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Old 15-04-19, 17:31   #81
Trenton
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Originally Posted by Final Count View Post
Now I'm looking forward to your Madubu Gorge review! My favorite Tomb Raider 3 level!
Madubu Gorge is amazing. Definitely a top five level imo. It's also one of those levels that recieves a lot of undeserved backlash from fans that's mainly due to whining about controling the kayaq.

Looking forward to read Sheepman's opinion about it.
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Old 15-04-19, 18:25   #82
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Madubu Gorge is amazing. Definitely a top five level imo. It's also one of those levels that recieves a lot of undeserved backlash from fans that's mainly due to whining about controling the kayaq.
A level we agree on ! Madubu Gorge is amazing

And we all know sheepman loves it as well
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Old 15-04-19, 22:03   #83
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And while Thames Wharf was a pretty subpar example of this combination, Aldwych is without a doubt one of the best modern/ancient mixes we've seen in this entire series.
I totally agree and Aldwych was the perfect location for this. An abandoned underground station, that was used during WW II as a kind of bunker for the people against airforce attacks from Nazi Germany. The posters are a kind of reminder of this.
And this atmosphere of a urban place once filled with life, but not (nearly) totally abandoned is for me the prime example how an urban area can feel like a tomb in Tomb Raider.

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More than that, there is never a moment where your exploration feels aimless because you can either obtain a vital puzzle item or identify something that you'll need to do later.
In this Aldwych is probably one of the best Tomb Raider levels. It drops Lara in a surrounding where she can go everywhere, and you see, that you need this and that to progress. But it is connected in such a confusing way, that normal players will get lost and became frustrated with the level. I saw many reviews where this level is hated, because of the confusing design and that it not highlighted in any way what to do to get certain items.

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These clear landmarks don't necessarily forgive the level's incredibly goal-less overarching theme; in fact, the one thing that isn't clearly shown is that there's a train car we can use to travel to another part of the station, and since that ends up being Aldwych's final destination, it seems like this train could have used some more visibility.
This is maybe my only complaint about this level, too. This train ride feels not ride. It is probably the engine of Tomb Raider. But the way to this train car and the "moving" of the train car and the way out of this thing is so obviously not how a person would travel with a subway, that even I can't defend it. If the doesn't have the ability to do it right, they should have excluded this part.

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Again, however, I can forgive the pretty unfair difficulty since the game shows innovation and creates memorable moments from each of these three encounters. Andy Sandham of Core Design chose the Masonic temple as an Aldwych addition because he "wanted to try and get in as much ‘London lore’ as possible in that area".
I also love the masonic temple. Is one of these little elements that made this level so nostalgic for me. It connects this station with common conspiracy theories of underground societies, that convene in secret areas underground. Finding this room is one of my greatest TR experiences every time I play this game. And this includes also the door puzzle before.

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No, there are no Shiva gods to defeat, but the members of the Damned and their attack dogs fit right at home in this abandoned subway station
Yes, they work very effective. The Damned are very creepy and one dog scares me everytime, even if I know exactly where he is. Also the design of emaciated, blood-veined dogs enhanced this feeling. And this is how enemies should be in Tomb Raider: a part of the level.

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he MP5 is revealed through the devious drill room secret, while the rocket launcher is an absolute monster to get since it forces the player to backtrack ALLLLLL the way back to a closed door on the far end of the level. The reward is awesome though since we also get a few ammo and medipack pickups in addition to the prized weapon, and even one final surprise enemy to top off a stage full of surprises.
The last secret is one of the best in all Tomb Raider history. It is not unfairly hard hidden like the first secret of the game or totally random to get like the timed-door one in Tinnos. It questions your normal insticts: Should I kill this guy or follow him? And that it shows you where your goal is and of course you know it. The question is: Will you end the level or take the time to get this secret? It adds roughly another ten minutes of gameplay in this superb level with two extra scary encounters with members of the Damned and the rocket launcher (or only a rocket and some other items, when you not play London first).

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Aldwych is truly an excellent piece of Tomb Raider gameplay, and that's not just from the perspective of TR3... that's from the perspective of the entire series. It will go down as one of the most challenging adventures too, and while it's sometimes for the wrong reasons, the level surprisingly presents a lot of goals and means-to-those-goals as we progress (other than that disappointing final subway car).
One of my favourite levels of all time and by far the best London level. It is nearly flawless.


