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Old 29-05-16, 21:42   #161
WolfRaider
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What a level BM is. I not sure if it my favorite from this game or Temple of Xian, but regardless it is quite remarkable.

Beside how pretty it looks and how the quest for the five prayers are set, I really love the tone of this level, with just how sacred it feels. Not attacking the monks is in a way adding a respect side of things to this place (also personally makes combat encounters more interesting when you have allies) and the music really helps with the chants too.

Last edited by WolfRaider; 29-05-16 at 21:44.
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Old 31-05-16, 01:58   #162
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*scrolls down to make sure Barkhang Monastery gets a 10/10*

I agree with your review of Barkhang Monastery too and I think you covered why its a great level. I find BM to be one of the most groundbreaking levels in the series. There is just so many things that make this level great. First off, it's one of the most open levels in the Core Design games. There are so many different paths you can take and you can collect the Prayer Wheels in different orders. This is definitely a nice change of pace from the linear designs of the previous levels. I also love how there are a lot of key items to collect. 4 Different keys, 2 gem stones, and the Prayer Wheels. Its fun exploring every inch of the level to find out where the key belongs.

Another highlight worth mentioning is the "buddy system" with the Monks. The Monks can either be your friend or foe if you attack them. This was probably one of the most unique ideas in the Classic series. It even inspired later TR games to use this same gimmick. Even though I think BM did it better. I use to replay this level all the time and try to let the Monks take care of the Fiama Nera baddies themselves. It's especially fun in the Main Hall where you can get hoards of both parties fighting each other. And it's also nice that you can get the Monks to turn against you. It makes an interesting challenge.

Lastly, but the most important point, is the level design. It is by far the most beautiful level in the Classic series to me. I love how colorful and diverse this level is. You get to explore different kind of settings - outdoors, giant rooms, dark corridors, trap-filled rooms, underwater puzzles, and just so many different kind of challenges. I also love the amount of traps in this level too and it pretty much takes all the best traps from TRII and puts them into one level. The trap corridor with the flames, swinging bags, chomping doors, etc. is one of my favorite challenges in the whole series.

Overall, BM totally deserves that perfect 10! It is also one of my Top 5 favorite levels and it never gets old replaying it. I will admit though that Temple of Xian is my favorite level in TRII. But BM is a masterpiece and I have nothing bad to say about it.
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Old 04-06-16, 16:39   #163
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Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
1. Barkhang Monastery (20/10)
2. Tibetan Foothills (10/10)
18. 40 Fathoms (0/10)
Fixed.

But really, an excellent review for Barkhang Monastery and Tibetan Foothills.

Don't worry; I'm not implying that your other reviews are anything other than excellent. The reason why I haven't commented on them is because I haven't read them as of yet. Please don't interpret that as a bad thing; I've just never taken an interest in reviews and I believe the reviews that I've read that have been written by you are the only reviews I've ever read. You're the only person so far who's been fantastic enough with reviews to attract me as a reader.

I look forward to Floating Islands; such an excellent level deserves an excellent review and I know your review will be brilliant regardless of whether or not it's a positive/negative review.
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Old 04-06-16, 17:47   #164
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TIBET
Level 13 - "Catacombs of the Talion"



Ladies and gentlemen, the endangered snow leopard.

Barkhang Monastery is the star cast member of the Tibet section - I don't think that's a secret to anyone. However, BM's stardom is the reason why I think Catacombs of the Talion gets so overlooked. CotT is the first level of Tomb Raider II that presents us with actual ancient ruins and catacombs (not counting The Great Wall), which is kind of interesting given that it's the 13th level of the game. For this reason alone, CotT is a breath of fresh air, but that's not the only reason why it is so exceptional.

Ancient environments are cool, but Catacombs of the Talion is also a lot more than simple ruins and ancient structures. Like Tibetan Foothills, CotT is icy and snowy; the cool blues cross with the crisp gray rocks to form a very peaceful, serene experience for the player. Add in the rock brick buildings, man-made bridges, and indoor cage rooms, and CotT is quite diverse environmentally. While it is thematically similar to Tibetan Foothills, it is overall a bit more pleasing since we are offered up more than just mountainous landscapes.



Of course, looks alone do not sell this level. Unlike Barkhang Monastery, Catacombs doesn't really have iconic set pieces to define it (like the Buddha statue room or the exterior of the monastery). In fact, I struggled to recall some of the areas of this level when coming back into it for a replay, as it has been quite a few years since I played through Tomb Raider II in its entirety.

However, for what it might lack in prominent set pieces, it makes up for with its fantastic use of experiences. Music is extremely well-placed in here; I cannot emphasize the role of music enough, and this level does not disappoint in that regard. There are several jump-scare moments where volleys of boulders or falling icicles will disrupt us, or when we discover that a shallow pool contains a few feisty catfish that hurry to munch on Lara. Unfortunately, this level does suffer from employing the use of Fiamma Nera mercenaries... yet again. This is really the point in the game where the designers should have stopped using human enemies entirely, but...


