The third add-on for Shadow of the Tomb Raider promises to take Lara back to Croft manor but with a twist; it’s a nightmare Lara must overcome. Bad idea, echoes in my mind as there already was a similar setting in 20th anniversary DLC for Rise of the Tomb Raider that wasn’t very good. It was one notch more to the list why I don’t usually dig additional content for games. DLC for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, however, has featured quality additions to the awesome but overlooked main game – so far. Nightmare is a usual deal of a new mission and challenge tomb, and some new gear to deck up Lara with. Still, is this a nightmare you want to wake up from or is there some new angle to the tried-and-tested premise?
Like the previous DLC, Nightmare takes place during the main campaign and not after it, which makes it storywise a bit funny to play it post-game. It features a side mission Path of Fear that will lead to a new challenge tomb, Howl of the Monkey Gods. First, though, Lara will need to go through a trial and one careless encounter later she finds herself back in Croft manor. Dreams, especially nightmares, are a great device for developers to bend the rules of normal gameplay and story themes. Here, guilt caused by past and present events plays tricks with Lara’s mind as she embarks on a journey through a dreamscape that quickly leaves Croft manor behind and fast-forwards through settings from her latest adventure. Nightmare plays out almost like a walking simulator if it wasn’t for some heated gunplay to fend off illusory enemies. Dreams tends to end just when they’re getting interesting and so Lara, too, will soon come to her senses, only to find herself at the threshold of the valley of the Monkey Gods.
Laid through a vast valley with enticingly two parallel directions to go along, I picked the rightmost and ventured further down, pondering what there was on the other side. All roads lead to Rome, however, and before long Lara comes face to face with huge cliff carvings of twin Monkey Gods, once upon a time cursed into their simian form. They guard an entrance to the inner sanctum of Howl of the Monkey Gods, a delightfully open-air tomb featuring a fun gameplay to beat its challenge. A run of gauntlet of sorts, a gigantic monkey head at the end of the pass beats a pace for wind-powered ancient organs that sets in motion a series of hazards that need to be manipulated and passed with well-timed platforming.
Challenge is once again nice and the visuals are consistently sumptuous with a bright sunlight highlighting magnificent features of the valley of the Monkey Gods. It’s a shame that for such an endearing endeavor the tomb is, it takes only some 1,5 hours to see the whole DLC through. I would have liked the challenge tomb twice of its current size and I have a feeling that more could have been made out Lara’s personal nightmare, too, despite its effective use of cutscenes. As it stands, it was bit of a rush and unlike the advertising led to believe, the Croft manor plays only a bit part and Lara’s now-dead acquaintances don’t exactly walk and greet her as they’re reduced to silent background elements.
We see Lara’s younger self again, though, and it makes me want a whole DLC with 10-years old miss Croft to play as. The glimpse to the past in the main game was a fun diversion amidst all Peruvian perils. Maybe one of the remaining four add-ons will answer that call. After all, it would be easy to set it up, with Lara recalling her childhood to someone – or by falling asleep and dreaming of it!
Video game nerd & artist. I've been playing computer and video games since the early 80's so I dare say I have some perspective to them. When I'm not playing, I'm usually at my art board.