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Old 29-08-18, 09:02   #1
Final Count
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Default My ranking of the Tomb Raider II levels, based on my recent playthrough

With 2018 being my 20 year anniversary as a fan, as well it being one of thoe rare "a new Tomb Raider game is coming out!!!"-years, I decided to play the original trilogy, and review the levels of each game. I completed Tomb Raider I back in March, and was blown away at how much better it was, compared to how I remembered it. Like Tomb Raider I, I have a lot of nostalgia with Tomb Raider II - but only parts of it. I never actually completed Tomb Raider II until 2009, but I know a lot of the levels from the game, because I abused a level skip code as a child (stupid!). As a kid, I would rarely get farther than the beginning of the Opera House level, where I'd get stuck, and then use the level skip code - and then not knowing when to stop. Which of course is a shame. I was a kid.

Now, considering how blown away I was by everything in the original Tomb Raider game when I played it in March, I was let down a bit by Tomb Raider II. Tomb Raider II has been my second favourite of the series (behind Tomb Raider III), since I finally completed it in 2009, but there are things I don't like about the game. The excessive focus on combat is a notable difference from the first game, and not really a good one. It's just not that fun to hold down the shoot-button and jump around, until the bad guy drops dead. A thing I really hated though, is when epic music is playing and really gets me in the mood... but then I have to move through a water section of the level - and the music is interrupted! What the hell? Isn't the music supposed to be non-diegetic? I don't remember this happening in either Tomb Raider I or Tomb Raider III, but I could be wrong. It's just weird that I haven't noticed it in those games then. But boy, that sucked. And also - If I died while riding the skidoo, the awesome techno beat would stop when re-loading the game.

Anyways, I'll be ranking the 18 levels of the game down below, and give short reviews of each level. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, except for the two points I mentioned above.

18. Offshore Rig
The No Weapons-levels of Tomb Raider I and Tomb Raider III are some of my favourite levels of those respective games, but the Tomb Raider II version is very dull. I think it's a shame she gets her pistols back so quick, as that kind of ruins the purpose of the level. In Tomb Raider III it felt so rewarding, when we finally got our guns back at the end of the level, and finally were able to fight back against the guards. The only other thing I remember from Offshore Rig, was the annoying part with all the catwalks towards the end. Yeah, not a great one.

17. The Dragon's Lair
The Dragon's Lair LOOKS great, and that's why it has a huge advantage over Offshore Rig. But in terms of gameplay, this is very combat heavy. In fact, that's all you do. And when you don't really enjoy that aspect of the classic Tomb Raider games, there's not really much for you here. I do think that pulling the dagger from the Dragon is pretty cool though.

16. Ice Palace
There's lots of shooting Yetis in this level, and it's not particularly fun. I also think that the jump pads are a kind of odd thing here in a Tomb Raider game. It's a thing you would expect in a Sonic or Crash game or something, not an ancient Tibetan temple in Tomb Raider.

15. Floating Islands
Yeah, ouch. I've got the impression, that this is a pretty popular level amongst Tomb Raider II fans, but it is really an uphill struggle to beat this level. I like a good challenge, but this felt much more difficult than the Temple of Xian, in a more unfair way. Such as jumps that looks manageable, but aren't, or not having enough room to fight the bullet sponge statue-enemies, or just the general weird look of the level (I guess it's supposed to look like jade, but the textures in this level look horribly unfinished, for some reason).

14. Catacombs of the Talion
Here's a funny tidbit - I had completely forgotten that this level existed. For a while I thought the Ice Palace level had a different name in the PC version. I couldn't even recall anything from the level. It's so weird, and I have no explanation for it. There's some beautiful visuals in this level, and you really get the feeling of being very far away from home. But murdering hordes of critically endangered snow leopards isn't really my cup of tea - AGAIN! Too much combat! It's not a particularly memorable level, but I had more fun with it than the Ice Palace. So there's that.

13. The Deck
There is something breathtaking about the size of this level. It's absolutely huge. I actually felt kind of overwhelmed by it. Unfortunately, it's one of those "where the f*** do I go?"-levels. There's no real clear objective, other than a couple of keylocks that need a key. And why is the Maria Doria suddenly not upside down any longer?

12. Tibetan Foothills
Oh yeah, this is the skidoo-level. The awesomely 90's Tomb Raider techno theme accounts for a lot of the enjoyment of this level. However, I kind of enjoyed traversing the valley to get to the skidoo more than I enjoyed actually maneuvering the vehicle. There's some really dumb level design choices in here though, such as a lever in a cave wall, opening a flimsy looking wooden door far away. Also, the way to obtain the cabin key was very dumb (it appears after Lara accidentally sets off an avalanche).

11. Diving Area
I had considerably more fun with Diving Area, than Offshore Rig. Even though the level has the biggest ladder in the history of mankind (and makes you climb it 1.5 times!), there's some fun exploring and puzzles here, such as the flame puzzle, and the water level puzzle. The fact that Lara can't get the red keycard because the buzzsaw is running is DUMB though.

