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Old 24-05-19, 21:45   #171
sheepman23
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Originally Posted by TR1249 View Post
Great review

RX Tech is one of my fave levels in TR3 besides Madubu, Lud's Gate and Area 51.

The minecart was fun to ride tho, especially when the death animation is glitching out
Lmao that death animation tho I always laughed when Lara would like slowly hit the wall on one of the dead-end tracks and go flying backwards.

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Originally Posted by Final Count View Post
First of all, I'm obviously less nostalgic about the entire Antarctica chapter, because this chapter clearly requires a dedicated full playthrough to unlock, whereas I as a kid often just played India, and from that save loaded up London, Nevada or South Pacific. All those chapters are nostalgia overload for me. I also remember I had A LOT of trouble with this level. I kept going through the mine carts in wrong order, going the wrong places at the wrong time, getting poisoned, or killed by the huge mutants etc.
True, the later levels in TR games always tend to be this way for me - especially so with TR3 and TR4, which are much more monstrous in terms of content to the point that I likely had several playthroughs that wound up stopped sometime in the middle.

I've got my own opinions of the entire Antarctica section, but can't totally share them until I'm done with the final two reviews...

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But I also remember that I really didn't like RX Tech Mines for the darkness and horror. Nowadays, I love that kind of stuff, but it still feels like the adventure and exploration of Tomb Raider is far away here. RX Tech Mines is no Madubu Gorge.
RX Tech Mines does suffer a bit from being so constrained. Your exploration is always pretty linear and never "hey, I wonder if I can go there?" I suppose I'm totally fine with it here though; TR3 opens up its environments often enough that this change of pace works for me.

As always, thanks for the comments Final Count.
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Old 25-05-19, 04:28   #172
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ANTARCTICA
Level 18 - Lost City of Tinnos




Over the course of my many reviews, I've spent a great deal of time boasting about how a potent atmosphere is one of the key factors in whether or not I'll find a level memorable. It was just brought up at great length in RX Tech Mines, actually, and has been the basis around several high ratings of this review. Aldwych, Temple Ruins, and Madubu Gorge are all stages that benefit from having a world and essence that ropes me in effectively. I love those levels for that. All three have their own shortcomings in the gameplay department - yes, even Madubu with its mile-long monkey swings and ladders - but they all more or less present a very enjoyable journey for the player to navigate through.

TR3's proven ability to knock it out of the park makes it difficult to talk about Antarctica's third level. The honest truth? Tinnos wants to be the epic TR3 version of Temple of Xian. It wants to be the penultimate hour of discomfort and unease before the game's end. It wants to challenge and exercise the mind of the player. But Tinnos fails in almost every department here, and it's probably the saddest failure of a stage because of all of the potential it had.

It's funny to think that the beginning of the lost city is actually one of the stronger parts of the level since it practically is the antithesis of what we've come to know for a "final" experience in these games. Atlantis and the Temple of Xian threw us to the dogs immediately; Tinnos, on the other hands, starts out with an air of quiet unease as we explore a moderately-excavated chamber for clues on how to proceed. It's pretty boring gameplay, yes, but it's not involved and thus gives us a chance to soak in the whispers and ambiance in the background. (I should mention that the designers automatically draw comparisons to TR2 here by reusing TR2's Xian ambiance... )



After a short and sweet puzzle involving our knowledge of the food chain - which is a pretty clever idea, I might add - we're treated to another room that shows a lot of promise. It's a giant bridge with a chasm in the middle; the center has likely crumbled away from the wear and tear of the years. This room marks the return of the invisible platforms that we previously saw in Temple Ruins, and they're used effectively to guide us to the 1st secret. And up until this point? I have no reason to do anything but glow about Tinnos. It sets a dark tone right away and doesn't bomb the player with unnecessary combat or ridiculous traps until its necessary.

If only the remaining 90% of the level had any concept of this approach...

The reveal of the wasps arriving from the nest in this same cavern goes through a few phases. First, it's downright creepy and kind of cool. Then it gets a tad bit annoying as we realize that the bugs just keep coming and coming. After that, we reach pure frustration until we finally give up and stop killing the things altogether. Well... some people do that, I guess. I can never bring myself to run around with those damn wasps free to knock me off ledges, so yes, I always take the time to kill each and every one of them.

