Tomb Raider Forums  

Go Back   Tomb Raider Forums > Tomb Raider Series > Tomb Raider II

Reply
 
Thread Tools
Old 21-09-23, 14:13   #11
LCTRF
Historian
 
LCTRF's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 336
Default

Love your review! And I agree on Bartoli's hideout complementing on what Venice was missing. I think Venice fulfilled it's purpose though, because it seems that it was meant to be a slow buildup into the game (which is ironic because it's predecessor, the great wall, was much more hazardous), but because of it's picturesque scenery I think the developers wanted us to be able to enjoy the location a bit, and be more chill, before we delve into a more dangerus section of it, which is Bartolis Hideout. Opera House however is like a complete U-Turn on Venice. It's dark, gritty, and some sort of tomb (even though a modern take of a tomb). You can only imagine how lavish and grand it once had to look like, same with the upside down wreck of the maria doria. All three together I think are a good example of a various set of levels that play within the same location, without making it boring. Tibet perfected it imo, because it couldn't be more diverse with it's levels.

In general I like Tomb Raider II's new spin on including urban or more modern "tombs", while not neglecting the ancient ones, though they are more sparse in this installment, but it's what makes this game unique to me and also my favourite in the franchise, very close to Tomb Raider III though.

Also having visited Venice I can say they did a good job recreating it, especially if you keep in mind how old and limited the engine was. Now imagine a remake with a revamped Venice. My personal dream.

By the way, just a side note, maybe you should add some screenshots to your review, I think it would make it more immersive and a more enjoyable read overall, not saying that your reviews are bad, I love reading them! Just a little thing I'd like to see haha

Keep up the reviews!
LCTRF is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21-09-23, 19:48   #12
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by perryloo View Post
I personally would have given Venice more than 66%.

Visually it is stunning, its one of my favorite levels.

Good writeups
Venice is a gem of a level contextually, and its aesthetics are superb I look forward to your take on the other level reviews to come
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 21-09-23, 19:56   #13
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by LCTRF View Post
Love your review! And I agree on Bartoli's hideout complementing on what Venice was missing. I think Venice fulfilled it's purpose though, because it seems that it was meant to be a slow buildup into the game (which is ironic because it's predecessor, the great wall, was much more hazardous), but because of it's picturesque scenery I think the developers wanted us to be able to enjoy the location a bit, and be more chill, before we delve into a more dangerus section of it, which is Bartolis Hideout.
Absolutely, and as much as I've critiqued Venice for the thinness of its gameplay, there's some justification for it when you look at its position and purpose I think.


Quote:
Originally Posted by LCTRF View Post
In general I like Tomb Raider II's new spin on including urban or more modern "tombs", while not neglecting the ancient ones, though they are more sparse in this installment, but it's what makes this game unique to me and also my favourite in the franchise, very close to Tomb Raider III though.
I totally agree. I think TR3 has some better actualised modern settings in places, but TR2 undoubtedly was the game that laid the foundations.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LCTRF View Post
By the way, just a side note, maybe you should add some screenshots to your review, I think it would make it more immersive and a more enjoyable read overall, not saying that your reviews are bad, I love reading them! Just a little thing I'd like to see haha

Keep up the reviews!
Thank you for the feedback! I was contemplating screenshots, but I'm new to posting here so I wasn't quite sure how to go about it? I'm sure I'll figure it out
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 22-09-23, 16:06   #14
LCTRF
Historian
 
LCTRF's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jan 2009
Posts: 336
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo86 View Post
I totally agree. I think TR3 has some better actualised modern settings in places, but TR2 undoubtedly was the game that laid the foundations.
I agree! While I love the idea of having an oil rig as a location, TRIII's Area 51 did a far better job incorporating modern settings.

Quote:
Thank you for the feedback! I was contemplating screenshots, but I'm new to posting here so I wasn't quite sure how to go about it? I'm sure I'll figure it out
There is an icon where you can add a link to an image you want to upload. However I don't know wether you need to have some minimum amount of posts posted to be able to use that function. I'm gonna read your review no matter what, though, so don't worry about it!
LCTRF is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 23-09-23, 12:17   #15
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Arrow 4: Opera house – a heart stopper, but the show goes on

4: OPERA HOUSE – A HEART STOPPER, BUT THE SHOW GOES ON

When seeking to distinguish and steepen the curve of difficulty in a Tomb Raider 2 level, there are broadly three main ways that this can be implemented. The first is to increase the level size relative to previous ones, the second is to increase the difficulty and/or frequency of hazards (such as enemies and traps or perilous environmental aspects) and the third is to increase the complexity (such as a more convoluted layout or more involved puzzles).

