Saturday, December 9, 2023

Tomb Raider: They Live

Egypt, because why wouldn't a game about ancient ruins go to the country known primarily for having ancient ruins? Lara apparently teleported in this place, because I see no way out. The path leads to this area, which I first drop down to pull that lever. Interesting. It wasn't obvious at first, but to Lara's left is a pushable block. Could it be? Yes, you have to push the block across the other block that door just revealed to get up. Clever, if a bit tedious. Also, more magnum ammo behind the lower block.

And it's a panther. Or a black leopard, to use the technical term, since that's the kind of big cat that'd be around here. It's...the same as every other big cat. Gotta love the lazy texture energy this radiates. There's some more magnum ammo above me, and let's explore that area over there. Hey, mini-Sphinx.

Ah. I wasn't expecting an ET mummy here. Or more correctly, an Atlantian. Is that technically revealed right now? Well, time for the big girl guns. This turns out to be a mild overreaction, because while he's fast and presumably deadly in melee combat, I'm at a distance and he doesn't take that many rounds. Right, explore here. Well, there are no secrets I can reach outright. To the left and right are door I can't open. That big pillar has four slots for items I don't have. Pulling that block out of the way reveals another door I can't open. Into the pool it is...which just has magnum ammo. Okay? Well, I can climb up in the far right corner, which lets me jump on top of that pillar...which has shotgun shells. Turns out it was behind the Sphinx head, the key to open the Sphinx door. And shotgun shells.

Sorry, crocs aren't very visible when not in motion.
Inside, there's a series of alternating niches in the wall, with no ceiling so Lara can climb up and snipe at a panther from safety. Then, this. There's a crocodile you can snipe at, and a boulder which almost uselessly comes out of a closed off door to Lara's right. Then it's just pure secret finding goodness. I'm sorry, the first secret here consists of just jumping into a corner. Pretty much going to just use the magnums except whenever I can easily snipe at enemies for some reason.
The only actual path forward is the pool, at the moment. This leads into a...what do you call something like this? There's another croc, of course there is. What I'm looking at isn't the path forward, that's either to Lara's right or behind me, with a simple bit of block pushing. That? That intrigues me, because there's no way to get the block up close to there. Yet I have to go there, for some reason. But not yet, because from the positions I can reach, that's still one above and three across, more than Lara can jump. So I go behind Lara for now. This is a small area with a lever.
Trying to get a shot of both that and the nice new wall textures here. What happened is that wind sound occurred again, the one before the pillar collapsed back in Greece. That caused that object to move deeper into the room. Interesting, yet, it doesn't help me. Maybe it doesn't something somewhere else? I go back to the previous area and the pool surrounding the cat statue is now gold. That doesn't help me either. Well, it turns out I can reach that area, I just estimated it wrong, it's 2 across, albeit a bit diagonally. Even with the object above the block she can still reach it. That crate up there can be pushed to reveal an area, which has a lever which can be used to open a door above the gold thing.
Behind me is a switch that opens the gold pool beneath the statue, but more importantly now I can reach those precious little secret items. Not so secret, actually, even though one of them you're very likely to miss unless you're really alert. Instead the secret is the drop down from here. Okay, I saw that coming in, what the heck? There's also another grassy area in the corner, but there doesn't seem to be a way to reach there from the little cave it's connected to. Believe me, I tried to get there 3 times.
Down the newly made pit is one trick area, basically a slide into some spikes, and then another path down. They're just giving magnum ammo away now. Over 1000 rounds, well, before I take out two panthers from this little perch. As soon as you land, because you can't reach that area from this side, but you can from there, a door opens and two more panthers pop out. If you come back from the other side of the room, the another door opens. What you want to do here is reach the other side of the room, then jump to an area on Lara's right, there's a secret there, more magnum ammo.