Let's be clear on something: the never-ending wasps of Tinnos are one of the absolute worst ideas for casual gameplay in the series. They offer zero challenge. They do not come out all at once, but rather in a delayed succession from the nests. They take many pistol shots to down. Finally, there are TONS of them. Just when you think you've defeated all of them because the nest stops glowing green, you realize that there are actually still about 15-20 more! It's great! Hahahahaha **** you game.





Outside of the wasps, the only enemies Tinnos has are the odd-looking beasts that show up in a few key spots. These guys are actually pretty menacing, although something gets lost here when you've already spent most of RX Tech Mines dropping some of the series' creepiest inventions. At least these beasts are pretty well-fortified, though, which means that the designers finally push you to pull out the big guns once and for all. I expended all of my rockets and a lot of my DEagle clips this time around, and it was well worth it.

And, no joke here, I ALSO got rid of my remaining Uzi ammo and some MP5/shotgun shells on the wasps. I got that annoyed in the last poolroom with the Uli Key and just went to town using my heavy-duty guns. Because that's what the game forced me to do.

One half of the city of Tinnos proper is dedicated to a cage room filled with beasts - and an exciting use of "No Waiting Around" for the final time - and then two larger chambers. The first one contains several trapdoors and switches that need to be thrown in the correct order to open the doors on the floor (and maybe get a particularly tricky secret if you can find it ). This room is just okay. I like the switch-and-trapdoor puzzle well enough, and I think the designers wanted to feel like they were making us really think hard to solve this. While it wasn't that challenging, it at least made me put some thought in. What I was more unimpressed with was the amount of time it took to navigate this room. Additions like the crawlspaces to get to and from a switch on the top level isn't very good design to me, especially since those crawlspaces offer no gameplay value or aesthetic function.



The left side of the city, however, is mostly pretty standard gameplay and only truly suffers from the absolutely asinine amount of wasps it contains. But I've beaten that dead horse enough already, so let's talk about Tinnos' much bigger feature: the elemental puzzles.

I feel like the Tomb Raider series has a hard time doing themed puzzles effectively. I'm sure many are going to disagree with this, and that's fine, but I just really have never been impressed when the games have tried. TR1's St. Francis Folly is a great stage but really slacks off in its implementations of the four challenge rooms. Two of them are entirely forgettable while one of them is memorable for the wrong reasons. Likewise, AoD created a grand elemental puzzle and one of the most atmospheric levels in the series, but then wasted that potential on 3 of the most downright frustrating jumping challenges I've ever seen. Anniversary's folly is probably the best the series has ever gotten in this regard, but even that's not so great when you realize it's standing on the rough ideas of TR1's version.

While I don't dislike every elemental challenge of Tinnos, I certainly have a lot of issues to talk about with these rooms... and I'll describe them in the order I played them during this run. This order is also consequently worst to best for me.



Thematically, I have no problems with what the water challenge presents to us. It keeps the player underwater for most of the time, which seems appropriate. But the excessive use of touchy underwater blades quickly goes from being challenging to overly exhausting. Your swims have less to do with how long you can hold your breath or keep track of your surroundings, and more to do with how lucky you are at timing swims past huge underwater blades. Because damn does the health go flying if your reflexes aren't good (hint: mine aren't). Even without the blades, however, the water puzzle was always going to have issues being fun since there's just not the breadth of diverse gameplay underwater that we have on land. It's not a fun section by any stretch of the imagination, and the only consolation is that it can potentially be over pretty quickly if you don't opt to pick up any side items.

The earth puzzle, similarly, is thematically fantastic. Falling rubble and quicksand definitely sets the tone here, and the wasps are used effectively for ONE single time in this level by popping up when you're slogging through the mud. It creates tension. The earth puzzle, however, is not fun either because of how utterly unfair it is. The quicksand mire on your first time through the main chamber has no clear markings on which parts are deep and which aren't, which means you're playing a guessing game on where to go. Then, when the player takes the Oceanic Mask from above, the tension rises again as the ceiling starts to collapse. At first, it seems like the lesson is to advance slowly and cautiously so that debris can fall first, but during our retreat through the caves, we come across a patch of rubble that can only be dodged by practically sprinting past it. That's terribly inconsistent in a challenge that makes no other efforts to show us how to avoid these encounters. I didn't like it in one bit, and it happens multiple times here.