Is this a zoo? Nah, it's just Tomb Raider.

Catacombs of the White Walkers?

Despite the fact that they appear in the next level as well, the yeti are always associated with Catacombs of the Talion, and in fact they are probably the most recognizable facet of the level. Few TR fans will forget that startling reveal of the yeti in the level's first pit; I remember shimmying over to the first secret dragon and watching in horror as a shadowy, grunting figure appeared in the pit below.

That lone yeti is cool, of course, but arguably the best moment of CotT is the yeti cage room midway through the level. As Lara walks in, an ominous music track plays while we can hear grunting and moaning from the darkness below. Everything is pitch black except for a few burning cauldrons... and when we reach the cages, we're met with the glowing eyes of several imprisoned yeti. There is a lone switch in the room, and we all know that pulling that switch will lead to the release of the beasts...

It is honestly just too perfect of a setup. This room is properly scary; instead of using a jump-scare technique, the designers take an enemy that we have already briefly seen and put them in a position where we know that we are going to have to face off against four of them at once, but not until we complete a certain task.


Lara does not want any free hugs today.


Lara clearly never passed the boulder levels of Crash Bandicoot.

Yeti and peaceful landscapes aside, I appreciate Catacombs of the Talion even more for its simplistic gameplay. While its two predecessors go heavy on the action and the puzzles, respectively, Catacombs of the Talion is like a slightly amped up version of TR1's City of Vilcabamba. These lost, ancient ruins are calm enough for us to soak it all in; despite the random volleys of snowballs, proximity icicles, and moaning yeti, this level is not really trying to chew us up and spit us out. It's still dangerous, but not in a Temple Ruins/Temple of Xian manner.

Hell, even the gnarly snow leopards are beautiful in their own sense. Part of me wishes that I had tried to do a playthrough without killing any of them, because they add so much to this beautiful set piece. (They're also endangered, so... I hope Lara would try to avoid putting lead in their skulls? )


Pots of oil are known for their ability to boil for centuries in frozen tundras.

Conclusion

Catacombs of the Talion is an absolutely wonderful, beautiful level. In a lot of ways it is actually more of a "core" Tomb Raider experience than Barkhang Monastery was, if only for its use of ancient ruins. That should warrant it a 10/10... right?

Well, there are two slight issues I have with it that result in its final score getting reduced by a half point. First of all, the use of human enemies here is a big no-no, and probably the biggest no-no in terms of the use of Fiamma Nera goons throughout the entire game. Not only is this the 12th level in a row that uses gun-toting bad guys, but CotT is the first experience with ancient ruins in that 12-level stretch as well. Lara has a peaceful, serene environment in front of her to soak in on her own, and gunfights almost ruin that entire atmosphere that creates an otherwise phenomenal level.

Secondly (and less importantly), I feel like Catacombs of the Talion and The Ice Palace are always going to fall a little short of that perfect rating for most fans because of their placement in the game. They are sandwiched between two of the most acclaimed levels in the entire Tomb Raider franchise, and that does not even include Tibetan Foothills or The Floating Islands, which are also quite renowned among fans. It's really kind of unfair, actually; the final Tibet/China stretch of Tomb Raider II is the best seven-level stretch of any Tomb Raider game. Out of context, CotT is a superstar in its own right... but when you put it behind Barkhang Monastery and before the brutal Temple of Xian and mystic Floating Islands, it does seem to fade into the background a tiny bit.

Rating - 9.5/10

Current Level Rankings:
1. Barkhang Monastery (10/10)
2. 40 Fathoms (9.5/10)
3. Catacombs of the Talion (9.5/10)
4. The Great Wall (9/10)
5. The Deck (9/10)
6. Tibetan Foothills (9/10)
7. Wreck of the Maria Doria (8.5/10)
8. The Opera House (8.5/10)
9. Bartoli's Hideout (8/10)
10. Venice (7/10)
11. Living Quarters (6.5/10)
12. Diving Area (5/10)
13. Offshore Rig (3/10)

Last edited by sheepman23; 04-06-16 at 21:33.
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Old 04-06-16, 17:57   #165
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Hiroyuki View Post
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!
Yeah, same here, although admittedly the ones in the Golden Mask look like evil spirits or something so it makes sense to want to attack them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tombraiderplay View Post
I think it deserves a 0.5
Yeah its that bad to me.... just stupid imo
I guess I'm not totally surprised given that you have AoD Lara in your profile picture...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Greenapple968 View Post
Fixed.
I'm surprised you didn't say like 100/10 for Barkhang Monastery. How many times would you estimate you've played it, out of curiosity?

