An early trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider showed Lara in a therapy session. "You say the flashbacks have stopped?" a bespectacled man asked, jotting notes on a clipboard. "This is an excellent improvement." The young adventurer looked uneasy, gripping the arms of a chair and quickly tapping her feet. Some interpreted this as a form of PTSD that would be addressed in the next game. Brian Horton, the director on Rise, quashed the theory though and said it was "anticipation to get out of the situation and just go on her adventures." Ultimately, PTSD was never explored in the game.
Shadow of the Tomb Raider takes a similar approach. According to Dozois, Croft has the opposite of PTSD: She's actively seeking out peril. Do-or-die situations are comforting to her because they provide plenty of adrenaline and clear, if physically demanding, goals. If a temple is crumbling, she needs to escape, and that means running one way, jumping a gap, holding her breath underwater, and so on. Staying still, and interacting with people, is complex by comparison. "I'm not really used to crowds," she says while walking through a Day of the Dead festival in Mexico.
In combat, Lara is rewarded for moving. Narratively, though, the game is about responsibility and stillness. Taking the key of Chak Chel was a mistake, and now she must learn how to recover and put things right. In addition, the tomb raider needs to realize that it's necessary to slow down sometimes and review the situation before taking action.
"Especially if the tomb you get to is full of people," Smith said. "Normally you run in, you take the thing and it all falls down. But if people are living there, then that's their home, right? Maybe that artifact means a lot to them, and they don't want you to take it. [The game] is about understanding what that object means, and how do you protect it, potentially, from being used in the wrong way."
Some of these ideas will be explored in the new hubs peppered throughout Shadow of the Tomb Raider. They allow Lara to converse with residents, trade resources and pick up quests that usually lead to optional challenge tombs. Stillness and responsibility are also tied to the story's McGuffin — the key and silver box. If Lara obtains both, she will gain the ability to create a new world that's theoretically free of pain and suffering. It's not the most original plot device, but it should give Croft another reason to stop and consider what's truly important.
"You're fighting against someone who wants to create a new world."
"We wanted something that would be tempting," Dozois said. "You're not fighting against someone who wants to destroy things -- you're fighting against someone who wants to create a new world." Lara begins to unpack this decision in a conversation with Jonah early in the game. "You wouldn't go back to when your brother was alive, and be with him again?" She asks. "And lose everything else? No way," Jonah replies. "I like this world. It's not perfect, but everything I love is in it."
By the end of the game, Lara will have changed yet again. She won't be a pacifist, necessarily, or best friends with Trinity. Dozois hinted, though, that the archaeologist will have found a sense of fulfillment. "For me, the end of this story and the end of this arc is hopefully moving [Lara] to a lighter place, where she's healing, getting over this obsession, getting over the pain of the loss of her family, and moving forward with her life with a bit more optimism and lightness," he explained.