Thursday, December 14, 2023

Tomb Raider: Won!

After the end of the last level, we get another cutscene, in which Natla finally catches up with Lara after her double cross. Actually, I don't know who's double crossing who, since Natla sent Larson after her, which carries the implication that she isn't expecting Lara to give her the piece of the Scion. We see a cowboy, who is not Larson, a totally radical kid with two Uzis, and a bald guy who looks like he inspired the village chief from Resident Evil 4. They disarm her and then steal the Scion. But before they can kill her, she escapes.

I like the voice acting, as goofy as it is, but the animation is...uh...very comic booky. Dare I say, bad outright. In-game animation is fine, really, but for some reason the animation in the cutscenes feels quite amateurish, like it was made 5-10 years earlier than the game. Natla and co get on a boat, Lara makes a daring motorcycle jump to it, but considering how fast she can swim I don't think she needed to do so. She gets on board and sleeps until they're at their destination, a mysterious island.

Tsk, tsk, tsk, somebody's been dumping toxic chemicals into the ocean. Someone ought to report her.
So begins, Natla's Mines, the level starting you off with no weapons. Rather than force you to dodge enemies...I don't really think we fight enemies until Lara can shoot them again. Which, when you get down to it, kind of negates the purpose. After all, I've been doing platforming and puzzles all game, making me dodge enemies rather than just gun them down might be fun. There's a waterfall here, which I assume is a secret at first, but has a lever which opens something somewhere else.
To get there, you have to move a block off next to a suspicious minecart across from the waterfall. That has a lever which opens the door inside the waterfall area. Busywork much? Jump across this gap and you enter the area where the bulk of this level happens. There is nobody in this level except for the goons seen earlier, so technically it's the abandoned mines.
Lara has to find three fuses to get that down...or something. Three fuses and that's important. There are magnum magazines in one of the rooms, useful when Lara gets the magnums off the cowboy.

There are two buildings here, one Lara can climb on top of, but has nothing, and another one which your access to is blocked by wooden barriers. You can tell it's abandoned because you can't enter the buildings. You have to move a block in front of Lara near the right building, there's a collapsible tile in the corner that...doesn't actually go inside the building and instead takes Lara to a lever which moves a boat in the opening river. Huh. This allows Lara to reach a section I previously thought was just background scenery, since you couldn't reach it.

After pulling some blocks out of the way, there's another lever, moving a digger nearby. It just moves it back, it doesn't drill, and it doesn't sneak up on you. Push another block, until it reaches a small cavern in-between halls and then climb up for another lever opening some door or another. This is a suspiciously large section for something that should be giving me a fuse.

