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Old 23-05-16, 11:16   #151
Soul
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Great to see how much love you gave "The Deck". It has always been one of my favourites on the whole series, as it nails the exploration TR is (was ^^) known for
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Old 28-05-16, 17:16   #152
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I literally just had the entire Barkhang Monastery review typed out and then accidentally closed out of the entire browser.

So... yeah, there's that.

If I regain the motivation to type the whole thing over again, I will post it later tonight hopefully.
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Old 28-05-16, 20:50   #153
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
I literally just had the entire Barkhang Monastery review typed out and then accidentally closed out of the entire browser.
Start Menu=>Programs=>Accessories=>Notepad

Try it next time. Make sure to use the save function often.


Or, even better yet, if you're comfortable with it, GMail. It will autosave whatever you type out if you are forceably removed from the page for any reason. If you try to close the window, it will pop up a dialog box that will ask you whether you want to save a draft of it or not (if it hasn't done so already). It will not let you close it without picking a option.

Last edited by Dark Wiseman; 28-05-16 at 20:52.
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Old 28-05-16, 21:28   #154
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TIBET
Level 12 - "Barkhang Monastery"




Well, this is the one that we have all been waiting for. Barkhang Monatery is an amazing level... but you already knew that. Indeed, I think it would be a challenge to find a TR fan that does not appreciate this level in some form. Barkhang Monastery is iconic in a way that few other levels of this series have the capacity to be.



I think it is fitting to start with this level's appearance for the review, because that is arguably the greatest part of it. Barkhang Monastery contains a diverse color palette that accentuates just how important aesthetics are in comparison to the graphics. While a game like Anniversary or Underworld can certainly craft realistic environments, these two games simply pale in terms of their usage of colors. Not the case for Barkhang Monastery, which is probably the prettiest level in the series up until this point. As shown in the screenshots above and below, there's everything from bronzes and tan rocks to purple, red, and yellow paints scattered throughout the stronghold. Barkhang Monastery is just a really nice level to look at that, and that is a huge facet of why this experience is ultimately so top-notch.





I mean, come on... look at those screens. That is prettier than most things from the Crystal trilogy or even TR2013. No need for those high-tech graphics at all, simple aesthetic prowess will do just fine.

Fetch Quest Galore

Item-fetching is a commonly used gameplay method in the TR series. Sometimes it works well, while other times it does not. For instance, even though I love TR1's Cistern, the numerous keys scattered about that level do slightly detract from the other great parts of that experience, largely because it seems highly unrealistic for Lara to stumble across so many random keys in random parts of that cistern complex. Thus the item-fetching begins to feel like a cheap puzzle method rather than a realistic interpretation of the environment.

On the other hand, levels like Aldwych, The Lost Library, and Barkhang Monastery are cases where gathering lots of puzzle items is ultimately beneficial for the gameplay progression. In this level, Lara's objective is to obtain five prayer wheels to gain access to the Seraph receptacle. To do this, she must also find several keys and gemstones to access other parts of the monastery that contain the aforementioned wheels. Because this monastery is a sanctuary and the protection of the Talion chambers, it makes sense for these puzzle items to be scattered about and protected well; thus, the item-fetching stuff here seems natural.


Praying for that prayer wheel.


Discount TR1 spikey-slamming-doors are... very discount.

Moving on to this level's traps... I think that the traps are quite appropriate for what Barkhang Monastery presents to us. For starters, the designers did not go overboard when inserting traps into the level. Unlike Temple of Xian, which actually benefits from having so many convoluted trap sequences, Barkhang Monastery needed a little more subtlety with its trap usage, and I think that they accomplished that in this level. We want the idea that the items in the stronghold are attainable, but not totally easy for any random bypasser to get.

Speaking of which, let's also talk about the monks, because they tie into this trap-related theme. The monks attack the Fiamma Nera mercenaries because they are trying to force their way into the monastery with no respect for their surroundings; on the other hand, as long as Lara leaves the monks alone, they are perfectly fine with allowing Lara to pilfer the monastery and reach the Seraph chamber. However, the Barkhang brothers also know that obtaining the five prayer wheels is a difficult and deadly task. Despite this, they are willing to let Lara prove herself against the various traps to see if she can survive; if she does, she is worthy of opening the final chamber.

This little touch has always made this level very special for me, because the entire thing feels like one big rite of passage for Lara's quest to get the Talion, and the monks are her advisors in that quest. They'll help her deal with the goons that are infiltrating their home, but they will not give her a direct road map to reach the final chamber.



Barkhang Monastery: Best Representation of TR2?

We are not done with this review thread yet, and you and I both know that there are a lot of excellent levels coming up - one of which I previously ranked as the #3 TR level of all time, Temple of Xian. (For the record, Barkhang Monastery was #6 in that review thread.)

However, I feel that the argument can easily be made that Barkhang Monastery is TR2's best representative level. It hits just about every style of gameplay that you can get in this game; there are traps, there's combat, there is a very non-linear item-fetching type of gameplay, there are some swimming sequences, and in general the entire level connects its various parts together quite well. It is also aesthetically appealing, and probably contains the best color palette and overall look out of any of the first three TR titles. While a few areas of The Lost Artifact could certainly give it a run for its money, I think Barkhang Monastery atleast takes the cake in terms of the main trilogy.