10. The Opera House
I actually really like this level, but I get lost every time I play it. This time, I got lost in the most stupid way possible. I didn't realize that the lever would send up an elevator, because it didn't happen instantly. So I just ran around the level for hours, looking for clues. Shame on me. The atmosphere of this level is simply awesome. I love Tomb Raider II's take on the "tomb"-aspect of the series. A dilapidated opera house is not only haunting, but also very fun to explore.

9. Venice
Venice Violins is one of my favourite pieces of Tomb Raider soundtrack ever. Scrap that. It's one of my favourite pieces of video game soundtrack ever. Unfortunately, you go in and out of water constantly in this level, which means the music is constantly interrupted. Venice looks beautiful, but it's a slightly clunky level to play. Getting off the boat and out of the water to fight back against thugs constantly shooting at you, is very annoying. I used a lot of medipacks in this level, because of this. If only we could shoot from the boat. I absolutely love the water mine puzzle though. I remember figuring out that I had to sacrifice a boat, before being able to advance, when I was 11 years old or so - and being oh so proud.

8. The Living Quarters
I love this level for two reasons: Traversing the engine room is pretty fun, and getting scared ****less by the giant Moray eel is... pretty fun. Seriously, I know it's there. And while approaching it, I know it will pop out and bite a chunk off Lara's butt. But I still jumped out of my seat and screamed, to the amusement of my girlfriend. The giant Moray eel would easily be in a top 10 classic Tomb Raider moments list, if I ever made one.

7. Home Sweet Home
The concept of this level is brilliant! Lara is back in her mansion, looking at the dagger of Xian before going to bed (was she going to bring that dagger with her to bed???), when Marco Bartoli's thugs break into her home to steal back the dagger. Lara, of course, shows them how hospitable she can be. It's a very combat-heavy level of course, but it's short and sweet - so it works.

6. Bartoli's Hideout
It's basically the beauty of the Venice levels, without the constant getting in and out of water. This time around, Lara explores Marco Bartoli's mansion, and wrecks some havoc! The giant room with the chandeliers is my favourite part, but areas like the library are also fun. It's basically just a fun little level, that's never too complicated.

5. 40 Fathoms
This level starts you underwater, and with your oxygen-meter depleting. You need to figure out where to go, and fast! Luckily, I still remembered where to go, but I can only imagine how frustrating this level can be, if you don't know where to go. Because the opening area of the level is ENORMOUS. Once inside the Maria Doria, the true fun starts. This is simply a great level, and once again Core Design puts a new meaning to the "tomb" aspect of the series. Exploring a sunken ocean liner is not only haunting, but also tragic. Which is further explained in...

4. The Wreck of the Maria Doria
I absolutely love this level. Trying to figure out what every room in this ship used to be, back when it was a luxurious ocean liner - and neither dilapidated or upside-down - is one of those things you can have fun doing, while navigating a truly tricky and interesting level. The level could have benefitted from more corpses, or skeletons, lying around, but it still is a very haunting experience to see places like the giant hall, the pool area, and the lounge in its current state, and think about what it used to look like, when it was crowded with happy cruise goers.

3. Barkhang Monastery
Like The Deck, this is one of those "Where the F*** do I go?"-levels, but it is so beautiful and interesting to explore, that it doesn't really bother me. Once you figure out that you need to collect Prayer Wheels, you have an objective, and you know what to do. The whole subplot of protecting the monks against the Fiamma Nera is awesome as well. So many good things in this level, and it's easy to understand why it is one of the Tomb Raider franchise's most iconic levels.

2. The Great Wall
Tomb Raider II is off to a great start with The Great Wall, which really is one big middle finger to anyone who expected a casual start to the game. Following a climb to the top of the wall, Lara is sent through one trap after another, with only little time to react before getting spiked! It's such a rush to navigate all these traps successfully without getting killed, and reaching the zipline - and oh yeah, the T-Rex cave is an awesome touch as well.

1. Temple of Xian
This might be the greatest Tomb Raider level of all time. Core Design managed to capture a sense of being on a journey, not just throughout the entire game, but in this level itself. Lara is SO close to get her hands on the dagger, and then she is dropped through a trapdoor, to the dungeons below the temple. Now she has to make it all the way back up there, through traps, spider caves and whatnot, before Marco Bartoli gets his hands on the dagger first. This is an absolutely brilliant narrative to play out, and while the level is difficult - it NEVER gets neither frustrating or boring.

That's it! I enjoyed Tomb Raider II tremendously, but I actually think Tomb Raider I is better. I always used to rank the original trilogy III > II > I, but I think Tomb Raider I has overtaken Tomb Raider II. The reason being that Tomb Raider II has a handful of levels I actually don't enjoy, which Tomb Raider I didn't. I also think the focus on combat was a bad idea, and I suppose this was something Core Design felt as well, as Tomb Raider III isn't nearly as combat heavy as Tomb Raider II. Still, this is easily a 9/10 game.