This isn't exactly a good situation for Lara's health.
Say, this is a large cavern. "Ain't nothing personal." Ah, time for Lara to run away. Nothing about it is cowardice, Lara can only do those sweet roundhouse kicks in cutscenes and games released in the 21st century. Part of the problem with open level design, though they could have hidden a key next to Lara's guns, so she won't end up shot. He's rather slow on the draw though, so much for being a cowboy. Back to the earlier area.
The door to this section opens automatically. As you move forward, soon you see a boulder go by. A lava boulder, not that it's any different from the regular one. So I jump up since Lara can't climb over barriers, and there's another one. I'll just activate this and escape, then see what's around. Oh, once it's landed it blocks a passage. So that's the trick here. Once you get over a pit or try to climb up, the boulder that will block the path will start rolling. If Lara can't get in, and you know, survives, she can go through a passage and return through the door, which resets this section. There's a fuse in the passage, as well as two surprise boulders a bit afterwards.
The second fuse is off to the left, and Lara can't reach it in a fit of video game logic exclusive to the earlier entries in the series. I remember The Last Revelation allowed Lara to crawl, she'd never be defeated by a low ceiling. Though it isn't difficult to solve, just pull a lever and out it comes. Okay, two out of three. There's only one place the third can be. Wait, what if I can reach that area near the waterfall? No, Lara's reach there is just too short. Off to dodge the cowboy.
You can't see it here, but the third fuse is right in the blindspot as you enter the area.
The fuse is practically right out the door in the cowboy's area. Though it took me about three more tries to find it. First time I dropped into a lava pit, very loud, instant death even if it wasn't a long drop. I had to do a complete 180 of the area to spot it. Now Lara can get her pistols, and use them for the last time this game. He's a bit tedious to kill, because you chip away at his health incredibly slowly. Assuming you don't just stand there and take his shots, he can be dodged fairly easily, just don't fall in a pit. So much falling down pits this level. After saving at the end of this fight I even fall down another!
Lara is definitely not afraid of heights.
Right, how do I get past here? Dropping down is out. Hang on, I could theoretically reach that left area from a jump on this side, but it is at an angle...Lara misses and just as I think she's going to die again, she lands on a slope backwards just barely surviving, which I can hang from. Below is a ledge Lara can shimmey across to safety. I think this was probably not the intended path, so I try again. Aha, a little ledge right of Lara's view, it even has a medikit. This is the long way around I guess.
That takes me back to the place I shimmeyed to earlier, which then takes me even further to the right to here. Now we play with fire. Firstly, the two pillars in some places are signs that you can pick either, you can pick one, the other is a slope down into the lava. Secondly, there's a secret off to the side, which is very important. As soon as you go in you can see a crate, push it or a boulder heading your way will block you out of everything. This nets you two sets of Uzi mags, a big medikit and a shotgun. Thought that was on the big guy, guess I was wrong.
After a hallway where you have to hang down from a slope to not fall into a lava pit, there's this. Before this is a big room full of TNT, which is very nerve-inducing until you shoot them and realize nothing happens. Looney Tunes this is not. So Lara just pushes a crate full of TNT into here. Because she can't jump over to the right. Push it to the hole to the left and climb up.
This is tricky, because I didn't realize Lara could jump on the sides here, I thought there was some trick or I couldn't even come here yet. A boulder pops out, which makes me wonder if this sourceport is triggering them early somehow, and harmlessly lands in the lava. Past this is that lever I saw after killing the cowboy, which activates the one moveable block of TNT and opening up the way forward.
The Tony Hawk park from Hell.

Human enemy number two, the skateboard kid. He snuck up on me, but once you start approaching and firing back he runs. He'd be tough if he didn't. The magnums just plink away at his health, it takes the shotgun to put him down in any reasonable amount of time. He drops the Uzis, putting Lara back to a slightly better position than she was before they took her weapons. This area has quite a few Uzi magazines, I have almost as many Uzi bullets as I do magnum bullets.

Lara is supposed to be 5'9" here, probably putting this guy as an impressive 7+ feet tall.
Now another climb. Been a while since I did this one, you think that'd be a natural fit for this kind of level. Then a puzzle involving blocks and corridors, I won't bore you with the details but it's fairly typical at this point. Then, the final of Natla's goons, the guy I thought looked like the village chief from RE4. He doesn't have that look here. Just stay behind him and he can't shoot his shotgun at you. That's right, two shotguns. After that, you just collect any items around, climb up the pyramid, gotta figure that out one in safety since it's going to happen quite a lot later. Pull a lever and get a key.

There's a cutscene of Natla putting the Scion on...something and us getting a shot of a giant egg. Then a CGI cutscene of a golden pyramid being revealed.

