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Old 06-06-16, 11:54   #171
Greenapple968
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Originally Posted by sheepman23 View Post
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?
I didn't want to come across as being a bit too over the top when ranking Barkhang Monastery.

Honestly, I couldn't say how many times I've competed that level but at the very, very least, we are talking hundreds.


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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.
Then I look forward to Floating Islands' review.
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Old 06-06-16, 12:03   #172
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Mr Sheeps... the reason i love AOD the most is
1)lara looks stunning
2)if you overlook laras movements ... the game is ****ing awesome
3)i see it in its true intensions... not its mistakes

-------

PLUS... alot of people hate barkhang monastery ... i just really think it doesnt fit the tr2 theme verry well
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Old 06-06-16, 22:06   #173
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A lot of you are saying that you don't find the humans all that annoying here since there are so few of them, and I can understand this logic. However, I still find it slightly more problematic than any other level of the game since I happen to think there absolutely should not have been any mercs in the first place. We saw the goons getting decimated in Barkhang Monastery by the monks, so why should there have been a few that escaped into the catacombs?

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Originally Posted by Trenton View Post
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!
Thanks Trenton!

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Another notable thing I remembered was the boulder trap here that was kind of fun trying to get through I think heh.
Indeed, I forgot about how they were triggered so I proceeded to get smashed as shown in the screenshot.

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Originally Posted by trfan16 View Post
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.
That bold point is very true; Catacombs of the Talion is probably the most TR1-esque experience in all of TR2, along with The Ice Palace. With the exception of the volleys of humans, it's just Lara, some snow leopards, a few yeti, and the vast catacombs to explore. I think that's why it feels so refreshing.

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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.
Yeah, Tibet is my absolute favorite section of any TR game as well, and when you tack on Temple of Xian and Floating Islands afterwards it is even more wonderful. Still, CotT and Ice Palace do have the misfortune of having two (arguably) better levels before and after them, but they still hold their own extremely well, and present a much different atmosphere than either BM or Xian.

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Originally Posted by Tombraiderplay View Post
Mr Sheeps... the reason i love AOD the most is
1)lara looks stunning
2)if you overlook laras movements ... the game is ****ing awesome
3)i see it in its true intensions... not its mistakes
I was just kidding haha. Although I think your first and third points are both kind of irrelevant, but eh.

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PLUS... alot of people hate barkhang monastery ... i just really think it doesnt fit the tr2 theme verry well
If a lot of people hate Barkhang Monastery, then I have yet to see any of those people. I find that most people atleast enjoyed it to some degree. I happen to have a massive soft spot for it of course, so I'm a little biased, but Madubu Gorge is another one of my favorite levels of the series and even I'll admit that a good 50% of TR fans don't really care for it. Why, I'll never know, but...
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Old 08-06-16, 21:05   #174
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You'd better give Temple of Xian a good review
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Old 08-06-16, 22:31   #175
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You'd better give Temple of Xian a good review
0/10, so horrible, makes Offshore Rig look godly in comparsion.
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Old 08-06-16, 23:26   #176
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Heh heh, I'm very excited for the remaining reviews, I've got a lot to say about the remaining levels. I'm free all tomorrow night so I will try to hammer out the Ice Palace review then.
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Old 13-06-16, 01:37   #177
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TIBET
Level 14 - "The Ice Palace"




Catacombs 2.0

The latter half of Tomb Raider II is chock full of some of the series' masterpieces of design, a few of which we have not even yet arrived at. It's my opinion that the entirety of Tibet and China is the best part of any Tomb Raider game, and with the exception of TR1's Egypt, it's not even a close contest. Tibet's first three levels embody a majestic journey through the Tibetan mountains that starts out action-packed with Tibetan Foothills, becomes spiritual and puzzle-oriented in Barkhang Monastery, and then finally brings the player back into the fold of why they initially loved the TR series with the wondrous Catacombs of the Talion.

With this in mind, you might find this review to be a little unfair for The Ice Palace since it had the misfortune of being broken up from its predecessor. The two levels were obviously supposed to be one, yet due to engine constraints it seems that the designers could not make this happen. What we wind up with is one level that completely blows us away with its yeti reveals, beautiful architecture, and interconnected structure, and a follow-up stage that does a lot of what made Catacombs great... but seems to ultimately be lacking something special.



I'll start with the positives, however, since they are far more prominent and important than any of my criticisms.