On the other hand, Temple of Xian is brilliant and dark and fantastic, but it also is really narrowed down in its style. Barkhang Monastery has both moments of intense danger and serenity, but ToX only has the former. Barkhang Monastery is wide and expansive; while ToX is certainly big, it is still quite linear in nature. While that works extremely well for the level, BM represents a more common type of structure that is usually more praised by fans. Finally, ToX's overall atmosphere is almost too dark and overbearing for it to be a solid representation of Tomb Raider II as a whole. Barkhang Monastery is more welcoming overall, largely due to its heavy use of thematic music tracks at various points in the level.

Is Barkhang Monastery the best level of Tomb Raider II? That remains to be seen. However, is it the best representation of what Tomb Raider II is as a whole? I believe so. This level is the core of what makes TR2 great. I cannot think of one solid criticism for this level, and this is the first time in this review thread that I have been able to say that. It is a nearly perfect level in almost every regard, and yes: my rating is going to reflect that exact sentiment.



Rating - 10/10


Current Level Rankings:
1. Barkhang Monastery (10/10)
2. 40 Fathoms (9.5/10)
3. The Great Wall (9/10)
4. The Deck (9/10)
5. Tibetan Foothills (9/10)
6. Wreck of the Maria Doria (8.5/10)
7. The Opera House (8.5/10)
8. Bartoli's Hideout (8/10)
9. Venice (7/10)
10. Living Quarters (6.5/10)
11. Diving Area (5/10)
12. Offshore Rig (3/10)
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Old 28-05-16, 22:40   #155
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I think you're right in your comparison of Barkhang and Xian, Xian is basically one big purgatory to punish people who dare approach the dagger, whilst Barkhang is a rite of passage, a well-guarded gateway between the ordinary Tibetan foothills and the secret mystical Tibet beyond.

I agree that Barkhang is a very beautiful level. It's nice that the monastery has such varied settings: the cool rooftops with the blue sky and mountains around, the dim interiors with their tapestries and lanterns, and the rocky canyon out at the back.

The only thing I really dislike about Barkhang visually is the big Buddha statue, I think it should be serene and beautiful but frankly it is rather ugly. Admittedly it is impressively imposing though, and I like that you have to climb it, it's not just a bit of background scenery.

The fact that the monks can be friends or foes is also very neat, you essentially bring your own karma to the monastery: if you arrive all guns blazing and looking for trouble, then you will receive the same, whilst if you come in peace you will receive succor. I can't recall what I did the first time I played this level, but I do recall that in the equivalent level of the Golden Mask, where there are invisible warriors in the ice cavern, I was alarmed by the prowling shadows and shot at them, a big mistake!
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Old 29-05-16, 03:18   #156
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Again, I completely agree with your assessment of Barkhang Monastery. In my opinion, it's easily in the top five best levels of the entire TR series, and every time I play it, I find myself in awe of its complexity, puzzles, non-linear gameplay, traps, and aesthetics. It truly is a gorgeous level, although I do agree w/ Hiroyuki, the big Buddha statue (like the statues and sphinxes we come across in TR1 and TR4--while probably as well-made as it could possibly be using the blocky classic TR engine--isn't exactly as pleasing to the eye as other parts of the level). I can't help but wonder what the monastery, and that statue in particular, could look like in a modern day remake using a current engine.

The monks are one of my favorite aspects of the monastery for all the reasons you mentioned. I remember accidentally shooting a monk during one of my first playthroughs of the level and feeling horrified that I'd done so, so much so that I restarted the level out of fear of having all of the monks come after me.

After the relative lightheartedness of Tibetan Foothills, Barkhang Monastery is the perfect gateway to the final levels of Lara's second adventure. It lets you know that gameplay will be getting even tougher from this point forward, that puzzles are going to get more complex, enemies are going to get harder to take down, and traps are going to get more diabolical. It's practically perfect.
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Old 29-05-16, 09:15   #157
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My favorite level of all time !
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Old 29-05-16, 13:25   #158
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I think it deserves a 0.5
Yeah its that bad to me.... just stupid imo
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Old 29-05-16, 15:49   #159
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tombraiderplay View Post
I think it deserves a 0.5
Yeah its that bad to me.... just stupid imo
It's a big level with lots of passageways so it can get frustrating as you sometimes lose track of which places you've been to and end up going down the same corridors again by mistake as you try and find all the prayer wheels. I find it helps to just chill out and enjoy the ambience of it and try to get familiar with it by paying close attention to everything, e.g looking round the great hall carefully and noting how many corridors lead off from it and then exploring them systematically. This is where something like the Half-life spray-paint function would be have been useful, you'd be able to mark the corridors you've been down so you don't end up going the same one over and over!
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Old 29-05-16, 16:20   #160
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tombraiderplay View Post
I think it deserves a 0.5
Yeah its that bad to me.... just stupid imo
You wanna rate the masterpiece Barkhang Monastery with a 0.5?!!!

Let me guess; your favourite tomb raider game is Legend right?
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