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Europe- New detail on the fiendish challenges awaiting Lara Croft in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft has been on a personal journey since 2013’s impressive Tomb Raider reboot, from inexperienced archeology grad to seasoned survivor. When we meet Lara in Shadow of the Tomb Raider, she’s no longer running; she’s hunting down the world domination-obsessed military organisation Trinity and its leaders, attempting to get one step ahead and turn their plans to ash.

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as they say, and a series of hasty decisions on Lara’s part unleash a chain of cataclysmic events that have everyone from her longtime ally Jonah to Trinity’s head-of-command confronting her with the deadly consequences of her actions. At once, this new chapter feels more weighted and grounded than previous entries, and every part of the game reflects Lara’s journey into a heart of darkness.

Nothing highlights this more than Shadow’s setting: the dangerous jungles of Peru. Lara has always been quick to use her environment to her advantage, but here she melds into her surroundings with confidence and ease. She can sink into beds of vines to sneak past enemies, or cover herself in mud for instant camouflage.

New skills can be unlocked either through a traditional skill tree or by discovering ancient totems, like the extremely satisfying Eagle’s Talon, a rope takedown that starts with Lara dropping onto an enemy and ends with them strung up from a tree branch. Lara leans into her predator status here — in many ways her combat style is savvier and more ruthless than ever.


That’s not to say Lara isn’t being hunted. A particularly exhilarating new addition to the series finds Lara face-to-face with other seasoned predators: the lethal jaguars of South America. A far cry from the wolf packs of previous entries, these encounters are contained, strategic experiences that will test Lara’s survival skills.

The two encounters I played through had different setups, one allowing for ground traversal and another offering multiple chances to gain higher ground. In each one the jaguar weaved its way in and out of Lara’s field of vision, stalking its prey and leaping out to strike with deadly force. Using the available environment is key to avoiding its attacks, and utilizing the newly introduced Perception herbs (which function similarly to the series’ Medicinal herbs) can help you keep track of the predator’s position and go in for the kill.


Tombs have always been a centerpiece of the Tomb Raider games (go figure), and in Shadow they do not disappoint. Puzzle sequences are ingeniously implemented, putting players’ logic to the test and rewarding progress with a rush of sweet, sweet endorphins.

The tombs themselves are more expansive and treacherous than before, with many requiring underwater traversal — a classic Tomb Raider staple making its first appearance in this trilogy. Strategically placed air pockets and the need to sneak past deadly piranhas or eels raise the stakes in these delightfully challenging diving sequences.


Shadow of the Tomb Raider offers customisable difficulty settings that allow players to modify the difficulty of puzzles, traversal and combat separately. Are you breezing through combat sequences but getting stumped by the puzzles? Or perhaps you’d rather not get any puzzle hints, but need some guidance when moving through the jungle? You can toggle these settings to fit the game to your preferences and craft a truly unique tomb raiding experience.


As a longtime fan of the series, I’ve loved following Lara on her journey to becoming the fully fledged Tomb Raider. Shadow of the Tomb Raider exemplifies the elements that drew me to the series in the first place: thrilling exploration, engaging combat, and challenging puzzles.

But it’s the moral exploration of Lara’s identity that has me most excited to dive back into Shadow of the Tomb Raider when it launches 14th September on PS4.

The post New detail on the fiendish challenges awaiting Lara Croft in Shadow Of The Tomb Raider appeared first on PlayStation.Blog.Europe.

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      So, how do we make fighting a guy this small feel as big as fighting the giant bosses of previous God of War games? We do the opposite of what we always did…zoom the camera in closer!

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      That’s better.
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      As you can see, things were pretty rough at this early stage. However, it was already fun to control Kratos versus Baldur and to experience all the over-the-top reactions while playing. It was especially fun trying to angle the camera to knock Baldur through trees and rocks. This early prototype helped set expectations on how the fight would feel in the end.
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      Around this time, our concept artist Stephen Oakley did some pre-visualization artwork of potential combat sequences for the fight, inspired by the early animations Fabian did. These helped spark even more ideas.

      By now, we had a large bucket of cool things we wanted to try out for the fight. I created a design document next, planning out the key beats of the fight… not as exciting as Fabian’s animations or Stephen’s pretty sketches, so I won’t post it. But, I did some work too! I promise.
      Once we had a rough plan in place for the entire fight, we began implementing a rough skeleton for each phase, starting with the introduction when Baldur first appears at your door.

