Shadow of the Tomb Raider released a few months ago and, like most modern games, is currently on track with releasing its DLC. And while Tomb Raider has had DLC in the past, this trilogy ender is taking that model and expanding it over the course of seven content drops. The first pack, The Forge, recently came out and introduced cooperative tomb design to the series in a narrative-focused package. It’s not quite what you’d expect from the series and we recently sat down with Eidos Montreal Associate Producer Jonathan Dahan to talk about the Shadow of the Tomb Raider DLC and how co-op has a place in a traditionally single-player franchise.
Game Revolution: What’s the overview of the DLC in general?
Jonathan Dahan: We are going to be doing seven DLCs and the last one will come out in mid April. It’s a pretty aggressive schedule. We wanted to make sure that we bring new narratives, gameplay, and rewards to the players so that’s why in every DLC we have new side missions, weapons, outfits, and skills. We’re diving into the stories of some of the characters and the factions that you encounter in the main game.
For example, the second player when you play in co-op is Abby from the Kuwaq Yaku village in the main game. So the story of The Forge is about her hidden story. She’s going to discover something about herself that Lara is going to help her find out.
GR: What was the impetus of making these narrative-based missions over just having them be just separate Challenge Tombs?
Dahan: It first started as Challenge Tombs. We wanted to do co-op and we wanted to find the best way to convey that experience. So we said the most pure version of Tomb Raider is just tombs. And so it started with tombs and then we realized and then once the game was done, we started to have reviews and focus testing. We reviewed the game ourselves too and we realized that we wanted to dive into some characters more. Like some of the allies of Lara and some of the bad guys and factions.
But some of their moments had passed but what happens to them? How did they get to that situation? So in addition to the tombs we’re gonna try to add a new side missions to dive a bit more into those stories. Whenever you start one of those DLC side missions, you’ll go through those tombs because it’s part of the mystery and the hidden stories of those characters.
GR: Is the story overarching over the whole seven pieces of DLC or self-contained?
Dahan: Some are isolated but others, like the second and fourth piece of DLC, if you do them in order, are more interesting because they actually fit together well. It’s the same people giving you the mission. Doing the the second DLC before the fourth DLC gives you some insight and the rewards from the second DLC help you in the side mission from the fourth DLC.
GR: Tomb Raider has almost always been single-player. Why do co-op?
Dahan: It was something that was pretty successful on Rise [of the Tomb Raider] because they did co-op for Endurance Mode. Rise was all about survival in the snow and super harsh, cold weather. We do have that aspect of survival in Shadow but we wanted to try something new in co-op. We preserved the co-op and we went with the same mechanics and we improved upon them a bit. But we decided to go with the tombs.
Because we realized that in Montreal versus Crystal [Dynamics], we’re really more comfortable with huge scale puzzles. So we just asked our designers to come up these huge tombs that take up the scope of a full building. We went into the direction of the old school Tomb Raider where you have puzzles that you could spend an hour or two in them and have trouble figuring them out. But once you finish them, you feel super smart and you feel very accomplished like a Tomb Raider.
GR: It sounds like a dungeon at that point.
Dahan: Pretty much. The Forge of Destiny is a huge tower and it’s like seven stories high and you have to make this huge mechanism go up seven floors. There’s lava on the side and you have make sure to not fall and watch out for platforms that retract. You can just fall to your death if you don’t pay attention or have the right timing. So it’s really old school in that sense too.
GR: What are the differences in solo and co-op?
Dahan: The tomb is identical in solo and co-op. But there are some paths and mechanics that, when you play in co-op, let you do additional actions that are only available when you have two people doing simultaneous actions. Those actions can bring you to alternate paths.
For example, the first two steps in the puzzle in The Forge of Destiny, you have to do them one after the other but in co-op, you can get to a path that brings the second player directly to step two. So you can almost skip step two since it’s so fast and that gives you an edge when you play Time Attack because you can go that much faster in co-op. That is one of the ways that co-op is bringing a bit more diversity in the gameplay. The best way to play to tomb is to have one player stay in the center tower to have them prepare all the mechanisms to make it go up while the second player stays on the outskirts and activates all the other mechanisms to make sure everything goes in a super nice sequence. In solo, it takes about three times as long.
GR: Is that the attitude with all the Shadow of the Tomb Raider DLC?
Dahan: Yeah pretty much. So five out of our seven DLC will have co-op tombs. All of those co-op tombs are build with those huge mechanisms that will make players realize that it’ll be way better if each player takes their own path.
GR: Who else from the game is going to be in the DLC?
Dahan: Some of the main secondary characters are going to be featured like Jonah. We have new characters as well because we wanted to delve into Unuratu’s story but she dies during the game. But we wanted to find ways to have a story about her without having to bring her back from the dead. So we had to come up with new characters to tell her story.
GR: Is the DLC bringing any new modes or gameplay mechanics?
Dahan: One thing we are adding is replayability. We have a full hour of story content in each DLC. But we are adding replayable modes like Time Attack and Score Attack. There are different time to beat for bronze, silver, and gold and they give you more rewards when you beat them. Same with Score Attack. We place orbs and targets in the level so while you’re solving the puzzle, you have to shoot and grab all those items to bring up the multiplier to get the highest score possible. We have leaderboards for those to make sure players want to play as much as possible. We’ve even had some of Square Enix’s PR guys that have been trying to beat the scores and times. Some of them even got some high scores and the dev team has been impressed.