Last edited by Final Count; 29-08-18 at 09:10.
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Old 29-08-18, 14:50   #2
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I sense that we have a different preference in game style. Yet we both seem to enjoy these games, which is quite interesting. For instance, I didn't have a problem with the combat in this game while you apparently do. I understand that you are much more the type to explore areas and solve puzzles in silence. I do agree on the odd music implementation though. I got a little annoyed too that we are only able to listen to it for as long as we remain above water. The 'issue' with the skidoo music is something that applies to all tracks. When you activate a soundtrack trigger, then save and reload, the music will have stopped playing and will not replay either. You can save and reload before the trigger to avoid this if you want.

It was a nice read! Will you be reviewing the other games as well?
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Old 01-09-18, 23:50   #3
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Hm, the main thing I have to point out is that music isn't interrupted in the PS1 version when you swim, so that's not really a complaint that means much to me. Other than that, I generally agree with you on the level design, but I really don't mind combat-heavy levels, even with TRII's clunky style.


And also I have ZERO memory of the Catacombs of the Talion. Like... none.
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Old 02-09-18, 13:30   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Maverin View Post
It was a nice read! Will you be reviewing the other games as well?
Thank you! Actually, I reviewed the TRIII levels back in 2016 (I think), and the Tomb Raider I levels in March. They have been in the same style as this. I think I may have been too harsh on the Tomb Raider II combat. It's not that I hate it, but around the Tibetan levels, it started to tire me a lot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Pyro99
Hm, the main thing I have to point out is that music isn't interrupted in the PS1 version when you swim, so that's not really a complaint that means much to me. Other than that, I generally agree with you on the level design, but I really don't mind combat-heavy levels, even with TRII's clunky style.


And also I have ZERO memory of the Catacombs of the Talion. Like... none.
I did not know that the music interruption was a PC exclusive! But that's good to know. That was the worst thing about my playthrough.

Perhaps... elves inserted Catacombs of the Talion into the game all these years later?
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Old 03-09-18, 19:25   #5
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And why is the Maria Doria suddenly not upside down any longer?
This has been discussed and theorized many times on this forums, but the truth is there is no real answer and I think something like the Maria Doria wouldn't even be possible in the slightest in reallife. There is a fun thread were The Great Chi literally made a map with a possible layout of the levels which are set on the Maria Doria. If you're interested I can search the thread for you, it's a very interesting read for sure.

I think someone in the named thread said something like "It must have been a huge f***ing mess" referring to the Maria Doria, which I think broke like in three or four different parts (some upside down and some not).

Other than that it was a very interesting read. We have somewhat the same taste and somewhat not really, but that's cool, this game is so versatile, I think it has something for everyone. But you're definitely right avout the combat, it was too much. I think TR3 had exactly the right dose of combat, but then they were experimenting with enemies I think, because TRI had so few of them.
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Old 04-09-18, 09:15   #6
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Originally Posted by LCTRF View Post
This has been discussed and theorized many times on this forums, but the truth is there is no real answer and I think something like the Maria Doria wouldn't even be possible in the slightest in reallife. There is a fun thread were The Great Chi literally made a map with a possible layout of the levels which are set on the Maria Doria. If you're interested I can search the thread for you, it's a very interesting read for sure.

I think someone in the named thread said something like "It must have been a huge f***ing mess" referring to the Maria Doria, which I think broke like in three or four different parts (some upside down and some not).

Other than that it was a very interesting read. We have somewhat the same taste and somewhat not really, but that's cool, this game is so versatile, I think it has something for everyone. But you're definitely right avout the combat, it was too much. I think TR3 had exactly the right dose of combat, but then they were experimenting with enemies I think, because TRI had so few of them.
I would LOVE to see that thread Sounds really fun!

And thank you very much for your kind words
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Old 04-09-18, 14:14   #7
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Here it is!
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Old 05-09-18, 10:53   #8
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Thanks! That's awesome!

You'd think that the Maria Doria went down, with the front slightly spiked forward... then getting lodged in the cave, so that the the entire Wreck of the Maria Doria and 40 Fathoms parts broke off, and rotated off to the side, landing upside down
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Old 06-09-18, 19:34   #9
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Honestly, I'd have to replay it to remember or to get an idea how it could've went down. But even though it's probably illogical (especially with the huge air pocket in "The Deck"-Level), those level are some of my favourites in TR2, but then I enjoyed almost everything from TR2.

I don't know if it has been discussed in the thread as well, but I found the thesis interesting that the oil rig (which was more or less above the wreck) pumped the water out of the big cave (where we explore the MD in the open). I don't know if it was a theory or a fact, but I really like this idea.
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Old 06-09-18, 20:51   #10
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Thank you for posting.
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