The Ice Palace has two moments where it really, really shines. The first is basically the entirety of the opening chamber. The room with the yeti cages, springboards, and bells introduces two new environmental interactions: accessing the heights via springboard and unlocking gates through the ringing of a bell. Nothing terribly groundbreaking of course, but the springboards are a very welcome and fun addition to Tomb Raider II; they thankfully do not overstay their welcome, which is also important since too much springboard action could have gotten old in a hurry.

The second brilliant aspect of The Ice Palace is the way that it ties back into Catacombs of the Talion. Again, this is not groundbreaking since the two levels were originally supposed to be one, but I am still a big fan of the Palace Midas-style gameplay where we journey all around an area to gain access to one switch that grants us a path to the next area. The Ice Palace pulls this off very well, and the burning of the oil through the ice sheet is even more satisfying.





Outside of its stellar moments, The Ice Palace, quite simply, does a really great job of upholding the gameplay elements that made Catacombs great. The yeti return, and this time they are actual difficulties in combat instead of being inserted for fearful purposes. There is one particularly tough moment depicted in the above screenshot where the fighter is forced to face a group of yeti at a poolside, all whilst being simultaneously chased by catfish in the pool and threatened by icicles on the ceiling. It's actually a very challenging scenario, and it's not cheap either - unlike the mindless gun-toting fools that we are so used to dealing with.

Speaking of which, kudos to this level for breaking the streak of levels with human enemies!

Uncovering a Priceless Artifact

So the culmination of The Ice Palace involves Lara taking the Talion, the ancient doorknob that is needed for access to the Temple of Xian. This Talion is located within an ice palace... sort of. The first time I played this level, I honestly expected "Ice Palace" to mean something about 5 times the size of what the Talion was actually housed in at the level's end, so I was actually quite disappointed with what we got. That being said, ringing the gong is an impressive moment, and such a ceremonial method of uncovering the doorknob seems appropriate.



While that gong business is great, that's really the only indication of this artifact's importance. If you remember back to Tomb Raider, each of the pieces of the Scion were housed inside of a room with stunning architecture, or hieroglyphics/symbols on the wall, or a dead mummies standing beside a throne... stuff like that. Each time you collected a piece, it felt like you were uncovering some long-lost artifact.

The Talion does not really give off this vibe. Yes, you have to ring the gong to get inside of the "palace", and the Guardian of the Talion arrives afterwards to ruin the day, but this also spells out two of the problems I have with this sequence. For starters, as I mentioned earlier, I don't think this level's final chamber is impressive enough. After all of the ruins that we traversed through to get here, the final cavern feels very empty and not all that grandiose (especially the ice part). I think it could've been scaled up by quite a bit. Secondly, the Guardian of the Talion should have appeared before the collection of the Talion; as it stands, you pick up the artifact inside of the ice building, leave, and then find out that a random monstrous bird has been freed from its chambers. I always found that to be somewhat confusing; yeah, the touching of the Talion is supposed to "awaken" the beast, but it's not made obvious that this is going to happen by taking it, and the eagle itself is not a big enough boss to really warrant a "wow" factor from that moment. Plus, I have always not liked how the level ends immediately after killing the beast; I would have instead preferred a TR3-boss style where the artifact is not available until after defeating its protector.

Am I reading too much into this? Maybe. However, the end of The Ice Palace has always felt like a bit of a disappointment to me after the lengths we went to to get that moment. The Talion honestly looks like just another puzzle item, so when I picked it up for the first time and read in the inventory that it was the Talion, I was actually surprised.



Other odds and ends about this level:
  • I'm really not a fan of the Gold Dragon secret, for two reasons. First of all, having a block that looks exactly the same as the rest of the wall is kind of a dick move in my opinion; secondly, the invisible walkway used to reach the secret feels like a bit of a rip-off of TR1's invisible Uzi secret. And while rip-offs are usually fine, this one does not work as well as the aforementioned secret because in that case, the player was drawn to discover the secret by the floating Uzi guns in the middle of the gargantuan cavern; here, the player is expected to assume that there is an invisible walkway in that big room that Lara can walk across, and that seems like a bit of a cheat to me.
  • Yeti combat is excellent here, and with the exception of the Floating Islands, The Ice Palace is probably the best combat-oriented level in the game. That's mostly due to the lack of human enemies for once, but the encounters are actually really well done and the level scores a lot of points for having such great encounters.
  • This is the first time I've exercised the grenade launcher in the game, and I'm thoroughly pleased with how balanced this weapon seemed to be in Tomb Raider II. It had the disadvantage of being slow and cumbersome (and even quite inaccurate at times), but the advantage of utterly destroying its victims. The flying body parts are also always welcome.