I don't have much of anything to say about the air puzzle. It's not nearly as frustrating as the two aforementioned elemental challenges, but is also very boring. Also... what does a maze have to do with air? I think they just sort of got lazy here and did the quickest thing they could design. I will say this: if Caves of Kaliya was going to go the maze route, they really should've taken some pointers from Tinnos' maze, because this thing actually has landmarks and quite a few goodies hanging around. A maze can quickly go from being terrible to tolerable with those few tricks. So, kudos to you game... I think?

The fire elemental challenge gets the honor of Best Challenge based solely on not sucking or being forgettable. In all seriousness, though, this stuff is mostly good, although the beginning chamber could've really done a better job of showing Lara how to reveal the safe path across the fiery pillars. I feel like the "light a flare" trick is pretty well lost on a player that's never had to use this type of gameplay functionality before. Everything about the second chamber, however, is just awesome, and it's easily one of the highlights of the lost city. It's tricky to cross the invisible platforms but the game doesn't use any tricks or unexplained gameplay devices to advance you.

After completing each of the four challenges, Lara can utilize the Oceanic masks and the Uli Key to snuff out the pillar of light and advance to the level's end. I will give strong praise to Tinnos' send of progression and objectives; this is something that I've had a tendency to knock stages for throughout TR3, but Tinnos does a surprisingly great job of keeping its goals in check and communicating them to the player.





Conclusion:

Pros:
+ Excellent ambiance, city aesthetics, and atmosphere
+ The fire challenge is awesome
+ Designers effectively communicate what the end goal should be in the city
+ A few really great puzzles scattered throughout

Cons:
- The. Wasps. Are. AWFUL.
- The wasps get a second con because of how terrible they are
- Level could've used a little more normal combat against the hulking beasts; we only encounter like 7 of them across the entire stage
- 3 out of the 4 elemental challenges are either frustrating or boring or both
- Overall, just a lot of tedious gameplay

There used to be a time that I had fallen for Tinnos. I thought that the ambiance and city itself were among the greatest creations in the TR franchise. And to be fair, the lost city's presentation is definitely well-executed. I didn't really touch on the appearance much throughout the review, but massive props to the designers for making this city feel like a once-alive but ultimately haunted residence.

All of this praise I'm singing for the appearance, then, feels like such a complete waste when you realize how many normal things the designers stumbled on here. I don't need to say any more about the wasps, but... what about all of the other problems? What about the classic TR3 "pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you" mentality of the water and earth puzzles? What about the trapdoor-and-switch room, which was a neat idea but so tediously elongated? What about the lack of focus on Tinnos' guardians and the absolutely terrible amount of wasp encounters? (Yes, I know I just said I wasn't going to mention them again )

It's frankly just really disappointing that this is TR3's final hurrah before the finale. The reuse of TR2's Xian ambiance, as I mentioned earlier, almost makes it seem like the designers wanted us to directly compare this adventure to the Temple of Xian. If that's what they wanted, then I have some bad news for them: nothing will top the sheer chaos and invigorating trap-oriented gameplay from that level, and it's a shame that Tinnos wasn't able to effectively do its own thing here. It could have. All of the pieces of the city were there. What wasn't there, however, was quality gameplay to make the experience enjoyable.

Long story short? Focus on the atmosphere, yes, but don't use that as a pass to ignore the shortcomings and frustrations of the experience you're building for the player.

(I mean, just imagine if we had spent all of Madubu Gorge fending off random dragonflies... guess what, you wouldn't see that level anywhere close to a 10 rating )

Rating - 6/10


Current Rankings:
  1. Madubu Gorge (10/10)
  2. Area 51 (10/10)
  3. Crash Site (9/10)
  4. Aldwych (9/10)
  5. Nevada Desert (9/10)
  6. Temple Ruins (8/10)
  7. RX Tech Mines (8/10)
  8. High Security Compound (8/10)
  9. Jungle (8/10)
  10. City (8/10)
  11. Coastal Village (7/10)
  12. Lud's Gate (6/10)
  13. The River Ganges (6/10)
  14. Antarctica (6/10)
  15. Lost City of Tinnos (6/10)
  16. Thames Wharf (6/10)
  17. Temple of Puna (5/10)
  18. Caves of Kaliya (4/10)
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Old 25-05-19, 05:49   #173
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So you didn't like the wasps then?