Where the difficulty curve is escalated consistently within the game, it could be expected that one or two of these may be used to a modest degree in each level relative to those before it.

When it comes to the Opera House in Tomb Raider 2 however, not only are all these mechanisms employed simultaneously, but all of them are wielded considerably. What we get as a result therefore is a level that is far larger, more dangerous, and more complex than its previous counterparts within the Venetian setting, and it hits the player squarely right from the start.

Before Lara moves even an inch, the player is presented with no less than 4 detectable and imminent threats in the form a swinging box, a floor of glass shards, the unsettling respiratory sounds of a nearby but concealed thug and a pacing gunman immediately below.

Itīs nothing less than a proportionate prelude to a level in which Lara attains a robust body count and negotiates numerous perilous platforming tasks from outside and on the roof of the establishment before we even gain access to the level proper.

To accompany this sharp upturn in challenge and threat, we also have the sudden transition into a dark night time context and a distinctly more ominous and unsettling ambience which advertises the scale and solemnity of what awaits.

Thus, whilst the Opera House maintains the same enemy types and wider locale as the previous two levels, it feels and plays as if it belongs to an entirely different setting and class altogether. Thatīs a plus for identity and distinctiveness, although perhaps a slightly jarring negative from a pure continuity perspective.

However, it isnīt until weīre inside the auditorium of the abandoned venue that the full scale and character of the level is revealed. The level then revolves for the most part around one large puzzle that culminates in raising the backdrop on the stage, which subsequently facilitates a path that will lead to a final battle and level end.

Opera House is not unique in presenting the player with a large puzzle that ultimately dominates much of the level – Venice did likewise with its requirement to clear a path to the exit. The difference here, however, is both in the complexity of the undertaking and in the extent of peril and resistance which accompanies.

In Venice, and indeed in many Tomb Raider levels, one or more uniform switches or keys link in directly with a single outcome. As a result, difficulty is generally then determined by scale rather than intricacy (i.e., the number of switches or keys required to achieve that outcome).

In the Opera House however, one outcome to obtain a circuit board which will channel power to the switch for the backdrop alone requires 2 parallel sets of linear but discrete and numerous tasks which are neither obvious in their connection nor route to the goal. The complexity is increased further by virtue of some of the stages in the process requiring Lara to visit different parts of a level which is vast and almost entirely accessible from the point of entry.

Whilst traversing between areas in Venice typically required only movement and the odd confrontation with a single enemy here and there, the Opera House is a far more treacherous and precarious affair.

Shards of glass, heavy sandbags on the cusp of falling as soon as Lara ventures near them and even boulders ready to punish proximity litter the large auditorium and offstage, whilst foes lurk amid the sinuous and intertwining corridors, shafts and antechambers branching from it.

Speaking of foes, human resistance, and combat in general is amped up markedly. Many encounters now combine enemies of both distance and non-distance attacks simultaneously, or otherwise assault Lara within confined spaces.

Further, rather than almost always rushing out of newly opened portals or heading toward the player (although thereīs a fair degree of that too), the levelīs accessible configuration often compels the player to forage with the justified trepidation of triggering hostile attention. This means many encounters result in enemies harnessing the element of surprise over the player rather than the other way around.

The most prominent example of this is when the level unleashes what is perhaps one of Tomb Raider 2’s most exacting assaults in its closing scene. The trio of armed thugs which includes a uniquely resilient member in their ranks carries broadly the equivalent HP of four hardened Tibetan Mercenaries. The trap is sprung once the player ventures into a large and poorly lit area with numerous boxed structures providing ample ambushing opportunities.

Lara will not face such proportions of bellicose resistance again until at least the 11th mission of the game. Even then the impact is most often abated with assuaging accessories, be they mechanical in the case of more powerful weaponry and the snowmobile, or organic in the form of collaborative Tibetan Monks.

