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Old 21-05-16, 18:12   #141
sheepman23
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TIBET
Level 11 - "Tibetan Foothills"




From Ocean Floors to Mountaintops

Tomb Raider II is a pretty long game, or atleast it was by 1997 standards. Of course, its two successors take its length and increase it, but that actually resulted in more criticism in the case of The Last Revelation. The problem with Lara's fourth outing is that, for all of its good things and cool level sets, it did not have good pacing. The back half of the game, or everything post-Alexandria, is apocalyptic in nature and extremely repetitive. This results in a game that ultimately feels unbalanced and poorly paced. TR4 has fantastic moments and is actually quite a grueling TR test, but it's just not fun when you hit Cairo and Giza and start wishing the game was over.

This is not an issue with any of the original trilogy. TR1 paces itself very solidly; although the player is constantly absorbed in ancient environments, they remain varied and interesting enough to keep interest afloat as we reach the final stages. Tomb Raider III is even better in this regard; it contains five different sections, and three of them can be played in multiple orders. London is dark and dreary; Nevada is technical and mysterious; India is light and airy, etc.

Moving on to Tomb Raider II... this is the point in the review thread where I can finally explain why pacing works so well in TR2, because that wouldn't be entirely evident judging by the first ten levels alone. To be honest, the stretch from The Great Wall to The Deck has its issues. Offshore Rig and Diving Area are two of the worst levels to grace the first five classic games, and four levels of the Maria Doria can get a little tiresome for some players who are not a fan of those stages. That being said, Venice was bright and cheery while the Maria Doria was dark and dreary, so naturally it's time to get out of that moody atmosphere and into something more inviting, right?


Badassery Camô

This is where the beauty of Tibetan Foothills comes in. I am always amazed at how much I love this level upon reaching it in the game, because at first glance it does not really look like it should be an elite level of the second title. It is overbloated with human enemies, and those goddamn snowmobilers are the thing of nightmares.

However, this level is ultimately such a success and so utterly necessary at this point in the game because of how fun it is! Indeed, there is a seemingly inexplicable fun factor here that I could probably boil down to the bright skies, wonderful music tracks, and snowmobiling shenanigans. Tibetan Foothills does not really take itself seriously, and this is made evident by the use of silly avalanches, the gun-toting snowmobilers, and that action-y tune that plays when you first hop on the vehicle. That theme is absolutely fantastic, and all of you naysayers are just fun-haters in my opinion.


It's not a TR driving level if there are not constant chasms for Lara to plunge headfirst into


Hate to be the fact police here, but I'm pretty sure that a sheet of ice this thin would be shattered by the sheer weight of this thing...

This is also just a really beautiful level, as indicated by the above screens. The color scheme is not too diverse - in fact, Barkhang Monastery is going to absolutely blow this one away in terms of overall beauty - but the cool blues, crisp light brown rocks, and piercing white snow merge together to form a very peaceful and serene landscape that you want to see more of.

Everything about the Tibetan Foothills is so refreshing. I can't express this enough times. The Maria Doria is a fantastic levelset, but it hits you like a truck in terms of its oppressive atmosphere; the first Tibet level is everything that the player needs to be rejuvenated.



This Level is Seemingly Perfect... Right?

Well, not quite. There is a good reason why Tibetan Foothills is possibly the most refreshing and necessary level in the sequence of Tomb Raider II's events while still not being the absolute best this game has to offer. Out of context, Tibetan Foothills is still really fun and well-done, but it loses its significance when not on the heels of the Maria Doria levelset. Without that precursor, Tibetan Foothills is a typical snow level that has a lot of shooting, a lot of driving around, and a bit of climbing, but not much to really sell it in terms of puzzles.

Still, this level does give the player several options; it is actually possible to cross over the first gorge with a well-placed jump, for instance. Additionally, the entirety of the snowmobile experience can actually be completed on foot, which is kind of cool for a new spin on replays.


Enemy AI at its finest.