Atlantis. The game just drops some free Uzi magazines before you can advance here. Not a good sign. Because those are Atlantians in those pods, and they come out when you get close. Sometimes, which just makes you worry. Very dark in here, befitting it's creepiness but also making it hard to see items and levers, like the aforementioned Uzi magazines. They're dropping them like candy here. Nothing here you can't land on, no flesh acid so to speak.
After pulling some levers upstairs the rest of the Atlantians break free. It's actually not that hard compared to earlier levels, especially the last Egyptian one. You get plenty of room to shoot and by now there are no worries about running out of ammo for the good weapons.
This is so tall you can't even see the top. There's one activated, the others you can see are acting like the bats, they need to be awakened somehow. Below is lava, naturally. The jump to the right is easy, but there's one of those sliding teeth things that activated just after I made it through. As I end up going through it twice, I suspect it's intended to just scare you rather than provide any serious threat.
Next up is here. There's an area I thought was a secret to my right, turns out that has the lever which opens the door out. There's another egg below which opens when Lara reaches the other side. Flying enemies are annoying in that when you're on ledges you have to walk to the edge if they get stuck, otherwise they could be there forever until they manage to pop out and reach you from across the level.
This area is downright mundane in comparison. To the left is a series of those weird jumps up a slope, if you land wrong, well, if you're lucky Lara will land in the drink, if you aren't, I hope you kept a save. It's best to go after the secret first, a boulder falls down. Up is a secret, which just contains ammo and a large medikit, not much else they can do at this point. Curiously, the end of it leads to a door out. Where's the lever? Underwater. I slowly climb up only to discover it's timed. The door out is timed. Yay.
But not that timed. This area feels seriously Doom, are we sure that's lava and not the boiling blood of the Atlantians? This jump seems tricky, until you realize you're not supposed to, you're supposed to climb just at the edge. That opens up a door to a part of the last section you couldn't reach before, don't fall into the drink. Pulling a lever here causes this section to shift and then you can go across the room to the fleshy corridor. Over a spike pit and through a mundane underwater rock passage. This leads back to that big central room. As it turns out, all the ledges have those teeth trap things, which I jump back into after it activated. (because there's another winged Atlantian and I don't want to get knocked off) Collision doesn't work like it logically should, if Lara goes into a trap, even if in such a way that would logically dictate that Lara is fine, Lara gets hit. In this case, she dies. Two sets of Uzi magazines, and after a long jump, two more.
Which leads to here. So weird, the water transitions here. Five levers, four eggs, a bunch of doors, a small medikit and two more sets of Uzi magazines. I nearly have 2000 Uzi rounds. This game is exceedingly generous. My thought before activating the levers was that an egg activates with each lever...something disproven by the first. Oh. Let's check lever number 2. It activates an egg. They're not all activating at once. Two of the five levers are traps, I think one might activate both a door and an egg, while opening all the doors activates one egg.
Yeugh. You know, in retrospect, I'm curious as to how this game got a T back in the day since between Lara's magnums and how violent this can get it's not the usual T fare. Past a door on the right are some more Uzi magazines, putting me over 2000 rounds...and a boulder goes over the passage further, and a door backwards allows Lara to reset this room. Unlike in Natla's Mines, here you just push a block in front of the boulder. That leads back to the central shaft again, and another flyer and jump.
This room tricks you. As soon as you enter the egg on the left explodes with another Atlantian. If you chase after him or get knocked down, Lara ends up in spikes. Which may not kill her for some reason. But, you know, since you have to run around, you probably will. Especially since after killing the first the other one activates. To get across, slide down across from the more bloody bits of ground, that can be jumped across. They give you some shells and a full medikit for the trouble.
Here's a cursed skateboarding map if ever I saw one. You can't go across it but you can jump across the area on the left. Where there's an egg. There's a very tight jump there, naturally that's when the egg activates. Good thing I have enough Uzi ammo to take out this entire map. They even give you some more ammo to replace what you just used, how nice. From there you jump onto the central fleshy thing. At this point, I jump across to a stone ledge on the other side thinking it was a secret, only to discover it was the path forward and there are Atlantians hiding in a random ledge on that left side which is somehow the path forward.
Then there's this section. Left is a lever which readjusts the pillars in this room, so I think you know how this one goes. You jump to the middle hole, do it again, then go out to the right. Then there are three whole Atlantians at once, which is less difficult than I would think because they keep trying to shoot me. Also, a secret which doesn't seem like a secret until I realize it has an open door, I somehow opened it without knowing how. Another, and hopefully final jump through the great chasm or whatever.
Another Atlantian dead, and then this. Overkill much? The boulder activates just before the teeth thing, so it isn't terribly brutal, just seemingly so.

