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Old 06-04-19, 13:21   #41
NoahCrofRaider
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Haha, good write-up for this one! I definitely agree that it would have been better if the last quarter of Caves of Kaliya was tacked on to River Ganges; it would have suited things better.

I was always somewhat indifferent to the level. I think the idea of a maze to top things off for that section is a rather good one, but it was indeed poorly executed.
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Old 06-04-19, 14:46   #42
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Yeah, the overuse of mazes was pretty lame

I absolutely LOVE the Tony room though! The way the colour changes from basic India to trippy pink and orange still might be my favourite sight in the whole game Plus, I love circling Tony while shooting him with one pistol and jumping over the gaps.. it's such a fun and badass looking little challenge
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Old 06-04-19, 15:25   #43
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Originally Posted by norabrave View Post
Good job on this! TR3 has my first classic TR, I love this game, but I hate some levels... Can't wait to see your Lud's Gate review! Hahahaha
Lol At the rate I'm already going with frustration this time around, don't be shocked if Lud's Gate gets a less-than-stellar rating.

Thanks for reading norabrave! And I feel the same way as you. I adore TR3 but damn I used to hate it when I was growing up. Now I know where all of the "gotcha!" moments are and can appreciate its beauty and level design a lot more.

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Originally Posted by NoahCrofRaider View Post
Haha, good write-up for this one! I definitely agree that it would have been better if the last quarter of Caves of Kaliya was tacked on to River Ganges; it would have suited things better.

I was always somewhat indifferent to the level. I think the idea of a maze to top things off for that section is a rather good one, but it was indeed poorly executed.
For sure. If the maze had been a lot more interesting, I would've been okay with it... but little to no effort was put into it.

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I absolutely LOVE the Tony room though! The way the colour changes from basic India to trippy pink and orange still might be my favourite sight in the whole game Plus, I love circling Tony while shooting him with one pistol and jumping over the gaps.. it's such a fun and badass looking little challenge
Agree! It's a pretty explosive and vibrant change of color at once, definitely a cool moment. I also know what you mean with the circling-around thing; I used to try and do that on replays but this time around I was just lazy and di the side-flips Certainly makes the battle more epic if you do it the former way, however.
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Old 06-04-19, 16:25   #44
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Lol At the rate I'm already going with frustration this time around, don't be shocked if Lud's Gate gets a less-than-stellar rating.

Thanks for reading norabrave! And I feel the same way as you. I adore TR3 but damn I used to hate it when I was growing up. Now I know where all of the "gotcha!" moments are and can appreciate its beauty and level design a lot more.
Hahaaha me too, I played all classics TR last year, and now I like more them. I understand a little more english too (I'm brazillian), so I like the story. Hahaaha
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Old 06-04-19, 17:28   #45
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FYI everyone - I'm going to go ahead and forge ahead with London. I'm feeling like playing a lot this weekend and don't want to slow down the momentum. Even if I get far ahead of where the review is at, I'll still be keeping it to about 2 reviews per week, so expect Thames Wharf by the end of Sunday at least.
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Old 06-04-19, 19:18   #46
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^Awesome!

Looking forward to the magnificent screenshots, too!
As a console classic player these days, I really miss the bright darkness colours and haunting architecture of Lara's London journey I gush about it too much but the coloured light effects and rich, deep textures is something TR3 did so right ♡
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Old 06-04-19, 21:35   #47
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The idea of a maze in itself is not the worst thing ever.
I thought about this and yes I also must say, mazes doesn't really work in Tomb Raider and I think I have an explanation. The answer is easy: Every Tomb Raider level is structured the following way: You are thrown in an environment where you can explore everything, can go different paths, must find the right paths and find by exploration more pickups, secrets or nasty surprises. A maze is quite the opposite to this concept. You must find the right way through an environment where only one way is the right and the rest will lead into nothingness. But as a Tomb Raider player you want to explore every angle of a level and maybe found even the best hidden bullets. So you obviously will also explore the mazes in Tomb Raider like the rest in the level and this results in this tedious experience, that it is cooler to explore an environment where you can find more than the same-looking deadends. So obviously a maze won't work well in Tomb Raider.

