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Old 02-04-14, 20:38   #161
sheepman23
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Ah, I see that someone dug up my old reviews...

I am admittedly extremely busy with life in general right now, which leaves me little to no free time. I may try to start this back up again during the late spring or summer though and finish it out.
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Old 06-04-14, 06:26   #162
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better late than never!
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Old 14-04-14, 01:14   #163
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We're back, folks! But likely not for long... as senior year winds down and I spend all of next month dealing with the hullabaloo of graduation, my reviews will likely be few and far in between. However, I do plan to finish this review out soon. And if I'm really feeling ambitious, I might even review one more game before heading off to college... maybe.

EGYPT
Level 10 - City of Khamoon




The opening sequence of this level manages to be very to-the-point and simplistic without having to use any sort of voice-overs; indeed, we're told the story of how the third piece of the Scion was separated via simple video montages. All of this is going on in Lara's head, by the way. I like it that the connection of two pieces of the Scion gives the wielder an "inner vision" of the third one.

As the City of Khamoon starts off, we're greeted to a cavern full of sand with a block-pushing puzzle... so in other words, not the most welcoming entrance to Egypt. Despite this part, however, the level quickly opens up in the following area.


Anxiety MummyŠ throws a temper tantrum after Lara steals his Tootsie Roll...


... and proceeds to spontaneously combust as a result.

The courtyard with the sphinx statue and the obelisk is one of my favorite rooms in the game for several reasons.

For one thing, it's a beautiful little room. "Beautiful" isn't a term that is often used to describe the blurry pixels that make up TR1's geometry, but there's a difference between graphics and aesthetics, and this area nails it spot-on. The pool of water and the greenery in certain spots contrasts very nicely with the sand and rocky walls.

Secondly, it introduces us to the two main Egyptian enemies: panthers and (cat?) mummies. TR1 has a nice way of gradually increasing enemy difficulty, and it goes to show with these two additions. The panthers appear to be slightly tougher versions of the Greek lions, while the cat mummies are in a whole different level and foreshadow the Atlantean creatures that are yet to come.

Finally (and probably most importantly), the very first big chamber of the Egyptian section is symbolic of what the entire Egyptian experience is. This room contains a miniature obelisk and a miniature sphinx statue; these two things reappear (respectively) in Obelisk of Khamoon and Sanctuary of the Scion, only on a much grander scale. You even come back to this room and insert trinkets into the small obelisk from the larger obelisk! This gives the entire Egyptian set a stronger interconnection.



And the Oscar for "Most Dramatic Death" goes to Patrick Panther!

As we go through the back room with the pharaoh statues and loop back around through a hallway, we can look through a gate separating us from the sphinx room. Off to the side, a little peephole in the wall allows us to see a room that we will enter later on in the level. The City of Khamoon does a fantastic job of creating interwoven paths.


Crocs just wanna have fu-un.

The next chamber proves to also be aesthetically beautiful. It's also teeming with crocodiles and a stray boulder that can easily flatten you if you're not ready for it.

I'll avoid going into a play-by-play of the next section since it's largely very simple gameplay; Lara traverses a room with several ledges to reach a switch at the top, dropping the trapdoors underneath the cat statue to the next part of the level. The ascent in this room gets to be a little boring, largely due to the block-pushing antics that get somewhat old after awhile. Luckily we're rewarded with some fun jumping for secrets.



The designers throw in a clever little booby trap beneath the cat statue that can quickly end in Lara's death if you don't have the reflexes to jump and escape from a pit full of bloody spikes...


I don't always bleed... but when I do, I bleed bloody geysers.

The proceeding room happens to be one of my favorites of the level. At first entry, the room is nearly pitch-black and there are panther shadows on the floor. It's actually a little bit of a creepy sight since they blend in perfectly with the darkness. After dropping a trapdoor in the ceiling to shed some light on the pit, we can descend into the pit to start taking out more panthers. It actually ends up being quite a little battle, especially if you end up fighting more than two panthers at once (which is quite possible).

The simplicity of this confrontation actually works really well. While it's very possible to stand up top and shoot the panthers like fish in a barrel, the much more invigorating approach is to brawl down below.


Lara Croft: world famous archaeologist (and also the cause behind thirteen different animal extinctions)


Anxiety MummyŠ attempts to walk like an Egyptian.

After another visit from Anxiety MummyŠ in the following room (and a damned frightening one, by the way), the level actually quickly comes to a close after we obtain the Sapphire Key, release a big pile of sand to a lower room, and climb up to the exit doorways. Level complete!

Conclusion

The City of Khamoon is actually much more peaceful and... fun than I remember it being in the past. The Egyptian levels are all very solid, but the City surprised me as I only remember ever being really engrossed in the structure of Obelisk of Khamoon; yet on a replay, I was surprised at how intricate and clever the design of this level happened to be.

Granted, there are a few stretches of gameplay that could've been less sparse. The room with the movable blocks and the ledges comes to mind, as it really doesn't manage to accomplish anything new or different. On the other hand, little bits like the dark panther room are genius despite how simple they are. In general, the City of Khamoon is a case where being simple is actually better than being too complex.