The gunplay can also get a little tiresome here. However, in comparison to the above criticism, this is one that becomes less of a problem when the level is viewed on its own terms rather than as a part of Tomb Raider II. To be honest, I think that Tibetan Foothills would suffer if there weren't any battles with mercs at all, but this is tenth level in a row that has contained human enemies - and that is a problem. Is it a problem for this individual level? Not exactly. However, its placement in the game hurts it since the players get pretty tired of fighting Fiamma Nera baddies at this point.

Conclusion

Criticisms aside, Tibetan Foothills is a brilliantly refreshing experience, and one of my guilty pleasures of TR2. Yeah, it does not offer a whole lot of diversity gameplay-wise, but the atmosphere and setting alone are enough to elevate this level to one of the highest tiers. Still, while it competes with the best of the best that this game offers, TR2 sets the bar high enough in the next five levels that Tibetan Foothills is going to fall a little short of that exemplary rating...

Rating - 9/10


Current Level Rankings:
1. 40 Fathoms (9.5/10)
2. The Great Wall (9/10)
3. The Deck (9/10)
4. Tibetan Foothills (9/10)
5. Wreck of the Maria Doria (8.5/10)
6. The Opera House (8.5/10)
7. Bartoli's Hideout (8/10)
8. Venice (7/10)
9. Living Quarters (6.5/10)
10. Diving Area (5/10)
11. Offshore Rig (3/10)
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Old 21-05-16, 21:39   #142
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Ah, finally the start of TR2's 'golden mile'!
While I love the previous levels too, there is no denying TR2's perferction truly starts with Tibetan Foothills and then lasts through the rest of the game. Excellent review as always Sheepman!
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Old 22-05-16, 00:56   #143
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The comment about the deadly chasms got me thinking, it's a shame Lara can't jump off the snowmobile whilst it's moving the way she can with the speedboat, it would be nice if she could bail out as it drives over a cliff edge, or set it going towards an enemy and then jump off.

Incidentally, for when you get to Barkhang (maybe you know this already but I only noticed it very recently) — look closely at the pairs of eyes that decorate the tops of many walls in this level: some of the eyes move! An example is the rooftops area, the bit where you climb up for some ammo on a ledge overlooking the big drop to the other area. I wondered at first whether the moving eyes might signify places of interest but in the end concluded that they seem to be randomly placed.
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Last edited by Hiroyuki; 22-05-16 at 01:06.
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Old 22-05-16, 03:07   #144
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Tibetan Foothills has always been my favorite level from Tomb Raider II (and one of my all-time favorite TR levels), simply because of what you said--it's so much fun! The snowmobile is such a fun toy to play around with, and the clear blue sky, bright snow, and open-air feel of the level makes it the complete opposite of the dark, dank, claustrophobia-inducing Maria Doria levels. And, of course, that infectious techno theme that accompanies the snowmobile is perfect for such a rollicking adventure.

I'm usually a stickler for the inclusion of puzzles in Tomb Raider levels, but this is one instance where I actually don't miss them--the next level, Barkhang Monastery, more than makes up for Tibetan Foothills' lack of puzzles. For me, this level accomplishes everything it set out to be: a lighthearted romp through the mountains, interspersed by skermishes with baddies with guns and tricked-out snowmobiles of their own. The level is essentially one long adrenaline rush, and I love it.

For me, every level from The Deck onward is top-notch, and do a great job of ramping up the excitement and tension all the way to the game's climax.

Last edited by indigo15; 22-05-16 at 03:32.
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Old 22-05-16, 06:15   #145
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This level, this section!

It definitely felt like a nice change of pace from the gloomy and eerie Maria Doria to the open and bright Tibetan Foothills. Overall it was pretty fun to use the snowmobile, especially with dat music. Being able to walk through the whole thing too is pretty cool also and does offer some replay.

Yeah those snowmobile guys were a bit annoying heh, through were worse in Fool's Gold.<.<

Edit: Also intro of Lara's Bomber Jacket Outfit, which is probably one of my favorite outfits in the series, despite her wearing shorts in the cold being a bit lol worthy.