      As you can see above, the animation and camera went through a lot of changes, but the basic idea of “punch Kratos over the roof” stayed the same.
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      Phase 1 is the introduction, which takes place in Kratos’ backyard. During this phase, Baldur does not attack much. Since this is the first boss fight in the game, it’s important to have a phase like this to ease the player in. This gives them a chance to use Baldur as a training dummy and enjoy the spectacle of knocking him through trees and rocks (which we already established was pretty fun from our early prototype work).
      Story-wise, Baldur wants Kratos to attack him. He is purposely taking the hits in the hopes that Kratos can make him feel pain. Sometimes we’re lucky and the goals of both gameplay and story work together perfectly.

      The transition between phases gave us a chance to showcase even more godly feats. These required a lot of iteration to get right, due to the continuous single shot camera we were going for. You’d be surprised how hard it is to get two characters into the right spot during gameplay without simply moving them in a camera cut.
      The reason Baldur spins Kratos and throws him so high here is to mask how much we’re sliding the characters around to get in position to land on the roof. This was a recurring theme in how we designed many of our transitionary animations. Most of them have quick turns or heavy camera shaking impacts to hide the extra motion. Smoke and mirrors.

      You’ll also see here that we used some of Stephen’s earlier pre-visualization artwork as reference for this tree ram sequence. This fight, like many other parts of our game, is cobbled together with ideas from people all over the studio. As a designer, my job isn’t just to come up with ideas, it’s also to filter the incredible amount of creativity coming out of every department and cherry pick the ones that will fit best.
      The transition animations give us a change of scenery by moving the player to a new location. In a longer fight such as this, it’s important to keep everything escalating, including the environment. Another more subtle reason for moving the characters is that it refreshes all the breakable trees and rocks that were probably already destroyed in the first arena. This gives the player another new playground to destroy.
      This is where phase 2 takes place. The early part of the phase introduces Spartan Rage, so we keep the player in rage mode longer than normal to allow them to learn the mechanics. Baldur starts being a little more aggressive in this phase, so the player has to start paying more attention to Kratos’ defensive options once the rage mode runs out.

      The transition into the last phase showcases the work of our amazing breakables team. Fun fact: We originally planned to have Baldur throw a mountain at Kratos, who punches it in half. We eventually had to change it to be a bit more reasonable since Kratos is supposed to be a little rusty in this fight. If you see Kratos punching mountains in the future, however, you’ll know it was a long time coming.
      We had also originally planned on having Baldur attack you during this section where you’re climbing up the chasm. He would be kicking down rocks or causing avalanches, forcing you to dodge sideways to jump between ledges. This ended up being cut due to scope. However, in retrospect, it was good that we didn’t have time to include this. The whole boss fight is so fast paced that it was nice to have a few more short quiet sections like this to break up the action.

      Phase 3 is when Baldur finally starts unleashing all of his attacks. As the first boss fight in the game, we didn’t want Baldur to be too difficult. It was more important that he give the illusion of intensity, rather than actually being a huge threat (If you’re interested in a challenge, try out some of our late game boss fights against the Valkyrie, which I also designed. Sorry in advance!). Baldur’s attacks are instead designed to teach and encourage different defensive mechanics:
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      In addition to Baldur’s attacks, he needed a way to defend himself if the player was too aggressive. Since Baldur reacts to all of your attacks, he is more vulnerable to being locked in an infinite combo than most bosses.
      We did a lot of work to make sure he always has ways to slip out and get some of his own attacks in. Sometimes he will take an axe-hit and then counter-attack. Other times he may use the momentum of your hit to dash back and gain some space. His defensive abilities all exist to reset the playfield and force the player to engage with his offense.
      Baldur was also originally supposed to be able to grab your axe and use it against you. Imagine you throw your axe at him, he takes the hit, pulls it out of his body and throws it back at you. What a jerk! This proved a bit difficult to pull off… plus we didn’t want to discourage you from throwing your axe so early in the game, so in the end this feature was… axed.

      The development of just one boss fight involves pretty much every department. From environmental artists creating the arena, to audio designers making each punch sound chunky, to producers making sure we’re not just browsing cat videos all day. I was only able to share a small snippet here, but the end product was a culmination of everyone’s efforts.
      Thank you for taking the time to read all of this. I hope you enjoyed this short look behind the curtain. And I also hope you enjoy fighting Baldur! He may not be the size of a mountain, or have the ability to grow giant crab legs, but hey…he has one sick mullet.

      The post Santa Monica Studio details the epic creation of God of War’s unforgettable Stranger fight appeared first on PlayStation.Blog.Europe.
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