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Shadow of the Tomb Raider Interview: Predator Lara, Revamped Stealth Mechanics, Lara’s Obsession, and More

Shadow of the Tomb Raider development team had a chat with us about their upcoming game. They discussed some solid tidbits and an insight into the game’s setting and gameplay mechanics.

SegmentNext: In Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Lara is mastering the jungle. How will the setting of the game influence her mechanics and tools’ use?

Heath Smith, Lead Game Designer: One of the major reasons we chose the jungle as a setting was in order to help us complete Lara’s skillset. This is the third game of the trilogy, the conclusion of her origin story so we wanted to make sure we dropped her into a location where she had to learn new abilities. It influences her traversal mechanics – South America is full of deep caverns for spelunking and underwater exploration.

It also majorly influences her approach to combat – Lara realizes very early on that, outnumbered and outgunned, she has to become the ultimate predator – one with the jungle – to survive. Using the environment like covering herself in mud as camouflage and blending with jungle foliage are just two examples. The dense jungle now also enables Lara to return to stealth by disappearing into the environment, allowing players to employ true guerilla strike and disappear tactics. In addition, Lara will utilize her knowledge of the plant and critter life of the Amazon to be more pro-active with herbal remedies – like enhanced focus that slows down time when aiming.

SegmentNext: We’ve seen Lara change a lot from game to game, with this one seeing her becoming the “predator,” Is this her “ultimate form”? How would you describe the personality of Lara in Shadow of the Tomb Raider?

Jason Dozois, Narrative Director: Since Tomb Raider 2013, Lara has become more and more proactive. From her survival situation in Japan at the start of the reboot to becoming an explorer in Rise of the Tomb Raider, Lara is now a fully realized in her skills and abilities in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Her proactivity, however, is becoming a problem. She is focused, to the point of obsession, with understanding and unraveling Trinity, the organization responsible for her father’s death. In the game, she faces extreme odds and needs to become one with the jungle, using hit and run tactics, improved stealth mechanics, and take full advantage of the environment to survive the deadly encounters in the game.

SegmentNext: We already know that underwater exploration will play a role in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. How big is that role and what kind of dangers should we expect underwater?

Heath Smith, Lead Game Designer: While the underwater experience is much expanded with full exploration possible and many treasures to find, it’s also one of our key ways to help the player experience fear. Descending into dark underwater caverns, not knowing where your next air pocket will be – this is core to the experience. In addition, the player will need to be on the lookout for underwater threats – both natural predators like moray eels and piranhas and man-made obstacles. These traps often guard the entrance to the many challenge tombs and crypts in the world.

SegmentNext: Lara in Shadow of the Tomb Raider sets off a Mayan apocalypse. Is there a straight up a paranormal event that causes it or should we expect something more normal like in the previous titles? Apocalypse isn’t so easy to “make up” as a human.

Jason Dozois, Narrative Director: The start of the Maya Apocalypse is triggered in a way that leaves some doubt as to whether or not Lara actually triggered it; it can be perceived as a natural disaster. There is a scene between Lara and her companion, Jonah, which deals with that subject.

SegmentNext: How much of this apocalyptic event inspired by the Mayan Literature?

Jason Dozois, Narrative Director: The story in Shadow of the Tomb Raider is fictional but is inspired by several different Maya and Aztec stories about the sun and sacrifice and the different ages of man.

SegmentNext: The Season Pass of the game is tightly related to number 7. The number is extremely important to the Mayan world but does it have something to do with the implemented side missions? We’re thinking about the Seven Mayan prophecies, maybe?

Jason Dozois, Narrative Director: All we can say right now is that each of seven DLC will feature a challenge tomb and new information about the game world of Shadow of the Tomb Raider.

SegmentNext: Were there any gameplay mechanics that you wanted to push into the game but didn’t make the cut in the end?

Heath Smith, Lead Game Designer:  When we knew we were going to the jungle, we “threw everything at the wall” as the saying goes, to “see what would stick”. One such mechanic we prototyped early on was a mud pool that Lara could immerse herself in to wait for the enemy and take them down.

However, we soon realized that it really slowed down the pace of the combat, waiting for the enemy to be attracted to your position. Tomb Raider combat is best when Lara is always in movement, rewarded for repositioning and playing cat-and-mouse with the enemy. Cutting this ingredient helped us refine what a full stealth loop meant for Tomb Raider, ensuring our ‘disappear’ ingredients (like vegetation and mud walls) always allowed frictionless dynamic entry and exit, in order to reward players who strike and disappear against their foes.

SegmentNext: The world of Shadow of the Tomb Raider is bigger than its predecessors. What was the main focus while creating this the game world? How did you manage to make the world dense enough with player activities?

Jason Dozois, Narrative Director: The main focus of the world building in Shadow of the Tomb Raider was immersion. We wanted to create a living breathing world for players to explore. Our goal was to bring archeology to life and to have Lara learn from a living culture through documents, relics, and murals but also through conversations with people and story-driven side missions. The fact-based fictional culture of Paititi was created by drawing from Maya, Inca, and Aztec sources for clothing, architecture, and language.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider is releasing on September 18 for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.