The Path Home marks the last leg on Lara Croft’s journey through Shadow of the Tomb Raider. When the dust settled after dealing with evil alliance of Trinity for good, back in Mission of San Juan Lara and her friends gather inside the local church. There’s a concern over the fate of Yaaxil, a ferocious ancient tribe that helped Lara in the final battle to overcome Trinity leader Amaru. Yaaxil seem to have vanished from Paititi. Are they lost or perhaps being cornered by the remaining Trinity troops? Really, the latter option is completely absurd when taking into account Yaaxil’s unnatural fighting abilities. Still, Lara goes on searching local tunnels Yaaxil have presumably utilized in their mobilization, accessible conveniently through the church floor.
Before Lara gets to the new challenge tomb Mother Protector, she has to face those remaining Trinity forces. Heavily-armored, agitated and trigger happy, they want nothing more than to see the thorn in their side dead. Multiple firefights through water-filled underground chambers escalate into taking out a mounted machine gun. Unable to attack it head-on, Lara must find a way around it to defeat the men manning it. The combat, mostly devoid in previous add-ons, is heated and pulse-pounding. These armored goons can’t be downed by the bow alone, so Lara must take out heavier arsenal at her disposal and let the shotgun and assault rifle shots echo within the walls of long-forgotten caverns.
When the last drop of blood has been shed, Lara makes further progress towards the tomb that might have clues about Yaaxil’s fate. The path forward looks grand in scale; spectacular heights with vultures circling up high in the air, basking in a glow seeping from narrow gaps into the sanctum that ends in a drop so deep that every jump might be Lara’s last. Surprisingly, the traversal needed to make headway isn’t so taxing after all that even a mistimed jump ended up only in an embarrassing tumble at the threshold of Mother Protector.
Inside, Lara is greeted with an environmental puzzle of a big, circular door blocking the way that has to be matched with a correct engraving to make it open. Next to the door are thee chambers, each booby-trapped with lethal spikes springing up from the floor. Lara has to solve these puzzle rooms that require a satisfying amount of keen pondering, maneuvering and fast running in order to reveal a series of glyphs that help in identifying the correct engraving for the door.
What’s left is the main course of the evening. The inner sanctum of the tomb is guarded by a grand statue of Xquic, mother of the hero twins, creator of the silver box of Ix Chel and the key of Chak Chel, and the mother of their protectors the Yaaxil (quoted to a point from the mural description!). Only, the statue is scrambled, with arms and legs sticking out in wrong positions and sides. It’s like a huge 3D sliding puzzle! I don’t enjoy sliding puzzles in adventure games at all so I gulped in dismay while looking at this hulking monstrosity. By solving two more spike-filled passages, Lara can manipulate three ancient levers to rotate and shift the statue parts. When the goddess is finally in her correct shape, Lara gains entry to the tomb altar. There, she gains a new ability, Magic Touch, that allows crafting ammunition from fewer resources while on the run or engaged in combat.
One step further and Lara enters the chamber that holds the very reason for Yaaxil’s disappearance. I won’t spoil it here, apart from saying that everyone back at the church is relieved. So, happy ending! All fine and dandy but still, I expected more. The main reason is that The Path Home is over too quickly. Most of the previous add-ons have been understandably short so that they don’t mess up the main campaign pacing too much as they take place during it. However, as a post-game content, The Path Home had no such burden. The scenery that Lara travels through is breathtaking but as it is, it’s visited all too briefly.
In the end, though, when asked about what she will do next and Lara turns around with a little smirk on her face, I was moved to tears. This is it. This is the end of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, the game I love so much, the final game in the rebooted trilogy I cherish so much. I doubt that Square Enix will produce any more games to the series as it hasn’t met their sales expectations. However, that hasn’t been fault of any of the three games as each of them has surpassed the previous one. Initially, I, too, had my doubts when the developer was changed from Crystal Dynamics to Eidos Montreal. I was happy to be wrong. Honestly, Eidos Montreal couldn’t have done any better job with Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
The game is perfect in my books. It put tomb raiding back to Tomb Raider, emphasizing adventuring – the thrill of discovery – over action even though that, too, was further honed. There was also just enough narrative, not too little or not too much. In too many huge games these days the gameplay has sadly become secondary to the excessive presentation and rambling narrative. And I loved this version of famous adventurer Lara Croft to whom actress Camilla Luddington gave soul. While this might be the end of the Tomb Raider as we know it, I can always start the game over. Now that all DLC has been released for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, I get to relive the adventure as a new whole. The score below is for The Path Home but overall, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is worth of that perfect score I awarded it back in last September.
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.