The throne of the three Atlantian kings. Interestingly, above each throne is a letter, N, Q and T, two of which we've seen before...and the third isn't terribly difficult to figure out at this point. I don't remember noticing that before, nice touch. The N is even the one you have to push. The trap here are two levers on the side of a door, both open the trap door below them into a slope which goes into a spike pit. The trick is to go on the left one and jump. Both have a path back, but the right one has a boulder, not a fun time.

Two sets of enemies, one right after the other. The first group was tied into a lever, approach it and a centaur activates, pull the lever and the other two activate as you try to leave the room. This one I got after taking out the two, regular Atlantians. This is a doppelganger, and to advance you need to kill her. It copies your every action, so shooting it is out. Thankfully the game includes a convenient lava pit you can activate and then throw her down. It's on a timer. Because of the way the jumps to the area you need to pull the lever and the place you need to stand to cause her to fall into it, it's a bit tedious, I kept missing running jumps.

After this is another set of timed levers and more enemies, starting to tire of the Atlantians. The design here is that this is a C shaped ledge over lava, a lever at one point opens the door, another raises the bridge. Do them in the right order and boom, you can get across. The bridge is on a very short timer in particular.

The Scion...again. There's a random set of Uzi mags and nothing else here. Fun fact, you can do what would rightly be sequence breaking by just jumping over to that area near the egg, which opens a secret door which pops you back in the area I was just in.

Using the Scion triggers a cutscene. The other two kings are sentencing Natla for crimes against creation, as she abused the powers of the Scion to make some sort of bizarre creations in an attempt to advance evolution. They freeze her, showing what we saw in the opening cutscene. She's one heck of an egomaniac. Returning to an in-game cutscene, Natla repeats what we learned in the cutscene. Lara, unfazed, points a gun at her, causing Natla to charge at her. The two fall over, Natla falls further down the hole, Lara lands on the edge. A countdown for the egg hatching reaches zero. My stats for the level are pathetic, I somehow missed 20 pickups.

The game's final boss...this thing. I remember him, that's why I've been holding onto the shotgun shells. I held onto too many, he just takes like 20. I think it's about 1000 Uzi rounds, which is the same for the pistol, except it takes longer. No idea about magnum rounds. They nearly give you enough Uzi mags here to take out the thing. He has a long drawn out death animation, but dies just the same as everything else. It's not really a boss you need to explain, despite his size and strength he moves slower than Lara and has a large wind-up attack animation. He's a damage sponge, which is honestly one of the last things I would have liked Tomb Raider's design legacy to be, but I can't think of some third person shooter which doesn't have something like that in some way.
This is followed by a weird sliding block puzzle. After a fleshy passage, there's a block to your right and a block at the end of a corridor. Push the lower one, which opens a path that allows you to push the other block under a hole. Another teeth thing, the issue this time is that you can't just leisurely walk through it, there's a collapsing tile under it and it might very well be impossible after that's gone. I died twice here, which means I fought the boss three times. I just take the additional save after that. This is a weird level, you fight a grand boss that's not quite so grand and then do more block puzzles. It makes sense, Lara can't just call in a helicopter here.
This is what those earlier pyramid climbing jump sessions were for. Hope you didn't need to save after every one or you'll be having some trouble. Next up, boulder, this time you have to go three tiles up, but you get plenty of time to get away, so it doesn't matter. A trick so good they do it twice in a row, with this corridor ending over a collapsible tile with no way of knowing what's below. Or you could walk over it then jump off.
It's the Scion again. Lara can't grab it now. I guess she's not gonna try again? Oh, well. How you get past here escapes me until I randomly break out her Uzis. Hey, she needs to use them sometime. Oh, I can shoot it. Guess that works. Explosive sounds and screen shaking now marks the level. It counts as an enemy too, there are 6 here. Compared to the 31 pickups and 3 secrets. And I kill three enemies in the next room. That means there's one left, and good money has it that it'll be Natla, since she's not going to just fall into a chasm. The next room is that bridge room, it also gives me some trouble, because the ways out are destroyed and I have no idea where to go next.