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A maze can also be a lot less frustrating if there are visual cues to tell the player which direction they need to go for the main route. Perhaps there's simply texturing on the ground which functions as a main walkway, and thus allows the player to know exactly when they're branching off from the main path.
I can agree with the left-path-maze. This is some mess with no clue which would be the right direction, but I think the second maze has a subtle way to show the right way. There are a grey path and a brown path and I think the grey path leads to the next area and the brown path only to snakes or some goodies. Of course the third maze area is again a dull affair.
But for me the maze areas have one good feature to fall completely from grace. The encounters with the snakes are quite surprising and for me as a kid they were terrfying. It is different kind of encounter than in the jungle or the temple where you can see the snakes early. This time it is going behind a corner an suddenly be bitten by one of these.

But you said it, the last two areas are a big plus of this level. I love this cobra pit (and yes, there must have been one in these levels, otherwise India would not be complete) and of course the Tony fight. I think this is the first time since Torso that you not only have to regard your enemy, but also the surroundings. Turning the water into a deadly burning liquid makes this fight much more difficult, if there were only water. And also I like, that jumping left and right will not suffice against Tony, because his fire balls are too random.
So all this considered I would probably give Caves of Kaliya atleast a 5/10. Two great areas concur with a dull one.

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How he had any idea AT ALL where those stones were located?
There are some interesting theories, like the Nevada artifact was taken through the Pinochet coup in Chile. It is with the story the same as with Tomb Raider 1. More show than tell and many figuring out by yourself.
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Old 07-04-19, 15:37   #48
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Originally Posted by GRaider View Post
The answer is easy: Every Tomb Raider level is structured the following way: You are thrown in an environment where you can explore everything, can go different paths, must find the right paths and find by exploration more pickups, secrets or nasty surprises. A maze is quite the opposite to this concept. You must find the right way through an environment where only one way is the right and the rest will lead into nothingness. But as a Tomb Raider player you want to explore every angle of a level and maybe found even the best hidden bullets. So you obviously will also explore the mazes in Tomb Raider like the rest in the level and this results in this tedious experience, that it is cooler to explore an environment where you can find more than the same-looking deadends. So obviously a maze won't work well in Tomb Raider.
I think you're right. It's forced exploration that holds very little mystique or creativeness of traversal. Although the tower room of St. Francis Folly or the cliffs of Highland Fling may contain several item pickups on the sides that I need to take detours to reach, it's still exploration-oriented and challenges me to find ways to reach those items. This is just dull extension of running down hallways, and the reveals of the cobras are the ONLY slightly exciting thing we get. And even those aren't particularly bad now that we've endured two levels' worth of them.

As always, appreciate your thoughts GRaider! Thames Wharf review coming up soon-ish...
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Old 07-04-19, 17:12   #49
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LONDON
Level 5 - Thames Wharf




I don't know if the TR series has ever quite nailed globe-trotting in the same way the designers did with Tomb Raider III. After India, the player is presented with the choice of traveling to three places: Nevada, London, or the South Pacific islands. Consequently, TR3 is the only title to actually allow a choice of what order they want to complete core sections of the game in. This wouldn't seem like such a big deal... except that the designers throw in a little caveat: Nevada forces Lara to lose all of her weapons... AND AMMO. That footnote is extremely important, because if you complete Nevada last, you're not only going to have less weapons going into Antarctica (the game's toughest area), but you will also have minimal firepower.

Of course, that caveat is in theme with TR3's "no nonsense" attitude, so I think it makes sense, but it can leave a player frustrated since there's no way of knowing that on your first run. But other than that problem, I think TR3's "select your adventure" feature is quite satisfying and even offers a little more in terms of replay value.

As far as globe-trotting goes: the reason TR3 is unparalleled in its use of locations is because A) none of them feel remotely similar to eachother, B) there are different themes and subplots explored in each location, and C) There's a lot of content in each section. That last point is important, because remember Legend? That's a game that would have earned its title as "Best Globe Trotter"... except for how little we actually see of each location. This isn't the case in TR3. We're about to see just how many angles of London the designers are going to provide us in the next four levels.



But anyway, back to the main event of the hour: Thames Wharf.