To increase the jeopardy yet further, the player is assailed and distracted with swinging boxes and ungenerously sized ledges in order to maintain a height advantage. Should they descend to floor level for stability, they are punished alternatively with the attendance of two Dobermans.

These material combat escalations, with the sounds of pacing steps or heavy breathing harmonising with the tense ambience and predominantly poorly lit environment generate one of the most intimidating and even frightening domains in Tomb Raider 2. Whilst it can be convincingly argued therefore that the extent of human combat in Tomb Raider 2 overall was perhaps exorbitant, this is a level in which this gameplay mechanic is arguably indispensable to creating the overall effect.

It may be an assault to the nerves, but The Opera House is perhaps one of the best demonstrations of a level which creates the kind of disturbing and tremulous experience and atmosphere that the franchise, and Tomb Raider 2 especially, would become associated with.

Itīs not a level Iīd want to replay too often, but hard to resist returning to, and remains one of Tomb Raider 2’s greatest performances.

VERDICT: 92%

Last edited by Danjo86; 27-10-23 at 16:46.
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 26-09-23, 18:36   #16
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Post 5: Offshore rig – barrels of fun or scraping the bottom?

5: OFFSHORE RIG – BARRELS OF FUN OR SCRAPING THE BOTTOM?

Perhaps of all the levels of Tomb Raider 2, your experience and appreciation of or disappointment with Offshore Rig is perhaps influenced most significantly by the extent to which you do or donīt weight your views on its context over its discrete merits.

Taken on its own and measured against every Core design era level from each of the first 5 Tomb Raider games, there are compelling reasons to regard this level as a relatively weak link.

When looking at why this is, letīs start with just that – what you look at when you play the level. After some breath taking scenery from the top of Chinaīs Great Wall and the canals of Venice, Offshore Rig is almost completely an interior level. With no vistas or significant outside sections, thereīs almost no discernible sense of scale here either. At least, perhaps not until you open more of the level by its final stages – but even then, it still feels largely like just a collection of inside spaces.

Opera House was of course a largely interior level also but, unlike the Rig, it boasts drama and elegance with its ornate furnishings and cavernous auditorium. It also offered more of a variety and sense of scale in its setting, from rooftops to ventilation shafts and from the canal outside, to the stage itself.

By contrast, Offshore Rig has a more monotonous and industrial tone which barely varies an iota throughout the entire affair. One of its few flourishes, an intruder alarm, is not only irritating to listen to but also has no consequence of impact in the level. It doesnīt summon more enemies, nor does it prompt any changes in Laraīs environment in any way.

Whilst the level is renowned for stripping Lara of her weapons from the start, it arguably fails to capitalise on the gameplay opportunities meaningfully – the pistols are recovered within the gameīs first proper section outside of the opening prison room and thatīs that. Compared, for example, to Tomb Raider 3īs High Security Compound, the Offshore Rig can be seen as a disappointing shadow of what could have been done here.

Gameplay is also unimaginative in places. The early stage of recovering the pistols and obtaining the yellow pass-card is somewhat innovative and satisfying, but what then follows is relatively pedestrian platforming and box pushing seasoned with imitative Tomb Raider 2 human combat.

Thereīs relatively little in the way of puzzles, and in terms of the gameplay served up, there’s little here that’s new or more challenging than we’ve encountered in previous missions. Short of a single, but also optional, underwater fan hazard early on and some aquatic hostiles later into the campaign, Offshore Rig feels like something of an underwhelming gameplay rehash from previous levels, only with a different look.

As such, the design serves more as a vehicle for gradually providing the player with a linear if slightly circuitous tour of the map than getting their teeth into something more involved and monumental.

However, as mentioned at the start of this review, context also comes into play here. If we take Offshore Rig less on its discrete merits against the entirety of the Core era and, instead, examine it at the point of first experience, we can appreciate this level from another perspective.

It is worth bearing firstly that, until this point, an industrial setting had never been properly represented in a Tomb Raider game. Natlaīs mines edged in that direction but was still set within very organic rocky tunnels and chambers, however interventionalist their origin may have been.

The Venetian levels of Tomb Raider 2 boasted more urban environments than the first game but could hardly be regarded as post-modern or industrial.
When we first arrive at the Offshore Rig then, hit with the ambiance of whirring industrial activity and the visuals of a very metallic and factory-like environment, itīs a stark and stimulating contrast. It’s a contrast not only to the previous levels of Tomb Raider 2 but also to the entirety of the first game. Offshore Rig may come to look a little stale in the years to follow, but in its context and time, it was decidedly fresh and different.