Then after a twisting corridor, this guy suddenly pops up. Yeah, it's a toughie, even with the magnum. He does not disengage from Lara at any moment, making him quite troublesome. Climbing back up through some sandy areas. Usually this game doesn't do the trick of showing you something you can only reach later, this level does it a lot. The usual pull lever and get key stuff, only this time you platform above the little shifting niche area. I use the key on a lock and that's the end of the level. But I didn't solve anything. What the heck Core? I know the reason why these levels are broken up like this is because of consoles or something, but that's a really awkward transition.
After some hallways and doors I'll open later, I get this. Another one of those go to four places to get four things...or something, level. Something I said was a British level design classic back in Dungeon Master, a game that is not British. There feels like a closer link to European level design there than American, or perhaps this and games like Dungeon Master are more in tune with American level design and I just never realized it. Anyway, the leftmost block.
An underwater section with one single crocodile. Nothing up top, so explore the water to find a few items and a key. Four keys or just the one? If so, that's really good luck on my part. Section 2 is one way in, then one way out, if that makes sense. Just some climbing, I didn't spot a key at first. And then section three and four are sort of connected, just blocked off by a wall sprite. Except for the panthers here, who can apparently phase through solid matter. Well, I can open that door with a key, which causes the door above the ground to open in that central room in addition to the one next to the keyhole. Interesting, let's examine that one first.
There's another Atlantian mummy thing, which I take out with 2 shotgun shells, which seems fitting. A switch to the left drops one of these four platforms around this central obelisk, clearly intending to allow me to return to the area from the last level to advance. I just have to figure out how to reach each side and each lever.
In the original game the ceiling would just be completely dark from here.
Firstly, in a seemingly innocent hole in the wall is a path down. More climbing up. A bit tricky, I think, until I enter the area I'm supposed to and spot the Atlantians from a distance, only they aren't active. They don't even activate if I get close. Damn, I went the wrong way, not even something in here. When I reach the top, and it's a long way, there's one Atlantian activated, two shells and some regular bullets, drat, and a lever.
That opens another bridge, but there's a door and a slide down here, and I have to climb down to reach the bridge. Too far to just jump. Unless I land in the water. Still, I notice some stuff, most importantly, that stuff on top of the obelisk. Run off the obelisk diagonally and Lara will just barely land in the drink, anything else and she'll snap like a twig. Although later on I notice an area that Lara can only reach from here, naturally another secret, with two sets of Uzi magazines. Back around at a reasonable height, you get across the bridges by jumping. Curiously, this new bridge opened up access to the entire area outside of the two unlowered bridges. The lever I try here activates something far away, so we'll see what's inside one of these other holes.
This seems to be where the chute above links back to. Interesting. There's down and then there's up. Down has a set of magnum magazines and a pack of shells. Up requires shimmeying across a ledge and over. This leads to a small area with another chute down and then a lever. The lever switches the blocks I'm standing on in the screenshot into a chute and the chute next to it into blocks. Up from here is another pair of levers, one opening the door leading back into the area two screenshots ago, and one lowering another bridge. Atlantian too, but I can jump up while sniping him and he can't do a thing.
To the fourth and final section. The usual mix of a down area you don't want to go to and an up area you have to climb across. Or not, because the area Lara is standing on? That's a secret. You go from that blue ledge left, then shimmey across a ledge and just come up. You'd think the thing in the corner would be a secret inside, because at least that isn't obvious from a cursory glance at the roof. What the heck, Core? In fact, it seems like what you're supposed to do is go down, the shimmey across a bunch of ledges to reach the other side. What? Dropping down spawns two very annoying Atlantians in those holes. What I missed is that behind the blue ledge is where the switch opens the final bridge...and the only way back up is to drop down and fight the Atlantians.