Now to Lud's Gate

I have many many problems with this level, maybe not the same that others have with it, but I can understand the extreme hatred towards this level.
I will start with this:
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Solving the aforementioned puzzle leads us to the Embalming Fluid pick-up, as well as one of the weirder shortcuts of the game: the descent into the underwater maze area.
Like you said: You have a clear goal for the first time in London and it is totally unnecessary to fulfill it. Why? If you are not for secrets it is totally irrelevant to get the embalming fluid and even if you are for secrets it is totally irrelevant to bring it back, because in the end you land in the same area without much benefits (more harpoons, hooray).
This makes this conversation with the leader of the Damned unnecassary and confuses the player only more.

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The sphinx area is just okay.
I love this area, but there is one point I can't understand: You can totally skip this area, when you are not into secrets. This huge area with a dangerous climb on a massive sphinx (so it is the Sanctuary of the Scion sphinx, why the hell would a grand sphinx moved all the way from Egypt to London, every archaeologist would rage at this money-spending and for the sphinx itself highly risking mission) is only there to get two secrets and fight some guards. And this area doesn't even remotely look like a museum. So after doing Aldwych so right and actually make the player believe he is in an underground station, they come up with this?

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I won't lie: I really like the underground warehouse that requires us to be quiet and out-of-sight in order to get the level's final secret.
This is another great secret that forces the player to think more clearly to get it, than just searching every nook and cranny of the level. The only thing I don't understand, why the alarm still goes off moments before you reach the secret. Yes, I know you still get it, but after doing all this, you probably think you have screwed it in the last moments, only with the delay to realize you still get the secret. But maybe some players, who have figured out what to do will reload at this moment very often to find some way around the last guard.

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Let's talk about the problems of this area.
Your summarize is perfect. This area is probably the worst in Tomb Raider 3. Steering a hard to control vehicle through narrow underwater passages without knowing if it is the right one and fight some scuba divers is not challenging, it is just tedious and frustrating.
And yes, the dive after getting the boiler room key is just a dickish move. Why punishing the player for getting through this area with another dumb diving?

But the point I disliked the most about this level is the missing sense of structure of this level: Where the hell are we? It feels like they had three levels and because of constraining and time pressure they have to merge it into one level. I have absolutely no sense of direction in this level. We are deep underground (under a subway station), but a museum is right next to us (or is it an underground museum). The warehouse doesn't feel like a warehouse (thank you, sheepman, I never would have given this area a proper name). And what are these parts with the pistons and swinging things and the industrial mud? Why are we suddenly in an industrial area? And this industrial part doesn't make the least sense. They are just some traps, but the pistons and the swinging things doesn't seem to have a real function.
And on top of this, suddenly we are in Sophia Leigh's office hundred of metres above ground. Is there a whole level missing between the end of Lud's Gate and the Sophia cutscene. I don't get it. This is the one Tomb Raider level where I have no sense of direction or what the location is where Lara is. And this alone made Lud's Gate the only mediocre level in Tomb Raider 3 for me.
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Old 16-04-19, 02:06   #84
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Up until that underwater maze, Lud's Gate was just fine, though I do find it amusing that the Natural History Museum has an Egyptian exhibit with a massive Sanctuary of the Scion-esque sphinx underneath it. Ancient histories of civilizations isn't exactly their wheelhouse, that's more the British Museum's thing Speaking of which, I wonder if, in universe, that's meant to be the same sphinx. I notice that its back is collapsed where the corridor should be.
The sphinx is certainly a fascinating touch that I didn't really spend much time on in the review. Its resemblance to the TR1 version is strong, like you mention, and its also sitting in... the Museum of Natural History? Lol, Lud's Gate feels more and more like a hodge-podge of random ideas when you really get down to its parts.

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Originally Posted by Final Count View Post
Now I'm looking forward to your Madubu Gorge review! My favorite Tomb Raider 3 level!
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Originally Posted by Trenton View Post
Madubu Gorge is amazing. Definitely a top five level imo. It's also one of those levels that recieves a lot of undeserved backlash from fans that's mainly due to whining about controling the kayaq.

Looking forward to read Sheepman's opinion about it.
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Originally Posted by Patrick star View Post
A level we agree on ! Madubu Gorge is amazing

And we all know sheepman loves it as well
Oh Lord.

As Patrick already said, y'all know that I'm in love with it. The question this time around won't be whether or not it's an amazing level, but whether it's worthy of a coveted 10/10 score. With the way my review has been going so far, I could totally see myself finding a reason to be pissed off with a part of it... lol. But I'm highly doubtful that will happen.