This was the first level in which the designers experimented more widely with the Tomb Raider gameplay mechanics in a more technological and industrial environment. For the most part, this is pulled off seamlessly; pass-cards replace ornate and rusty metal keys and rolling barrels stand in for boulders.

Elsewhere, itīs evident that this experimentalism wasnīt quite so credible. Pulling a lever in an abandoned tomb, where one can imagine the grinding of ancient stone slabs or metal cams to raise platforms or open a door elsewhere works well. On the other hand, pushing a button in an offshore oil rig that somehow opens a door underneath a plane to which it has no connection stretches the demands of cognitive investment.

The Offshore Rig is, however, I would argue, alongside the following twin level (Diving Area) a welcome atmospheric and stylistic insertion at this stage of the game. As interior-focused as it may be, the Rig is much brighter and less intense and oppressive than either the Opera House before it, or the more claustrophobic and demanding levels yet to come within the Maria Doria. At this point in the game, thatīs welcome and appreciated.

The brevity of the segment where Lara is without weapons can be seen as missed opportunity, but this was the first time Tomb Raider had pulled this stunt whilst she would still be exposed to the direct hostilities of armed human foes. Furthermore, it would take a little longer than just this level opening to recover a suite of hardware equivalent to what she had possessed by the end of her antics in Italy.

However unoriginal much of the gameplay in the level may have been, there were still some new elements introduced here. Of note is the acquisition of the Harpoon gun and the first appearance of Frogmen in a large area when closing in for the green pass-card. The design here offers choice in how Lara dispatches of them, whether from the catwalks high up, the base of one of the pillars, or a dogfight in the large underwater spaces afforded.

Overall, then, the Offshore Rig raises some conflicting and mixed responses. In pure gameplay terms, it’s difficult to get excited about and yet, at the risk of creating an apologetic tone for this review, it arguably shines modestly in its own right contextually, and that lifts it somewhat.

VERDICT: 58%

Last edited by Danjo86; 27-10-23 at 16:47.
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 03-10-23, 12:35   #17
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Post 6: Diving area - sink or swim?

6: DIVING AREA – SINK OR SWIM?

Itīs conceivable that Offshore Rig and Diving Area were originally intended to be one level. Whilst there has been no open suggestion of this from either Neal Boyd who designed the two levels, or Core Design more generally, there are three reasons to at least entertain the notion of this having been a possibility at some point.

One of these reasons, subjectively, is that the Rig as a location doesnīt feel like the sort of environment which merits more than one level. At least, not without a significant development or alteration in context between one level and another.
We can look to examples of this within other level sets based in a single location in the game. Venice and Bartoliīs hideout specialise in a predominantly exterior and interior setting respectively. The four levels within the Maria Doria vary in their focus, diversified across interior and exterior settings as well as a level set exclusively within the maintenance areas, whilst others explore more furnished quarters, and yet another the exterior upper decks.

An example of such a development or distinction in this case could be if one of the two levels in this locale saw Lara explore either the outside areas of the Rig or subsurface areas underneath the structure itself.

When we compare Diving Area to Offshore Rig, we donīt see any development or alteration of anything close to this scale or nature, however. We encounter another level which is exclusively interior, which uses the very same textures and setting as the one before it, and which doesnīt introduce any meaningfully new gameplay mechanics or experiences.

A second reason is that the setting of Diving Areaīs latter stages (and which accounts for the bulk of the level) is glimpsed in Offshore Rig at one stage on the path toward the Red Pass Card, when a thug enters through a doorway which closes on Laraīs approach. Peeking through the grill in that door presents us with part of the main chamber we access and traverse through in the following level (albeit that it exists only as an imitative stub in Offshore Rig).

Of course, itīs very possible that this was merely a creative piece of foreshadowing from one level to the next, but itīs also possible that it had a greater purpose which changed during development.

The third reason, however, which leads us more into the territory of reviewing Diving Area itself is that the opening stages of this level do not display the same connectivity or imagination as either the remainder of the level or, indeed, the Offshore rig before it. This, in turn, at least allows us to entertain the idea that this initial section of Diving Area was something of an afterthought.