Taking all four artifacts opens a door under the obelisk, the usual underwater passageway, but boy oh boy, does it drop some stuff. I do not need to worry about magnum ammo. I do not. Health is more of a concern since these Atlantians are just so hard to fight. They throw another one after this, but thankfully from a sniping position. This allows Lara to return to the first obelisk, where she can place the artifacts. I look around, because of course some stuff would be here, just a pack of shotgun shells.

Sanctuary of the Scion. Not a tomb? Suspicious. As suspicious as the open area leading to this fight. I mix up the magnums and the shotgun, which seems to be effective, soften them up enough for a single shotgun blast to take them out. The game's as generous with ammo as a family in the NRA at Christmas at this point, they expect you to use the heavy weapons against these things.
If you pay attention to this screenshot, you can find something I only noticed later.
A different sphinx. Oh, I remember this. This is going to be fun. Look at all those edges, those are places you can comb for secrets. I hope secrets, anyway, at least non-obvious items. There's only one secret according to the level's item screen, not exactly a good omen. I mean, I'm going through there no matter what, but there's a difference between giving me ammo and giving me the only way to win. After taking out the Atlantian, I count three doors. I'm guessing two of these are linked to slots for an ankh here.
The first set of platforms that caught my eye was this. This level, from what I remember, was basically the last time the game really tested you in the platforming department. After this it's not quite as tricky. Maybe my memory is wrong, because this isn't as difficult as earlier tests, the temple back in dino valley sticks out in my mind more. There's even one of those side sliders here for some reason. I reach the lever, which opens a door near where I entered.
Oh, and this guy pops up. He can fly, but he's so far away when he starts that I don't see much of a problem with that. What is trick is a jump to a medikit just in front of me, I do a running jump by default which causes Lara to overshoot and die. Even when the enemies can fly it's the level design that's more dangerous. And because I'm trying to keep my saves to a minimum, that's back to the start of the level. Interestingly, I notice as I try again that the walking Atlantians have the ability to shoot at me, which they didn't have before. It's very ineffective.
Now, the door that just opened is on the other side of the sphinx and there doesn't look to be an easy way there. So I just go to the next ladder I spotted, in the central section. This is actually easier, despite having more to jump across, no sheer drops, always slopes down. That pack of shells you see across what seems like a jump is curious, because as I got over there I noticed that it was about four tiles away by my reckoning, not possible. It does look like there's a way up behind it, and I saw magnum mags below where Lara is.
Okay, how do I get there then? Wait, those are uzis floating in mid-air. Oh, I remember this, it's like something out of The Last Crusade, you have to do a walk of faith. I mean, back when I played it I looked it up, I don't know how you'd figure it out except through brute-force otherwise. Which turns out to be very wrong. I'll came back to this one.
The first door I opened. Move a block so you can climb up, and of course, centaur. Hey, I can do some ducking in and out of cover. This is the most fun I've had with combat the entire game outside of the T-Rex and maybe the first centaur encounter. I don't think anyone truly loves the combat in here, they just like it because it varies up everything else. Another Atlantian spawns on the back of the sphinx, naturally. So, those uzis. Can I reach them from the top of the Sphinx? Seems like it might just be a leap of faith.
Good, good. It's a secret, naturally. The only one this level, in fact. Er...while I want to get those shotgun shells, I think the more important question right now is just getting down. As I ponder this, a winged Atlantian approaches. The uzis are very effective against them. Another one, hey, these are pretty good. Now I'll never have to use the regular pistols again. That gave me time to ponder. I have just enough space to reach that ledge across from Lara, and I do it. The shotgun shells here come naturally, the most difficult to get shotgun shells in the entire game.
The other door. This one is clever, blocks down and then a slide down. Careful examination of the ladder reveals a little place to shimmey to. That leads up to another of the same choice, only this one you have to jump across. After a few attempts I reach it, only to notice that now I have to find a key. I did not notice a key, I did not even notice a section where a key could even be. The water here has nothing. There's no other path. I wander around most of the map, picking up any items I missed because of my death, find no key and return key. It's at the bottom of the second pool of water, very well hidden. Naturally, the door opens up another area like the last with a centaur guarding an ankh. No enemies spawn after doing this or putting them in. Suspicious.
The door leads here, a vast underwater cavern. I thought it was flooded in Unfinished Business and not this version. Huh. Looking at it, I think the water idea was added later, this seems like something that was intended to be climbable. There's a chute down in a corner near the surface, alas Lara can't just jump it. So I have to go down. This takes a while. It's a long way up and down, and while I find some stuff, the lever to drain the water or a path forward isn't quite forthcoming. There's a lever, but one that can't be turned underwater, and two doors with no method of entry...and one of them has a lever I can pull right outside it.

This pushs Lara further in, eventually spitting her out in front of some pillars. Very tight use of jumping here, Lara has just enough room to reach one...and then it takes me back to the chute I spotted earlier. Oh, I can see a winged Atlantian. I shoot at him, but he seems mostly disinterested, unless you drop down some, in which case he'll knock you off, likely to Lara's death. This allows me to pull the other switch, opening the other door and then another path up. Suspiciously generous with a drop of magnum magazines...and another. Hey, it's the tablet I spotted behind a door near the start. That means the level is over soon.

Yes, he's shooting Lara's corpse.
OH MY GOD. I die the first time, but the second time I figure out a strategy that isn't quite fair to them. The regular ones can't really properly chase you into a corridor, sometimes they do, sometimes they run away for reasons only clear to the AI. So I did that for the two regular ones. What about the centaur? He can't really shoot at you when you're up close. They knew this was nasty, they drop a large medikit after the exit.
I approach this section and all of a sudden I hear a voice. "I have a pain in the brain and it's telling me to shoot you all to hell." Larson's back. Lara, didn't you kill him? This isn't what I expect out of my '90s anti-heroes, he should be dead already. I do Larson a favor and buy him the, at the time, new Mercyful Fate album. After the Atlantians, dude with a gun is a joke. Now, what's going on with this area? Nothing, just the Scion. My end of level stats indicate I missed one item...somewhere.

Next up, Atlantis and the game's big reveal.

This Session: 4 hours 00 minutes

Total Time: 8 hours 30 minutes

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