Shadow of the Tomb Raider: we interviewed the game’s director and screenwriter.
In July of this year, Voxel was invited to go to the city of Los Angeles to check out the first five hours of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, a game that closes the Crystal Dynamics “Trilogy of Origin”. Besides being able to enjoy the initial moments of the game, we also had the opportunity to have a brief chat with part of the team responsible for it.
In a cozy room full of posters and images of the new game, we spoke with director Daniel Chayer-Bisson (who also commanded the 2013 reboot) and screenwriter Jill Murray, who guided the team responsible for the new plot. Among the subjects covered are the development of secondary characters and the way Lara Croft will be portrayed in the plot.
You can check the full interview both in the video in this text and below, in an unedited version.
Voxel: When did you decide to make Lara the villain of the game? Because it basically puts the world on the path of destruction. What happened there?
Jill: You know, it’s all about duality, so it’s a path of destruction and then reconstruction. She makes this mistake, you know … We found her at the height of her skills, she does what she has always been good at, what the players have always been good at, which is running ahead of the Trinity, getting to the artifact before they can do it and get it so they can’t use it.
Only then did she realize that it was a mistake and she started the apocalypse. So she is her worst enemy in many ways, she is not the villain in history, she still cares a lot about the world and all the people who have been affected by this error.
And it really is about her looking inward, figuring out how to move on from that point, how to work with others to help correct the error and perhaps come to a more complete understanding of the world and her place in it as a result.
“she is not the villain of the story, she still cares a lot about the world and all the people who were affected by this error”
Daniel: So, I want to add something. The thing that is important is that whatever it does, the goal is noble. She always tries to do the right thing. She just doesn’t know exactly what is the right thing that she should be doing. She is learning in this game what exactly means the right thing, how to deal with the consequences of her actions.
So, she’s not saying, twisting a mustache and ‘I will destroy the world’. No, this is not her. She is trying to do the right thing, to make the right decision. And it’s very … it’s like a surgeon doing surgery. If it goes wrong, people die, and that’s what she learns from picking up the dagger without really understanding what it means, even though the warning signs are there.
Jill: I think it can be quite difficult to find out what that decision is and the answer is not always the most obvious one that the right decision is to do nothing. It is certainly not at the beginning of the game and it is not Lara’s nature to just try to do nothing and see if this is the right thing to do. She will always try to be proactive.
Voxel: Previously you said that the game is going to be a little darker, that it will have a darker perspective. What do you mean by that? What can players expect in this regard?
Daniel: I would say that the tone is not necessarily darker, but that his perception may be darker. We have a lot of lighter moments, if you played, you will see moments that are very fun and that was very important.
I would say that when you are a human being and are making mistakes and do not know how to fix them, the consequence is as great as the action that it does. As a Tomb Raider, your action is greater than breaking a tool or the like. In making this decision to pick up the dagger, for example, whatever happens will have consequences for the innocent people around.
And it seems sadder at first because we need to put it in the right scenario, we need to understand. As a player, we want them to feel like Lara, feel the guilt.
Because in video games, a central emotion that you don’t have in other media … in movies, when you sympathize with the hero, you never feel guilty, because it’s not you making the choice. In video games, you have the fact that, although it was Lara who did this action, the player brought her there.
“As a player, we want them to feel like Lara, feel the guilt”
And, you know, you feel when you’re swimming and you see all these people dead, the players are going to feel guilty. And when that child falls, that is why children react viscerally to it, because they feel guilty about what is going on.
Jill: You know, in this game we also talk a lot about the jungle and how Lara has to become one with the jungle. And there are psychological parallels, you know, when her plane crashes and she’s thrown into the jungle, it’s a psychological jungle for her too, she doesn’t know how to get out of there, she needs to learn about all this new territory, the tools she finds around … if you want to expand the metaphor from a gameplay perspective … .
Daniel: Yeah, the gameplay … So, getting down is one of the central elements of this game. In Rise we didn’t have that, in 2013, if we wanted to go down, we had to make it fall. But with the inner journey that she takes, we also wanted to recreate that in the mechanics.