By contrast, both the entirety of Offshore Rig and the back end of Diving Area have a cohesive and connected structure of sorts which suggests they were more carefully planned out.

In the case of Offshore Rig, this took the form of the opening area and two areas directly branching from it each containing different pass cards that needed to be accessed in a specific order. Accomplishing this would ultimately allow access to a fourth area containing a final pass card needed to complete the level.

In the latter stages of Diving Area, we have a large circuitous chamber with other rooms, passages and antechambers branching off from it. The structure of this part of the level requires the player to travel between these areas to complete a variety of tasks in a prescribed order. As these are completed, a growing number of areas connected with those already accessible are opened until the player is finally able to open the path to the end of the level from a central room inside the main circuitous chamber.

The opening stages of Diving Area, however, do not flow or connect as satisfyingly or purposefully. The start of the level is a collection of linear obstacles, culminating in a very awkward and precise leap from a ramp which rewards players for serving a quirk in the gameīs movement mechanics rather than exercising true skill. This is then followed by a frustratingly elongated ladder ascension, and an enemy encounter where the player is most likely forced to take unavoidable damage whilst hoisting Lara up onto a catwalk.

Itīs not entirely unengaging, but it feels contrived and tacked-on when compared with both the remainder of this level and the entirety of the one before it. Were this opening section to have been removed, and the remainder of Diving Area included within Offshore Rig, then we would have a single (albeit rather large) Rig level which would have felt more coherent. As it stands however, this is a level with a poor initial section and a subsequent section which, whilst more rational and enjoyable, fails to break much new ground.

Despite these not insignificant criticisms however, Diving Area has some modest but notable saving graces. The first of these is that the latter section of the level is arguably the best designed and most enjoyable segment of both Rig levels combined.
Whilst thereīs a lot of running back and forth involved, gameplay here is more varied than the Offshore Rig, and the puzzles somewhat more multifarious. As opposed to the Offshore Rigīs predominant preserve of Pass Cards and switches as means of progression, Diving Area serves up a more diverse range of mediums including circuit boards, a movable cement block and a circular saw.

Whilst sequentially the level is no less linear, the layout and nature of the environment results in a more deviating journey and experience than the one before it.

Diving Area also introduces some additional unique flourishes, including access for the first time to Tomb Raider 2īs most powerful piece of kit – the M-16, and is the first of only two levels in the game to feature flamethrower wielding enemies.
These hazardous arsonists are the only enemy in Tomb Raider 2, short of the Dragon himself, which can kill Lara in one attack from a distance. Alongside notably heavier human combat in this level, these ingredients imbue Diving Area with a more minacious countenance than the previous Rig level and help, at least somewhat, to set it apart in its own right.

Diving Area is thus another level which invokes mixed feelings. It doesnīt benefit from the pioneering boost that its predecessor enjoys as being the first level inside a truly industrial location. It also suffers from a poorly designed set of opening segments and a lack of originality and sufficient visual distinction in its own right.

Nevertheless, itīs arguably the more imaginative and enjoyable of the Rig levels and for my money manages to justify the slot for a second mission inside the industrial complex.

VERDICT: 67%

Last edited by Danjo86; 27-10-23 at 16:48.
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 07-10-23, 10:35   #18
NGal
Hobbyist
 
NGal's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2023
Posts: 4
Default

Quote:
Originally Posted by Danjo86 View Post
As a huge fan of the Core Design era of Tomb Raider, I have recently returned to my first experience of the franchise which, for me, was Tomb Raider 2. That it stands tall to this day is testament to what Core Design achieved, and so I have decided to post a review of each level and then finally the game as a whole(!)

I am aware that Sheepman has previously posted Tomb Raider 2 level reviews - they are superb and I have read over them a few times as well in appreciation of a fellow fan reflecting on their experiences.

However, I felt it was time to also give my own take and so I invite any of you reading this thread to comment and let me know all your perspectives!


1: HOW GREAT IS THE GREAT WALL?

What becomes immediately obvious when playing Tomb Raider 2 for the first time is the level of creative competence, ambition and confidence that oozes from the screen following its predecessor.

Lara starts her second adventure with a Shotgun in addition to her pistols, as the game advertises and promises a more challenging and epic outing than the first jaunt. As Lara begins the first level by dropping onto a rocky slope, the game itself literally hits the ground running.