  • While I find the few chambers leading up to the final Ice Palace to be pointlessly inserted, I do love that boulder chase pictured above. The wide camera angle makes it so much better too.

Conclusion

As previously noted, The Ice Palace's separation from Catacombs of the Talion makes this assessment a little unfair; despite this, I did find the final half of the level to be a disappointment. Tibet is such a fantastic section, and yet its culmination does not feel particularly special. We do not get really any exposition on what the Guardian of the Talion really is; that could have been explained through a cool cutscene before the outdoor jeep chase (a la Tomb of Tihocan), but alas, the designers did not include such a scene, and I do think that causes this stage to suffer since TR2 has been so light on any sort of exposition as far as the plot goes.

Still, this is a pretty and fun level, so there is very little to criticize in terms of its looks or general gameplay. It continues to do what Tibet does very well, and the environment never got tiresome (unlike the Maria Doria). Still, the lack of an explosive final half is enough to make me knock this one down a couple of pegs... sorry to all of you who love the Guardian of the Talion, but it's honestly one of my least favorite bosses of the series. Which would be fine if the game were heavy on good bosses, but it is not...

Rating - 8/10


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. The Ice Palace (8/10)
11. Venice (7/10)
12. Living Quarters (6.5/10)
13. Diving Area (5/10)
14. Offshore Rig (3/10)
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Old 13-06-16, 03:56   #178
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First off, I love all your screenshots for this level! I forgot how wide open the space in this level was and the rooms were huge. Secondly, I love the intricate details in the architecture in this level too. This is the type of level you could use your imagination in, especially since it looks like a lost Kingdom. Ice Palace is a great level and it is FINALLY A LEVEL WITHOUT A SINGLE HUMAN ENEMY! Seriously, there was no reason for this long of a streak for levels that contain human enemies. One thing TRIII got right was that they really limited the number of levels with human enemies. They're not so bad if they are like the Tribesmen in South Pacific Islands and Damned in Aldwych where they attack differently other than just open fire than you. But most of the human baddies in TRII are just shoot'em up fests where all them are pretty much the same skin.

And the Ice Palace is a masterpiece level itself. It provides a good balance of Classic TR elements - innovative traps, new puzzles, large chambers to explore, ancient ruins, supernatural enemies, etc. I love the spring boards in this game, even though they are kind of frustrating to use in certain areas. They were still a nice challenge, especially the ones that you can use to shoot the bells to open doors. Although they were better in Temple of Xian. And I like how you highlight the different challenges in this level. We had the barrage of yetis and snow leopards to fight, the boulders chase on the giant slope, and the Talion boss fight at the end. I love how the image on the gong foreshadows the boss you are about to fight in the ending of the level. I never paid attention to it the first time, so it scared the crap out of me when I first saw the thing. It's a pretty good boss fight too, even if it is mainly about jumping around and dodging it.

And I love how they brought back the backtracking feature from TRI's Egypt too. I always enjoyed how the Khamoon levels and Catacombs/Ice Palace created the feeling of unfinished business in their respective areas. Like you know that you haven't finished exploring the depths of each of these levels and it creates a feeling of anticipation of finding out what is in the missing area. I think the Khamoon levels did this a little better because you didn't know what was on the other side of the big doors leading to the Sanctuary of the Scion nor did you know where you had to collect the artifacts to put into the pillar. But I enjoyed how Ice Palace revisited Catacombs of the Talion too. Overall, I give this level a 10/10 because it reminded me of one of the reasons I loved the original TR game.
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Old 13-06-16, 12:37   #179
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0/10, so horrible, makes Offshore Rig look godly in comparsion.
Nice to know I'm not the only person in the world who hates Temple Of Xian.

I don't consider Temple Of Xian to be the absolute worst level in the entire TR Series but I'd definitely have it down as one of the worst five, and certainly I think it's the worst level in TR2.

But at the end of the day, all I am is a human being with an opinion.
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Old 13-06-16, 14:24   #180
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Nice to know I'm not the only person in the world who hates Temple Of Xian.
I'm pretty sure that was a joke...

@ trfan16: Thank you, I was happy with the screens I got for this level; of course, it really helps that Ice Palace is so beautiful in general. If there is one thing that TR2 tends to excel at, it's creating appealing environments that are very screenshot-able. I also like your comparisons to Egypt for CotT and The Ice Palace, I think that they are quite similar in several aspects.
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