Nice review again.
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Old 25-05-19, 07:39   #174
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Isn't the purpose of the Tinnos maze to follow the sound of the wind blowing to find the way out? I thought that was a pretty creative use of the air concept given the limitations of the game engine at the time. It was also much better executed than Cave of Kaliya's maze which involved the player wandering around aimlessly the whole level.
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Old 25-05-19, 07:41   #175
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Isn't the purpose of the Tinnos maze to follow the sound of the wind blowing to find the way out? I thought that was a pretty creative use of the air concept given the limitations of the game engine at the time.
Yes, also her hair blows in the wind direction
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Old 25-05-19, 12:01   #176
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Originally Posted by tlr online View Post
So you didn't like the wasps then?

Nice review again.
Oh... do I need to make the point one more time?

Thanks!

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Originally Posted by Krumpet View Post
Isn't the purpose of the Tinnos maze to follow the sound of the wind blowing to find the way out? I thought that was a pretty creative use of the air concept given the limitations of the game engine at the time. It was also much better executed than Cave of Kaliya's maze which involved the player wandering around aimlessly the whole level.
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Originally Posted by Woops View Post
Yes, also her hair blows in the wind direction
Interesting. I never noticed that the wind gets louder as you reach the ending. If so, chalk up one more reason why this maze is 10x better than Kaliya's (and yes, I did mention that it has other reasons too for being better than Kaliya ). I do still think it's a pretty loose way of tying air into the puzzle but I suppose it's good enough given the limitations.
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Old 25-05-19, 13:20   #177
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I like the review. Although I have a completely different take on lost city of Tinnos. It's always interesting to see others opinions
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Old 25-05-19, 13:30   #178
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I like the review. Although I have a completely different take on lost city of Tinnos. It's always interesting to see others opinions
Hey Maverin - thanks for reading. And totally fair - I fully suspect that I'll generate a bit of disagreement for this one in particular. I certainly don't hate Tinnos... just not my cup of tea.
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Old 25-05-19, 13:40   #179
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Haha yeah, we pretty much agree here. Compared to Atlantis and the Temple of Xian, The Lost City of Tinnos is pretty depressive. It's a decent level, but I agree on everything you wrote about it - in particular the wasps!

In fact, I think your points on the elemental puzzles are spot-on. Like, the water puzzle... yes, Lara is underwater, but it's not really the water that is "the challenge", is it? Sure, it's more difficult to move through blades in water, but it's still the blades that are the challenge.

I GUESS the maze was an Air-related challenge, because Air is associated with thinking, and you need to be smart to solve a maze? I don't know :P Perhaps the giant room with the platforms and levers should've been the Air challenge? Because, you know, the chance of falling from great heights, as well as figuring out the levers and platforms.

I keep comparing this level to the Temple of Xian, which is an iconic level, and Tinnos simply cannot live up to it. I always remembered Tinnos as this ENORMOUS level, like Xian, but it is actually pretty compact? There's the room at the beginning, the bridge area, and then there's basically just the left side and right side of the temple. Perhaps Temple Ruins should be viewed as the Temple of Xian of Tomb Raider III?
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Old 25-05-19, 21:05   #180
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I GUESS the maze was an Air-related challenge, because Air is associated with thinking, and you need to be smart to solve a maze? I don't know :P Perhaps the giant room with the platforms and levers should've been the Air challenge? Because, you know, the chance of falling from great heights, as well as figuring out the levers and platforms.
Hadn't thought of the switch-and-trapdoor room working for air, but I think that makes more sense than the maze. I would've tweaked that room since I didn't exactly love it, but it could've worked just fine I think.

Quote:
I keep comparing this level to the Temple of Xian, which is an iconic level, and Tinnos simply cannot live up to it. I always remembered Tinnos as this ENORMOUS level, like Xian, but it is actually pretty compact? There's the room at the beginning, the bridge area, and then there's basically just the left side and right side of the temple. Perhaps Temple Ruins should be viewed as the Temple of Xian of Tomb Raider III?
I think it's probably a little unfair for me to judge it so closely against Temple of Xian, but I do think the designers kind of set up this comparison when they decide to use the same background ambiance in the game's penultimate adventure. It mimics TR2's closing stages quite a bit even though it's visually much different.

Tinnos isn't quite as huge as its made out to be, I agree. I think the left-hand path for the Uli Key really could've had a lot more exploration-oriented content to it, but it didn't.
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