Last edited by WolfRaider; 22-05-16 at 06:23.
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Old 22-05-16, 16:23   #146
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Happy to see so much praise for Tibetan Foothills! I used to think it was just a personal favorite of mine, but a lot of TR fans seem to share my sentiments. I'm tempted to bump it up above The Deck in my ranking list... we'll see.
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Old 22-05-16, 16:28   #147
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Heh, I remember on my first playthrough of this game, I jumped for glee when I got to Tibetan Foothills, I was so happy. I just felt so great to be outside and under a nice bright sky for a change. The ship section just lasted too long. Regardless, the Deck is still an awesome level, definitely underrated.
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Old 22-05-16, 22:13   #148
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I will admit that I have mixed feelings about Tibetan Foothills. Let's start with the positives. First, I LOVE the open environment and blue skies. It's a nice change of pace after you are stuck inside from Opera House - Deck. I love how there is so much depth in this level too. I think your second screenshot perfectly showcases what I'm talking about. I love exploring every inch of the level to find new secrets. Another positive about this level is the new line-up of enemies. We get eagles, jaguars, and even new Fiama Nera henchmen with new looks and guns. I also enjoyed the snow-themed traps too! My most favorite part about this level is how you can complete it with the snowmobile or by running around the level yourself. I prefer to venture around the level without the snowmobile and thankful that this level doesn't completely rely on it.

Now onto the downside. I say that this is one of the most infuriating levels when it comes to human enemies! There are just SO many of that it makes it hard to enjoy this level when you encounter one every ten feet. Don't get me started on that one part with the two snowmobilers shooting at you at the same time. This part must've took me 100+ retries when I first played this level. And I am not too crazy about some of the snowmobile parts either. I particularly hate jumping across large gaps, especially when the ramp doesn't give you enough room. One or two gaps are fine, but having dozens of them is not cool at all. Luckily, we can pass most of this level on foot. As frustrating as the snowmobile is for me, I still appreciate on how much innovation it brought to the series. I think later TR games like the River Ganges did it better in TRIII.

I would give this level a 7.5/10. Despite my criticism for it, I still enjoy playing it and it's one of the most innovative levels in the series. I also like how 40 Fathoms is still the score leader too.
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Old 22-05-16, 22:23   #149
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Quote:
Originally Posted by trfan16 View Post
I also like how 40 Fathoms is still the score leader too.
It's entirely deserving of that at the moment. However, it won't be long before something knocks it off... and I think most of you can probably guess which level is going to do that.
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Old 23-05-16, 01:00   #150
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Re. Tibet v The Deck, I think the Deck has better ambience, the atmosphere is amazing. OTOH it's nice to be out in the fresh air again in Tibet, and initially the crisp whites and bright light is a definite tonic, but as the level progresses I think the snow and brown rock start to get monotonous in a way the cool blues of the Deck didn't. In fact I've decided to do Tibetan Foothills next in my retexturing project (as soon as I finish Croft Manor) to see if I can breathe more life into the snow and rock textures, since I like winter mountaineering IRL and I feel there's something of that vibe missing from the level, though I can't really put my finger on it at present.

The snowmobile is great fun though, I recall spending ages trying to master the sequence where you drive it round and round those ramps to jump into the next tunnel. But like trfan16 I found the bit where two bad snowmobilers gang up on you (is it only two? it seems like half a dozen!) infuriatingly hard, also the bit where one attacks you when you get the key, even after reading the walkthrough where it tells you of a safe place to stand I still find it very hard to get out of that cave alive, I usually get killed within seconds of picking the key up!

Back at the hut though I found a great way to kill the enemies is if you back your snowmobile into the hut doorway (IIRC you have to have left it behind and gone on foot for the key) and then when you've pulled the lever to open the gate you just have time to jump onto it and mow the bad guys down as they come in the hut door!
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Last edited by Hiroyuki; 23-05-16 at 01:02.
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