Until now, Tomb Raider III has not given Lara a huge, open space to explore, and it certainly hasn't gone too vertical with many of its areas. So when the player finds themselves on a random rooftop in the middle of a light drizzle at nighttime, it's quite an overwhelming wallop in the face. In every direction that Lara can look, there are places we obviously need to go. There's even an entire side area which houses the level's first secret, but realizing that it's even possible to get over to the crane can't be deduced until you find an unconventional path over the rooftop next to you.

All in all, this overload of exploration and perception at the beginning of Thames Wharf would seem to be a promising sign of a great level ahead. And in some ways, you might be right. I do find it refreshing when the designers say, "You go figure it out" as opposed to holding our hand. While I absolutely adore Tomb Raider II, and especially its level design, there were often times where our leash was a little too tightened. Progression of the level was more about running into a series of laid-out actions as opposed to having to discover them for yourself. There were a few notable exceptions to this - Opera House, The Floating Islands, and Barkhang Monastery to name a few - but on the whole, TR2's level design was catered towards its action-oriented premises, and that was normally just fine.



In India, I would say that the level design mostly mimicking what worked well for TR2. But London is only the first of several levels to change that idea around. With Thames Wharf, there's a higher emphasis on putting the exploration first and then deducing where you need to go next from that. At the level's beginning, the player can spend a solid 30 minutes climbing, running, and jumping their way around the desolate alleyways without even knowing where they should go next. This confusion can be extended if the fire pit - which Lara needs to turn off in order to progress - isn't recognized as a possible route at all.

Going back to my initial point: I find the encouragement for exploration to be welcoming, but it's also a huge drawback in Thames Wharf's case. There's no concept of a goal in this level. Yes, we can see the cathedral dome in this distance, but there's not a good reason to suggest that that's the final destination of this level. Furthermore, as previously stated, we may have no idea at all that that fiery pit actually leads anywhere interesting. In fact, hiding a secret directly behind that pit can mislead us into believing that pit existed for the sole purpose of hindering us to reach that. So a player might completely forget about it and move on, looking for the next way forward... until they stumble upon the flue room and get the vision of the fire going out.

But here's the other thing: normally, this type of confusion wouldn't be a big problem for me. The "Oh, that was actually more important than I thought!" concept is sure as hell not new for Tomb Raider. The problem is that Thames Wharf's opening area does everything in its power to slow down the process of traversal. This is the list of things we have to do before bypassing that burner:
  • Climb lengthy ladders 6-8 times
  • Crawl through a long-as-hell tunnel 3 times
  • Potentially do both of the above actions more times if we get lost
  • Try to find out what the purpose of a random key is

This opening area is frustrating because it combines goal-less exploration with a layout that forces you spend a lot of time navigating it. This isn't The Opera House, where it's more or less pretty easy to return to the top floor after getting to the bottom. It's a bad design issue that really pushes my ability to enjoy this starting alleyway, which is unfortunate since the vertical exploration is certainly welcome.



After finding our way forward past the burner, Thames Wharf's second half is a little more constrictive and less laborious than the first portion. But it still suffers from a lack of an end goal. I played TR3 many times back in the day, and even I couldn't remember what on earth I was supposed to be doing in this set of underground chambers. There's a lot of aimless "well, that's the only switch I can pull, so might as well put it!" action going on here, and sometimes the results of said actions aren't at all clear. For instance, lowering the water level in one of the chambers causes the huge underwater fans beneath it to slow down, allowing Lara to bypass them. Unless I totally missed it, that event is not at all communicated to the player. Was I supposed to infer that?

This bit does contain one of the better puzzles in TR3 though, and that's the encounter with the electrical robot. Normally block-pushing is the last thing I want to be doing in this game, but I think the use of the block to redirect this robot into smashing the electrical panel is a good bit that forces us to use our brain. No, it's not all that challenging, but I'm all for unconventional bits of gameplay, and this encounter fits that to a T. Also, unlike most of the preceding bits of Thames Wharf, the goal of this puzzle is emphasized through a close-up on the panel as we enter the room.





