It’s been only three weeks since the last DLC for Shadow of the Tomb Raider was released and now I’m already getting my next tomb raiding fix. On one hand it’s nice that the wait between DLC content is short but on the other it means that the inevitable end will be closer (only three add-ons to go after this!). Marketing speech for The Price of Survival promises a lot; Lara will fight Trinity elite guards and come face to face with her greatest foe. I wonder if it was deliberately exaggerated as the DLC turns out to be a bit tame, even though there’s a tale of brotherly love at its core.
The new side mission, The Dragon and the Prince, starts from Paititi and eventually leads to a new challenge tomb, The Sixth Seal. As the DLC takes place about two-thirds into the main story, the antagonist of the game, Trinity leader Amaru, is still alive and kicking. I just wish they had done more missions that are placed post-game to avoid awkward chronology for those who have completed the campaign. Anyway, Q’orianka, who was introduced in the second add-on The Pillar, has acquired a wooden cipher disc that belongs to Amaru. It’s up to Lara to uncover the secret the disc will lead to.
The path to the tomb takes a couple detours as Lara follows clues around Paititi outskirts. A relatively quaint venture gets a new pace when Lara engages Trinity forces at the temple gates. Spectacular lighting and deep contrasts in the heat of the jungle set a thrilling backdrop for a short but frenzied fight. When the smoke descends, Lara has time to examine the murals inside the temple. And off she goes following a new lead that takes her to a watery environmental puzzle.
After manipulating ancient sluice gates in and out of water, our heroine gains another clue about where to go next. The old town was briefly visited in the main story and from there Lara finally gains access to The Sixth Seal. Another open-air tomb, it’s plagued by red fungus that’s lethal when inhaled. Treading carefully onward, Lara must get rid of a large growth of reds fungus that has taken over years-old food supplies. Cue an environmental puzzle featuring an ancient but still functioning cannon, a rudimentary lift, a carriage and a set of rails. Camouflaged rather inadequately, the whole set-up looks something out of a puzzle-platformer. Granted, Tomb Raider is a puzzle-platformer at its core but usually it’s masked a bit better. It took a few runs between timed elements of the puzzle to get the eureka moment.
The inner sanctum of the tomb is also infected by red fungus but it’s a child play for a seasoned tomb raider to work a way around it and reach the altar. The tomb rewards Lara with a new skill, raptor’s eye, that allows tracking of enemies that has been aimed at. More importantly, Amaru’s secret is all but exposed. It seems the wooden disc has no strategic relevance to the resistance, rather it has an important personal value to Amaru. I spoil a bit here as there’s no “meeting up with the greatest foe” as such in the mission. It can be read as a metaphor of the matter Amaru took to his heart after a promise he made to his late brother. Lara realizes that deep down Amaru’s intentions might be pure but nevertheless, his approach to the solution is twisted.
In the end, the path to The Sixth Seal was more exciting than the tomb itself. It takes two hours at the most to see The Price of Survival through and get a new pistol and an outfit for Lara as rewards. Still, at its best moments, the mission typifies the gameplay what I thought made Shadow of the Tomb Raider such a great experience. To get most of out the DLC content, they must be seen more as parts of the game that expand it rather than as separate add-ons. While I was disappointed that the actual tomb was too brief, The Price of Survival has an important job of showing a softer side of the villain.
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.