information before taking actions that can have consequences.
Can you tell me a little bit about the “immersion mode” in the game — what it is, how it works, and why you chose to include it?
Players will have an option to switch between the localized language of NPC civilians or their own native language (Spanish and Mayan depending on the area). We did this to increase the immersion in the hub areas. We chose to include it to give the players the choice. While many people enjoy it, some prefer to overhear conversations and do side missions in their own localized language.
What does this add to the game, do you think? (In regards to both player experience, but also the game’s higher goals.)
It added immersion quite simply. When you enter the areas of the game where there are a lot of people, you get the full immersive experience of what Immersion Mode can bring.
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