In many respects, The Great Wall is both a preview and a starter pistol for Tomb Raider 2. And what a starter pistol it is.

Within mere moments, Lara is tackling tigers and negotiating platforming ascension of intricacy that the first game took far longer to build towards. On passing the halfway point, Lara enters an adrenaline-inducing gauntlet of traps that few players would have expected any time before the halfway point of the game.

This unashamed brashness and confidence is by no means without finesse or balance however. The pacing of the level is judged to perfection.

Standing atop the Great Wall for the first time after the sequence of platforming and tasks to arrive there feels like something of an initiation moment. On the one hand, itīs a moment of reward for having broken into the game, and yet on the other its also the precursor and a moment to dwell on the anticipation of what yet lies in store once the first key is collected and put to use.

The transition from the lofty, stunning and relatively calm outside battlements, to descending into the darker and more enclosed tunnels, chambers and gauntlets within the remainder of the level more than delivers on the promise of any trepidation the player may have felt.

Forcing the player to remain on the move at pace through a variety of encroaching hazards which includes slashing blades, crumbling floors, rolling boulders and enclosing spiked walls in the very first level of the game is a clear statement that in this sequel, Lara Croft and Core Design have truly arrived.

The secrets of the level reflect this transition of pace and style as well. Whilst the first dragon statuette on the ascension to the top of the wall is barely off the beaten path, its second two are placed perilously within the path of closing spikes and buried deep within a chasm accompanied by not one, but TWO t-rexes. This is perhaps the clearest statement of intent that things are going to be bigger and bolder than first time around.

This style and tone has distinct advantages and perhaps some subjective downsides. On the one hand, it grabs the attention of perhaps even those most cynical of what Tomb Raider can throw at them and disabuses handlers of Lara from any misplaced notions of a gentle difficulty curve.

On the other hand, The Great Wall is an unforgiving and merciless experience for complete beginners. I, for one, donīt resent that however - Lara has a very ample mansion and grounds for training, and this approach to literally having the player jump in at the deep end bodes well for future replays.

The Great Wall does also serve as an excellent preview to the game as a whole however. We have just about every style of Tomb Raider experience here. Thereīs combat, platforming and traps and thereīs some underwater exploration in addition to the predominantly land based environment for much of the level.

Itīs fair to say that the level leans more toward action than puzzles however (going back to the starter pistol analogy) - apart from two keys and a switch, the entire level is about movement, combat and agility. For a first level, this is arguably not poorly pitched but a slightly more engaging puzzle might have just lifted this level a little higher.

Nevertheless, the Great Wall is a triumph and lives up to its name in more ways than just the one.

VERDICT: 87%


The Great Wall is, indeed, a fantastic level, but I think the Ice Palace or Tibetan Foothills might be my favorite.
I was really looking forward to replaying this entry too, but then I learned remakes for the Switch are being made for it and the 1st game, so I am holding off now; I hope it's worth the wait.
NGal is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-23, 11:30   #19
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by NGal View Post
The Great Wall is, indeed, a fantastic level, but I think the Ice Palace or Tibetan Foothills might be my favorite.
I was really looking forward to replaying this entry too, but then I learned remakes for the Switch are being made for it and the 1st game, so I am holding off now; I hope it's worth the wait.
Both great levels, I look forward to your take on my reviews of them to come as well

I'm very excited for the new Switch release of TR 1 - 3 and expansions.
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 09-10-23, 11:37   #20
Danjo86
Hobbyist
 
Join Date: Jun 2021
Posts: 35
Arrow 7: 40 fathoms – thinking deeply

7: 40 FATHOMS – THINKING DEEPLY

Of all the missions Lara faces in Tomb Raider 2, 40 Fathoms is not one that usually stands out as the most impressive or impactful overall.

More likely candidates may include Venice, with its stunning scenery and trailblazing use of speedboats, or Barkhang Monastery with its sprawling layout and pioneering establishment of other humans as allies rather than enemies on a tractable basis. One could also consider the Temple of Xian with its intimidating stature and difficulty or Floating Islands for its surreal environment and almost reckless abandon for the parameters of reality. In other words, thereīs a lot of competition.