I enjoyed the level. While I hadn't expected to give it such a high ranking, I feel that it deserves it.

Rating - 9/10

Last edited by sheepman23; 14-04-14 at 01:19.
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Old 14-04-14, 06:47   #164
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I am totally liking these reviews, it's always fun to see someone's opinion and do a personal reflect on something you love. So keep up the good work!

(Now to catch up on some of the conversation) I love Core's use of vibrant colours (which I found lacking in TRA), it's what really makes the levels pop in a eerie kind of way. Most of these locations she goes to have been relatively untouched so they could retain a lot of their original colours. Heck the terra-cotta soldiers were fully painted but it faded due to oxidation and exposure to the elements after their discovery.

The isolation aspect of Tomb Raider is probably the main element of charm to the game. It sucks you into it's world...then scares the bejesus out of you because it knows it has you. Doesn't matter if it's enemies jumping out at you, traps activating, or the music kicking in before the action does. Even to this day it still sucks people in after replaying it a hundred times. That's what makes this review enjoyable, you reflect on old thoughts and bring light to new ones after you replay these levels.

I will admit when I play and I know Lara's theme and Palace Midas theme comes on I turn off the sound effects until the song is over.
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Old 14-04-14, 13:03   #165
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Great to see another review!

The number one thing that stuck out for me in this level was seeing Anxiety MummyŠ upon first entering the city. They're bloody terrifying! They move so fast and they make these strange zombie noises... Honestly, whenever I discover I'm in the same room as an Anxiety MummyŠ it always scares the living bejesus out of me.

And I completely agree with your point on aesthetics vs. graphics. The City of Khamoon is gorgeous, despite the low-poly count of the environment and low-res textures. Sleeping with the Fishes in TR3:LA is another one of my favourite examples. It could've looked ugly, but it didn't because the artistic direction was superb, and that's what counts.

Btw, it's interesting when you mention how your opinion of a level changes after playing it more recently...just goes to show how much replay value the game has, as each playthrough seems to offer you a new perspective of a level each time (I've experienced this myself too - it's how I became a fan of the TR3 London levels after disliking them for a long time, for example).

Can't wait for OoK! The one I always get lost in...
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Old 14-04-14, 16:41   #166
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I'm glad to see you call this level "beautiful," because it really is! In today's graphics-obsessed gaming world, all too often it seems polygon counts, textures, and realism are confused with beauty. But those things don't necessarily translate to better aesthetics. I think this is a great looking level!

Both the Greek and Egypt levels are all really strong. This one is no exception. I'm glad to see you appreciated the level design, because it's pretty fantastic... it's amazing that this small team of designers were able to craft such memorable and smart levels.
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Old 14-04-14, 17:01   #167
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Lazy Eg-ypt, in Lazy Eg-ypt, the Panthers Sleep Tonight
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Old 14-04-14, 18:23   #168
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Hey everyone, thanks for the comments! I've had a sudden urge to keep on chugging with the reviews, so chances are that you'll see Obelisk of Khamoon tonight or tomorrow night.

Love the caption, Luigi.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kitty_pi314 View Post
(Now to catch up on some of the conversation) I love Core's use of vibrant colours (which I found lacking in TRA), it's what really makes the levels pop in a eerie kind of way. Most of these locations she goes to have been relatively untouched so they could retain a lot of their original colours. Heck the terra-cotta soldiers were fully painted but it faded due to oxidation and exposure to the elements after their discovery.
TR1's designers did make fabulous use of the colors. I especially love rooms like this:



In contrast, TRA does not hold up to the aesthetic beauty of TR1. Graphically it's improved, but that's to be expected of a game that's 11 years older...

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomekkobialka View Post
Btw, it's interesting when you mention how your opinion of a level changes after playing it more recently...just goes to show how much replay value the game has, as each playthrough seems to offer you a new perspective of a level each time (I've experienced this myself too - it's how I became a fan of the TR3 London levels after disliking them for a long time, for example).

Can't wait for OoK! The one I always get lost in...
I hadn't really expected it to change either since I've always considered Egypt to be the "decent" chapter of TR1 that wasn't really bad or great, but on replay I'm finding that it's actually really a grand piece of work. It might even end up being my favorite section of TR1.
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Old 14-04-14, 18:51   #169
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
TR1's designers did make fabulous use of the colors. I especially love rooms like this:
I agree. TR1 is one of the most beautiful games of all time imo. I recently did a complete playtrough of TR1 for the first time in many years and it felt like I spent half the time just looking at the beautiful textures and environments!

This is where TRA did it wrong imo. They were too obsessed with making the environments appear with grey and dull colors. Especially the levels in Greece appear very 'grey' when they should have continued the 'brown' color scheme of the original instead.

I love reading your replay threads btw! Keep up the good work!
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Old 14-04-14, 19:06   #170
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Nice to see you've brought the reviews back.

I personally thought City of Khamoon was a decent level, although I wouldn't rush to play it again. It's a nice start to what is ultimately a solid section of the game.
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