Quote:
But really, an excellent review for Barkhang Monastery and Tibetan Foothills. ... You're the only person so far who's been fantastic enough with reviews to attract me as a reader.

I look forward to Floating Islands; such an excellent level deserves an excellent review and I know your review will be brilliant regardless of whether or not it's a positive/negative review.
Thanks, I appreciate you reading them. I understand reviews are not to everyone's taste, I just happen to love analysis of games like this.

As for The Floating Islands, I can promise you that I will do justice to that level, because it is (almost) as perfect as Barkhang Monastery is.
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Old 04-06-16, 22:37   #166
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Good to see some love for Catacombs. Truly one of the best TR levels of all time in my opinion. Another excellent review as always Sheepman!
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Old 05-06-16, 06:21   #167
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Yeeesssss CotT, probably my 3rd favorite level in the game. I just love going from the kind of warm and welcoming of BM, to now this cold and eerie (yet pretty calm) ruins as you head downward. The yeti encounters were excellent, and boy were they tough and fast. I ended up kiting the yetis in the dark room to the main area and I barely got ground as I quick dodge turn to start firing at them.

Yeah they could have done with the human enemies through. I didn't mind them too much, since there weren't that many that followed you down if I recall, but bleh a tiny dent to a otherwise outstanding atmosphere.

Another notable thing I remembered was the boulder trap here that was kind of fun trying to get through I think heh.


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Old 05-06-16, 15:24   #168
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SMH at your Offshore Rig rating.
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Old 06-06-16, 04:11   #169
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I admit that I was kind of nervous on what score you would give Catacombs of Talion after the previous three levels received high scores, but I am more than happy with your score and review for it! I love this level for several reasons. First off, its one of the most haunting levels in the game. I mean, nothing will top Temple of Xian/Floating Islands where those levels kept you at the edge of your seat. Catacombs of the Talion has that isolation feeling where you are lost wandering around an ancient ruins filled with traps and mythological creatures. The Yetis were brilliant addition and extra creepy. Don't ever have your volume loud or else their screams will make you jump from your seat. The Yeti dark room is brilliant and one of the most unnerving places in the series. Here you are in complete darkness while the sound of these roaring beasts stomping around. You know that anytime they could come out and attack you.

Admittedly, I actually don't mind the human enemies in this level. Especially since this level was extremely creepy with the Yetis and ambiance, so it was nice to see that Lara had some company even if they weren't her friends. And the difference between the human levels in CoT and other TRII levels is that the enemies appear way less in this level. I think there is only like 3-4 swarms of them? No where near as bad as the Maria Doria levels.

I especially love returning to the ancient ruins too and its the best part of this level. It felt like I was playing TRI again where we are isolated in these ancient ruins that hold dark secrets. There was the right amount of everything in this level - puzzles, traps, enemy variety, platforming, etc. And the ambiance was top notch with the colorful ancient ruins and the classic "Chambers" theme. This level gets a 9/10 in my book and just another solid addition to the Tibet section.
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Old 06-06-16, 08:39   #170
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Glad to see I'm not the only one with a soft spot for Catacombs of the Talion! To be honest, the Tibet section of TR2 is my favorite section of ANY Tomb Raider game, so I can't really say I've ever overlooked any of its levels, but I can understand how others might, since (as you pointed out) Catacombs and Ice Palace are sandwiched between two of the most renowned levels in the entire series.

I love that Lara finally gets to explore some ancient ruins in this level. Yes, one can argue that parts of Opera House and the Maria Doria levels have that old, derelict, claustrophobic feel that's reminiscent of the tombs we came to love in TR1, but it's nice to see an actual ancient space, even if it finally appears so late in the game. It's the one thing I wish TR2 had more of.

I don't mind the human enemies in this level much; if memory serves me correctly, there weren't that many of them when compared to most of the other levels in the game. For me, this level is where the Yeti take center stage. They're my favorite foe from the entire game, and honestly, I wish they had appeared in more than just two levels. The dark chamber with the caged Yeti is easily one of the scariest rooms in the series.

One of my favorite things about Catacombs is the fact that it, and Ice Palace, are interconnected, and that there are several areas of Catacombs that you will revisit in Ice Palace, though perhaps from a different vantage point. It kind of reminds me of the way the three Egyptian levels in TR1 were all connected by the cavern with the sphinx and small obelisk. I love when level designers do things like that. I remember the first time I played through Catacombs and wondered what the giant, flaming bowl above the ice was for, and even spent quite a bit of time looking for a way to access it somehow, only to finally discover its purpose in Ice Palace.

One of my favorite levels in the entire series, Catacombs most definitely deserves the 9.5 you gave it!
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