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Originally Posted by GRaider View Post
I totally agree and Aldwych was the perfect location for this. An abandoned underground station, that was used during WW II as a kind of bunker for the people against airforce attacks from Nazi Germany. The posters are a kind of reminder of this.
And this atmosphere of a urban place once filled with life, but not (nearly) totally abandoned is for me the prime example how an urban area can feel like a tomb in Tomb Raider.
Hadn't ever thought of the posters, or the fact that an underground station would have history as a WWII bunker. That only adds to the awesome lore that Aldwych has. It's not just a series of random rooftops and buildings in a place that's definitely not near the Thames River... or a wharf...

In fact, with some of the touches shown on this level, the design feels very close to the intricacy put into the TR3 Gold levels.

Quote:
I also love the masonic temple. Is one of these little elements that made this level so nostalgic for me. It connects this station with common conspiracy theories of underground societies, that convene in secret areas underground. Finding this room is one of my greatest TR experiences every time I play this game. And this includes also the door puzzle before.
There's also that awesome music track that plays once you bypass the maze and enter the hallway where the torchlight guides you to the actual temple. You can hear the rusty swinging of a chandelier, see the pictures of Masons all over the walls, and feel like you've uncovered some long-lost treasure in a modernized tomb.

Damn GRaider... you're making me question whether that 9 should've squeaked up to a 10.

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Like you said: You have a clear goal for the first time in London and it is totally unnecessary to fulfill it. Why? If you are not for secrets it is totally irrelevant to get the embalming fluid and even if you are for secrets it is totally irrelevant to bring it back, because in the end you land in the same area without much benefits (more harpoons, hooray).
This makes this conversation with the leader of the Damned unnecassary and confuses the player only more.
Yeah, it's certainly disappointing that the first goal you get in London is not even required. I'll argue against skipping the sphinx room and underwater chambers, however, because there are actually quite a few pickups outside of harpoons. Plus it makes me feel good to help the flesh-face guys after I spent the entire previous level murdering them...

Quote:
This is another great secret that forces the player to think more clearly to get it, than just searching every nook and cranny of the level. The only thing I don't understand, why the alarm still goes off moments before you reach the secret. Yes, I know you still get it, but after doing all this, you probably think you have screwed it in the last moments, only with the delay to realize you still get the secret. But maybe some players, who have figured out what to do will reload at this moment very often to find some way around the last guard.
Yeah that's kind of weird, and definitely a bit misleading to the player, but once you know the gist, it's so GREAT to swim down to that room, beat the scuba diver in there, grab the UPV, and slam harpoons into his face before he gets a chance to do much damage. Ugh, it ticks me off since it's a great underwater bit - like this entire warehouse area - that precedes one of the absolute worst parts of any classic game.

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This is the one Tomb Raider level where I have no sense of direction or what the location is where Lara is.
That's a great point. I've never really thought about how most TR levels do a pretty great job of letting us know we are in the whole landscape, or even within the entire location. For instance, in the South Pacific, we're very clearly heading inland towards Puna's temple. In TR2's Venice, the windows throughout Bartoli's hideout give us a sense of direction even though we're constantly weaving indoors and outdoors through buildings. While Lud's Gate gets to be really disorienting - especially when we get to the vertical water shafts late in the stage - we also have a mishmash of chambers that really have no reason being so close to eachother. What do Aldwych, the Lair of the Damned, an Egyptian/Natural History Museum(?), a warehouse, an underwater facility, and Sophia Leigh's office have in common? Uh... very little, lol. At least the notion of a Masonic temple in the underground dwellings of Aldwych felt reasonable, but all of these things in close proximity? Not really.

As always, love the comments GRaider! Your thoughts give me plenty to mull over - just when I think I've given all of the analysis I can in this game, you've got plenty more for me to munch on.
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Old 16-04-19, 13:04   #85
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Seeing reviews always makes me want to do a full one for timelines as a big video but I can never stand the sound of my own voice.
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Old 16-04-19, 14:40   #86
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What do Aldwych, the Lair of the Damned, an Egyptian/Natural History Museum(?), a warehouse, an underwater facility, and Sophia Leigh's office have in common?
In real life Aldwych is 0,7 miles which is roughly 1,1 km away from St. Paul's Cathedral. And the Natural History Museum is roughly 3,3 miles (5,3 km) away from Aldwych. The British Musem is much nearer, but also 1,1 km away. So the geography of London makes absolutely no sense.
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Old 16-04-19, 19:15   #87
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In real life Aldwych is 0,7 miles which is roughly 1,1 km away from St. Paul's Cathedral. And the Natural History Museum is roughly 3,3 miles (5,3 km) away from Aldwych. The British Musem is much nearer, but also 1,1 km away. So the geography of London makes absolutely no sense.
Apparently in the design docs it was supposed to be the british museum
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Old 17-04-19, 03:00   #88
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LONDON
Level 8 - City




Over the course of three cutscenes, London's story solidifies itself as one of the most intriguing and fleshed-out side plots of the entire Tomb Raider series. We learn about the antagonist's supernatural powers, we hear horror stories from her subjects who had the artifact's abilities used to harm them, and then we finally confront the woman herself and get to see the Eye of Isis's offensive abilities. As far as TR villains go, Sophia's arc is short and sweet but gives us everything we need before confronting her: an explanation of what her piece of the meteorite can do, how she's built a living for herself for centuries, and, since she loves dismembering faces for her own benefit, a motive.

