This has been on my mind for the longest time and finally wanted to share my thoughts.
Ever since playing through the Classic Tomb Raiders 1- AoD (oh god AoD) 3 years ago, there's a feeling of exploration, hope, fear, confusion, and success in each level that makes these games still hold up. Especially with the 100s of custom levels made by the community.
While to some it might be bad game design, or annoying backtracking too. I think this simple gameplay loop for almost each level still works.
Allow me to explain, or rather, give a super simple example of what one may encounter when going through a level. (Not everytime, but could happen).
You enter a level. It's a a big room with a 2nd floor (with no stairs) and pillars scattered around the main floor, some 3 times taller than you. You see a switch near you and pull it. A cutscene plays of a gate opening. 15seconds later, a cutscene plays of the same gate closing instead. (Okay seems like it's timed). Across from you is a stone door with a lock on it (this is clearly not the door the switch opens, but now you also need a key). Looking around some more, you see a gate on the 2nd floor above you. You notice the only way up is from climbing and jumping on top of each pillar. But the shortest pillars are still too high to jump and climb onto. Near the back of the room, you see a stone block (could be used to push/pull and climb). As soon as you go near the block, a tiger (why is a tiger there?!) appears from behind the block and attacks you. After defeating the tiger, you push/pull the block infront of a short pillar. You then pull the switch, climb up the block, and jump from pillar to pillar where the gate is opened revealing a key on a stone pedestal. You grab the key, drop down and open the locked door.
Now just picture all that, but on a larger scale, where there were multiple rooms and multiple locked doors with puzzles and backtracking and constantly getting lost without map except for your memory (unless if you drew a map I guess). Or even with TR4 where you then get levels connected to each other. Many times I've even gotten lost for an hour to then find a new path, which only lead to a secret instead of progress lol.
That's what the Classic Tomb Raider experience is like at its core. Now I'm not saying it's revolutionary, or that no other games do this now a days . But that what makes it so simple, with the no complex game mechanic, no marker telling you where to go, no minimap, etc… Makes things tough, challenging and fun.
If you've never played the classic Tomb Raider games before, I highly recommend trying them out. The tank controls or wonky but once you get used to them, the jumping and flipping around feel so much fun.
And if you have played through them but haven't played and of the Tomv Raider Level Editor (TRLEs) levels the community have made, I super extremely recommend playing a few, as some (if not many) are more amazing than the main games' levels.
If there's one thing to end with, is that, ever since playing through those games, I've been playing other games with a more keen eye now. Checking every nook and cranny and getting familiarized with various rooms/levels in games.
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