I have yet to talk about Thames Wharf's use of enemies, music, and secrets, and I think this would be a good opportunity to do that now that we're running into the London guards. In the first half of this stage, we encountered what were presumably Sophia's minions. These guys carry laser-scoped machine guns and generally feel like "shoot first, ask questions later" types of guys. They're akin to the Mafia enemies of Tomb Raider II, so it makes sense that our heroine doesn't ever pause before killing them. (Although, I do have to question why on earth Lara waits until she runs into the white-haired guy at the end before asking any of them questions about Miss Leigh... but that's a discussion for the end of this review ).

On the other hand, the guards in this water-filtration plant (is that what this is? I'm going to call it that for now lol) do not appear to work for Sophia, and they're probably just doing their regular jobs. This is the first of many instances where TR3 is going to have some issues explaining Lara's morality in attacking someone. In this case, it seems quite morally wrong to be taking out security guards who see a heavily-armed woman breaking in. Lara has certainly never been a shining beacon of morality, of course - after all, we haven't even talked about the endangered animal populations that she carelessly dispatches - but this is a little different because it's bringing extreme casualness to taking out innocents. That's a problem, and it's only going to become more of a problem as we progress through TR3...

As far as secrets go, there's not a whole lot to talk about with Thames Wharf. Most of them are pretty one-dimensional or easy to locate, and the only exception is the very first one of the level. There's an entire side area with the crane that can be navigated, and the only problem with this one is that is has a tiny reward. In fact, there's no new weapons at all in this level, which is a tad bit disappointing since I'm still stuck with just the shotgun and grenade launcher... the latter of which is very limited in usability.





One of the more satisfying moments of Thames Wharf is emerging from the underwater tunnels and back out onto the London rooftops. After walking and jumping our way through some barbed wire, we're finally able to access the cathedral we saw at the level's beginning. I like that the level comes full circle here, and we have a couple more secrets to grab and enemies to dispatch before the player accidentally stumbles upon the level's ending... yes, the walkway that looks EXACTLY like a normally-explorable area triggers a cutscene, which is a little dick-ish since the player may not have fully explored the cathedral before.

Anyway, Lara's conversation with Mr. Hitman is short-lived but easily one of the more entertaining exchanges in the game. This guy also tips us off to a few... oddities about Miss Leigh: she has mercenaries out to dispatch her enemies, has put a pretty large price on Lara's head, and also seems to never age. That last bit is important and will drive the events of the next few levels, but what makes this cutscene so great is mostly Lara's sassy confidence in the face of a guy that can actually tussle with her.



One final question before I get to the summary: Why in God's name did we not descend by helicopter onto... oh, I don't know, the cathedral? The game gave no indication of any important even for the first 90% of Thames Wharf, so the fact that we're on some nearby random rooftop tells me that the design team didn't really put much thought into what our objectives were supposed to be here. As a result, I don't think I will either...

Summary

Pros:
+ The exploration-oriented style of gameplay is welcome
+ Atmosphere is pretty on-point
+ The robot puzzle is a highlight of the level
+ The roundabout nature of reaching the cathedral is neat

Cons:
- The roundabout nature of reaching the cathedral is also... completely stupid when you think about it!
- Opening area is too laborious to traverse for the amount of exploration needed
- Enemies and secrets are pretty standard and unmemorable
- Overall, there's a huge lack of direction for what the player needs to do

I'm starting to wonder if TR3 is actually my favorite title of the series. That sounds really bad when I say it blatantly like that; the truth of the matter is that India and London have always been my two least-favorite areas of the game, so I'm sure my negativity is going to wear off as we progress in this review. But to be honest, I don't ever remember being this frustrated with Thames Wharf. That opening alleyway is promising and a good idea, but quickly falls into tedium since the vertical platforming can get old in a hurry. And the stage very rarely gives us any clues about where we're supposed to be going. I know I've said that about 5 zillion times, but I truly feel like it's one of the biggest deterrents.

*sigh* The good news? At the time of writing this review, I have already completed Aldwych, and it's going to be a notable step up in quality (although I'm still slightly undecided on a rating). So hang in there folks: my love for TR3 is about to shine through.

Rating - 6/10


Level Rankings (so far):
1. Temple Ruins (8)
2. Jungle (8)

3. Thames Wharf (6)
4. The River Ganges (6)
5. Caves of Kaliya (4)
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Old 08-04-19, 06:27   #50
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I completely agree with your assessment there. Thames Wharf had a few good spots punctuating really ambiguous level design.
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