40 Fathoms is a level which probably doesnīt spring to mind so quickly or punch as highly as many of these heavyweights, and yet in some senses it does imprint itself more palpably. Whereas many other levels etch themselves deep into the playerīs psyche with grandeur, challenge or sheer size, Laraīs 7th mission does so with audacity and an undiluted focus on problematical puzzles in what is, atmospherically, one of Laraīs most solitary experiences.

Until this point in the game, players are accustomed to commencing every level from a position of both orientational reference and absolute safety, however physically immediate and confined either or both of those aspects may be. Only a couple of the subsequent levels to come will deny one or other of those to the player.

40 Fathoms is the first, and indeed the only level in Tomb Raider 2 to deny the player both of those sureties. Far from removing those aspects tentatively, the desertion of them demonstrated here is as unflinching and temerarious as it is demanding and harrowing. Itīs an experience that even to this day remains arguably unsurpassed in grit and temerity of any found in a Tomb Raider game.

Lara begins the level stranded in the middle of dark ocean, facing entirely away from the scant landmarks of debris beneath and in the sights of an approaching shark. Lara must swim a sizable distance in one direction merely to discover a means of progressing inside the hull of a shipwreck. Even then, she may only indulge in mere seconds to gasp oxygen before the trial continues through a sequence of confined flooded chambers where the playerīs orientation is yet further fatigued.

Whilst much of the level beyond its beginnings will adopt a notably more tranquil pace and feel, the brash audacity of its opening continues to punctuate on occasion. Two of the levelīs three secrets are in plain sight but employ irreverence when approached. The first of these acts as a lure toward trapdoors concealing a hazardous fall and hostile attention below, whilst the latter unleashes a battery of barracuda within a set of claustrophobically small, flooded rooms.

Whilst the levelīs debut trial is undoubtedly its most dramatic, it is only the first of a series of complex and substantial puzzles which will collectively come to define this as one of Tomb Raider 2īs most cerebral experiences. A notably intricate and taxing challenge involving timed switches and burners within the mission is arguably one of the most memorable tests within the entire game.

40 Fathoms is unique across all the levels of Tomb Raider 2 for adopting a largely unadulterated focus on this gameplay style. The structure of the level and path of progression is strictly linear, and human enemies are uncharacteristically sparse. This marked stripping back of other elements and distractions creates space for atmosphere and focus that give the level a unique undertone of isolation, composure, and tension.

Critical to cultivating this climate are an environment that is distinctly unfamiliar and remote, and an ambience which combines echoes of dripping water with the dull thumping of Laraīs heartbeat.

Whilst other levels set within the wreck will follow, they incorporate many areas furnished for inhabitation, however derelict and spoiled they have subsequently become. 40 Fathoms however remains planted throughout within the shipīs more featureless maintenance areas, which only enhances its sense of foreignness and a capacity for straining the playerīs sense of adjustment at all times.

What results from these subtle and coordinated design choices is a level and an experience which transgresses presumption and convention to provide something which is unique and even intoxicating.

Whilst 40 Fathoms undoubtedly then has the makings of a level which is truly remarkable and special, the specialism of its design is also the primary source of its weaknesses. As much as this is a level of great impact, it is an impact which can generally only be received as intended on the first encounter.

For a level so linear and concentrated, its intimidation, complexity and the elusiveness of its obstacles are not entirely, but still swiftly diminished through familiarisation. As a result, this is a level which struggles more than most with maintaining its stature during replays. This is perhaps the single most convincing reason that 40 Fathoms, among all levels of Tomb Raider 2, gradually descends on return visits in the direction of obscurity so far beyond the apparent merits of its genius and notoriety.

In summarising, this is a level of contradictions and enigmas that are revealed through repeated engagement. It is perhaps the most notorious level of Laraīs quest on first encounter, and yet one of its more routine in replay. And for a level that becomes highly accessible and solvable with return visits, it remains at first, despite its title, one of Tomb Raider 2īs most unfathomable.

VERDICT: 81%

Last edited by Danjo86; 08-11-23 at 13:05.
Danjo86 is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off



All times are GMT. The time now is 10:55.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.11
Copyright ©2000 - 2023, vBulletin Solutions Inc.
Tomb Raider Forums is not owned or operated by CDE Entertainment Ltd.
Lara Croft and Tomb Raider are trademarks of CDE Entertainment Ltd.