It's also pretty funny to see Judith Gibbons essentially talking to herself, since she voiced Lara AND Sophia I never noticed as a kid, though, so I guess she does a good enough of job of it - although you can pick up on some of the little inflections in her voice that mimic Lara's.



Outside, the TR3 designers take the concept of a boss battle and change up the formula a little bit: instead of shooting Miss Leigh to death, like we do for nearly every other boss in the classic, we instead need to scale a building up to a breaker box and use it to fry the metal walkway she's standing on. As is tradition in TR3, none of that is really communicated to us; we're just supposed to know it. The reason I can forgive this decision more than other barely-obvious things is because there's literally nowhere else for us to go once we reach that corner with the box, and once we notice that it's a collision-detecting object, well, the idea of shooting it definitely pops into our heads. So yes, it's not telegraphed in any way, but it was easy to notice and try, so it works.

The actual ascent up the buildings is amplified through Sophia's hilarious cackles and the green bursts of light being emitted from her Eye of Isis artifact. There's no weird puzzle to stop us, no additional cronies that come out of the woodwork, and no stupid pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you moments here... and that's exactly what this stage needed. City focuses on the confrontation with Sophia and nothing else. I love it for that.



Other little touches really strengthen the final London experience too. Sophia's charge-up animation and sound inform us before she blasts us and saps our health. The whirring helicopter noises signal that Lara will have a logical escape after the fight. Hell, even the walkway where Sophia gets electrified doesn't totally screw us over since there's a very visual animation of the circuit blowing with little electric sparks afterward.

City is a perfect example of what a boss battle should be. The only criticism I can really give is that it's not really all that obvious that Sophia is impervious to gunfire; while peppering her with pistols for ages (combined with the inviting climbable environment) probably tips the player off fairly well that an unconventional method is going to be required here, it's still not well communicated. But that's a pretty minor gripe, and something that all of this game has had an issue with so far.



Conclusion:

Pros:
+ Little trickery from the designers
+ The focus is put on Sophia vs. Lara with no other gimmicks
+ The platforming challenge is a fun take on a boss battle
+ Great sense of story progression leading up to the encounter

Cons:
- Telegraphing of things like Sophia's invincibility and the electric box interaction are pretty nonexistent

Rating a level as short as City seems like it should be tough since it doesn't offer the same volume of content as, say, Aldwych, which I gave a 9 to. But I don't judge these stages on how big they are; I judge them on how well they work within their own terms. So even though City is a breeze and can be over in as little as 5 minutes, it's one of the most focused, cohesive levels in the entire game and satisfyingly caps off the London saga.

And that's all I can ask from it. More of this and less of that maze mumbo-jumbo at the beginning of Kaliya, plz.

Rating - 8/10


NOTE: I reconsidered my previous rating for Lud's Gate and noticed that my rating of a 7 didn't particularly fit with what I established in the scale of my opening post. Due to its very prominent flaws in the end portion - which I certainly vocalized - I will be dropping the rating to a 6 since it fits that criteria a little better. Still above average, though...

Current Level Rankings:
  1. Aldwych (9/10)
  2. Temple Ruins (8/10)
  3. Jungle (8/10)
  4. City (8/10)
  5. Lud's Gate (6/10)
  6. The River Ganges (6/10)
  7. Thames Wharf (6/10)
  8. Caves of Kaliya (4/10)
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Old 17-04-19, 09:28   #89
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About the right rating City's boss battle is a welcomed break from the traditional boss fights in the classics that take no more income from the players than a little bit more bullets than the bullets needed for a "regular" enemy , and I definitely appreciated the think quick mini-puzzle with the breaker box . The charging-up sound effect used to make me really nervous btw

What irked me a bit was the laziness in not bothering to create a new model and hire a voice actress specifically for Sophia (if Natla had that , why not Sophia) , but that's not a big deal because TR3 hardly gave a damn about its story or characters anyway .
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Old 17-04-19, 12:32   #90
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Nice! I agree with your thoughts too. It’s not much of a level, but it is a very unique boss fight in comparison to the other ones the classics offer.
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