So the cross section, going down with rappelling is an analogy, a metaphor for that. And also getting under the water and discovering yourself, facing your fears and facing your demons is central to the character’s elements.
Jill: I think that, having said that, we don’t want the whole game to look like it’s this dark or miserable thing. We have moments of contrast and lots of light. For example, in Paititi, the largest social center we have ever created for a Tomb Raider game, and in the other social centers as well, where Lara will meet many people and learn how to work with them.
Your sense of humor will appear more, we see a lighter side. And I think that this is also the way she finds the way to get out of these dark places is through her relationships with other people, be it her best friend Jonah or one of the new characters she encounters on her journey.
Voxel: Talking about Jonah: are we going to see a better development of the secondary characters in the game? Or will the focus be on Lara and her journey and her growth?
Jill: We definitely see great things in all the secondary characters, I like to think that everyone, from Jonah to Dominguez, the antagonist, to Abby, that you know at the end of the segment you just played and some other characters, all of these people could be heroes in their own stories.
They all have important things that they are doing in the world, they all have their own motivations. If Lara wasn’t there, the world would keep going forward, so they’re not just there as complements to her, but they’re her equal and challengers and friends.
Daniel: Even from the point of view of resources and production, the priority was to build a relationship between the characters. And that was a key element for us. So Jonah is much more present in Lara’s day-to-day, hourly, than in the two previous games.
And that was one of our priorities, what we call “priority one”, and that was very important. So, are we going to have a better exposure of secondary characters than in previous games? This is the goal, this is what we want to do, so that people care.
Voxel: How do you deal with the interactions between Lara and the people of Paititi? I mean, it must be strange in this isolated society for thousands of years that suddenly there is this girl walking around with a big bow on her back. So, is there some kind of conflict, like “who are you and what are you doing here”?
Jill: So, things don’t go very well for Lara when she arrives in Paititi. She has to think quickly about what she can do and settle down with the rebels, who are in conflict with the governing power of Paititi. She is able to establish very quickly that they have some needs and enemies in common, and she is able to build and maintain her confidence by demonstrating that she is going to work with them.
Daniel: It’s a mutual relationship, of course, when you think about it. When she is walking in Paititi, her relationship gives her a certain status and we cannot spoil some things that you will discover while playing. But let’s say there are reasons why she can walk around wearing that special outfit and stay away from the guards, there is a reason for that.
And your relationship as Onoratu, who is the character you saw at the end of the demonstration, before arriving in Paititi. She is building a relationship with her, and that gives her more freedom to walk the scene.
Jill: And not everyone gets used to it, there are places she can’t go without getting into conflict, there are people who want to scare her off. It is never easy.
Voxel: So, this is the end of the trilogy that started with the 2013 reboot. What does that mean? Will we see a new Lara Croft in the future or is it just the end of the Trinity Arch and will we see it in the future with new enemies and a new plot?
Daniel: To be completely honest, we are focused on Shadow now, which is the end of the trilogy, the origin trilogy, so this is what is important. Then, all we’re going to show is her turning into the Tomb Raider that she should become, that’s objective, but with a modern vision. So for sure this is going to be something, but what exactly it means we don’t know, let’s wait, we’re focusing on Shadow.
Jill: We are super focused on this game right now and we also think that, even if you haven’t played the previous two games, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is the perfect place to start exploring tombs with Lara Croft because this is where it becomes the definitive version. of Tomb Raider that she was always destined to become.
Voxel: What exactly does it mean to become the Tomb Raider?
Daniel: In her case it is really to understand that there are bigger things than her in the world. Mysteries and secrets are there, and just interacting with them without understanding them can do great harm to the world. And live with the consequences of your actions, really understand what it means to deal with it. Achieving a certain degree of maturity, that’s exactly what it means.
I’ll let you play until the end of the game, and we’ll answer at the end of the game exactly what that means. But for now, you have to be satisfied with what I said. I don’t know if Jill wants to add anything, but that’s what I can say.
With versions for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, Shadow of the Tomb Raider is scheduled for release on September 14 this year. Also take the time to check our impressions of the game’s early hours and don’t forget to use our comments section to record your impressions of it.
Voxel traveled to Los Angeles at the invitation of Square Enix