Shadow of the Tomb Raider launched earlier this month and despite not getting nearly enough press, it delivers a satisfying conclusion to a overlooked trilogy.
Its best feature though? Difficulty sliders.
This may seem like a minor detail in a game that is full of fantastic features and great gameplay design, but it is often the smallest things that you remember most. Calling these difficulty sliders the game’s best feature may also seem like hyperbole, but it truly is something that all games need to take on and adapt. In a game that generally sticks to its roots and doesn’t stray far from the formula, this stands out.
Upon first starting up Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the player is given the option to choose between three difficulty settings, which is fairly standard, but it also allows you to essentially create your own difficulty by individually changing each main element of the game.
One example is the combat difficulty settings, which let you make encounters with enemies easier or harder. This is a fairly simple difficulty change, but one that is appreciated when the rebooted Tomb Raider games have always had satisfying but easy combat systems.
Similarly, the game also lets you alter how hard you want the puzzles to be, which is particularly useful when you discover that Lara never really lets you figure out the puzzles on your own through the default difficulty. Leaving this one on normal means all you have to do is stand still and she’ll guide you through it, so it’s certainly recommended to crank this one up.
The difficulty setting that really stood out to me however, was the ability to change how exploring and climbing works. Changing the difficulty here means that all of the obvious tells of climbing, such as white paint or yellow rope, are completely removed from the environment meaning you have to rely on good level design and intuition.
Playing the game this way is certainly much more interesting, and really harkens back to the original Tomb Raider games in which platforming was very much do or die. When you consider that this type of platforming is easily one of the best aspects of the old Tomb Raider games, it’s truly fantastic that Eidos Montreal have given players who enjoy that type of gameplay more to get hooked on here.
This type of difficulty customisation has certainly been seen in games before Shadow of the Tomb Raider, but it rarely makes an appearance in games of this genre, and especially not in this console generation. Typically, difficulty levels just mean how fast you’re going to die in a firefight, but this really ups the ante on a pretty standard game mechanic.
Even if you don’t choose to play the game in this or any other difficulty-altered way, more options in games are always a good thing.