A hole formed by falling rock opens up the path, to a ledge you have to shimmey across, with dart guns hitting it.Surprised it took them this long to think of it. Kind of hard to properly dodge them to the rythmn that's expected. I have enough medikits anyway. I wasn't expecting the piece of flesh you land on at the end to be a slope, so into the lava Lara goes. They even throw at dart gun at the space where you land, nice.

And I was hoping the next bit would be easier. It's not. Those aren't slopes at least, but as you approach on the left a boulder falls down. After you land past the pendulum it gets easier, since you can just walk through the spikes. They throw a bit where you have to jump onto collapsible tiles, over more spikes, then off them.
Oh, I see one of the secrets here. I only figure it out because I had to redo the next bit, to the left is an area Lara can shimmey across. The part you can reach is small enough to not be visible, the weird red texture. Then Lara can go to that secret, three large medikits and more Uzi magazines. I really needed more ammo.
Good, good, just what I needed. That ledge to Lara's left is defacto useless. I guess the thought is to activate the first tile, back off, backflip onto the second tile and then to the other side, where the boulder activates, but Lara can do a running jump back to this side. I definitely figured that one out the first time. Or not, I eventually gave up on the fancy jumping moves and just ran through. Somehow going through the pendulum is less dangerous than trying to climb up. The third collapsible tile activates the boulder. There are a couple more of these, culminating in Lara having to jump past a pendulum on a slope while a boulder is chasing her.
This section's been the hardest the game has been by far. Some of these jumps you have to be perfect on, and you cannot hang from a ledge as a boulder is heading towards you, or Lara will die. She's actually safer if you hang from the spot where a boulder will fall from. Also, stuff like this where lava pours into a room, well, primitively since this is 1996. I have seen Lara on fire so many times this level. It makes a really loud sound too, which is even more annoying than dying.
What? There's no lever to turn this off. Is there a pool of water past the pendulum? (The pendulum isn't right next to that exit, I just thought that) No, this doesn't set you on fire, and more to the point, you can avoid getting hurt by landing in the corner. Ah.
That leads to this. Is that thing below a secret? Hmm, but if I grab onto the collapsible tile Lara will drop into it. Does that mean ahead is a secret? One of these two paths has to be a secret. It has to be the upper one, and it is. Do a running jump onto the collapsible tile at the right time, then a regular jump or a running jump to the hole. After reaching the secret, another full medikit and Uzi mags, I spot that dropping from the collapsible tile would kill Lara, landing on it and then falling would be okay. From this height I have to get really lucky with the arc of the jump or try to jump to that slope on the left.
Surprise, surprise, Natla is still alive. And has wings now. Nothing 500 Uzi rounds can't cure, 300 of which you can pick up here. She fakes being dead halfway through, and when you walk away she gets back up. Despite flying and having the arm cannon, she's simple to kill. She even does less damage than you do with the Uzis, so it's a simple matter of endurance at this point. There's some more simple platforming, even though it's high in the air, and the Lara goes down a chute and into the end cutscene.
The temple explodes and Lara steals Natla's boat and drives away.
My final statistics. Not mentioned, the 78 or so saves I had. I want to say half of those deaths were in this final levelset, I know half the items I missed were. 15 out of 31 on that final level. To explain the difference between the two times, I step away from games sometimes when the world decides now is not the time to enjoy tomb raiding, and the game keeps track of time even when paused, and probably some errors on my part. I can't imagine I was away for more than 3 hours during the running time here, because I kept track of my dying times even when the game did not. Even so, that means a game I thought was some neverending adventure as a child was a pretty short and sweet experience, even generously given, my final time would be under 20 hours.

At this point, a player may start new game+. Or someone else, I started Japanese new game+ since there are supposed to be differences. NG+ gives you unlimited ammo, very nice, but I think that without going through the entire game again I won't figure out if this has the changes in level design or it just turns enemies into weaklings. (I should clarify, in the version here, since I think this is using the level data I already used) As neat as going through the entire game shotgunning things to death would be, I think I'll just go to the summary and then probably Unfinished Business.

This Session: 4 hours 30 minutes

Total Time: 14 hours 00 minutes (accounting for time I apparently missed earlier)

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