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06.18.2021

DJ'S TRLE Corner: The Last Revelation

Yes there is more than one. They will spotlight levels rooted in Tomb Raider celebrated every month. So there is a monthly mainline stream, a monthly TRLE stream, and a monthly TRLE blog. This time, as an aftermath of The Last Revelation month, I show custom levels rooted in that episode. Sometimes it is said TR4 is "just Egypt", and then claimed Poseidon is a Greek mistake - but Egypt had many cultures and The Last Revelation covers almost all of them, providing one of the most changing settings of all Tomb Raider episodes. The group on the level hosting sites reflects that trend and while being the largest, it's also collective - tombs and temples of the New Kingdom are far in style from Ptolemaic palaces built a millenium after, and Old Kingdom pyramids dated to a millenium before. Here are some contrasting examples.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Egyptian Adventure

misho98 - Egyptian Adventure

Before anything else I feel obliged to mention two sequels of previously showcased levels. Here's a sequel to "Andreas' Sword":

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Andrea's Sword 2

eRIC - Andreas' Sword 2

And here's a sequel to "Catacomb Towers", and just like it, one the first levels which tend to do things better than in the official game.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Black Palace

Piega - Black Palace

Yes yes, I said "tend", but with this one below there's no doubt - Piega's work we began the last stream with is just a perfect bridge between default and custom.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Sanctuary of Fire

Piega - Sanctuary of Fire

You know those levels where you don't mind being stuck? This is one of them, on par with lost cities features in the mainline titles. Of course coming from 2009 it's less detailed than today standards, but you can really feel like in a coastal city, one of the best predating the modern times.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Mystery of Marsa Matruh

Die Basis - BtB2009 - The Mystery of Marsa Matruh

Now for contrast probably the best modern city we currently have. If you reserve a lot of time for a long session, since you will need a lot of memory for this one, it might be you will begin troubled and confused but then the levelset won't let you go till you finish:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Tears of the Ptolemaic Dynasty

Bigfoot - Tears of the Ptolemaic Dynasty

Featuring one of the first open-world illusions of the editor, "The Lost Valley" is like a crossover of TR3 and TR4. Its mild lighting, calm ambience, toned down progression and vast isolation pretend to be nothing special and that's how you don't notice when they silently drag you in and keep you immersed. It's one of the earliest levels built almost immediately after unlocking the possibility to use textures other than the stock ones provided with the original editor, and also one of the earliest which reached the Hall of Fame ("best of the best" of trle.net).

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Lost Valley

Jeyem - The Lost Valley

You know Kevin, right? Yeah, you know Kevin. Now everybody, bow to Kevin!

Mr XY - BtB2009 - Sunken

Here's what happens if Kevin bows to himself. The level below was built as an exercise before a serious project, which was BtB Greece - and became more legendary than the serious project itself, and all the other serious projects from that event:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Aqua Sanctuary

Mr XY - Aqua Sanctuary

But this setting is not alone. There's a Create a Classic level which embarked on an adventure to include a superstructure of a similar scope and nature, however cruder, heavier, more monumental and therefore feeling much older and down to earth than Kevin's slightly surreal environment. The question is which one to play - and the answer is YES.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Temple of Isis

ShakiraCroft - Temple of Isis

Considered by countless players, or at least by Raildex, the most visually stunning TR4-styled level, Horus's suspiciously undemanding and laid-back map casts overshadows the original Karnak despite of having identical limitations. It probably is the best to attempt it on a lonely Winter evening - and definitely NOT in the hot weather as we currently have (oooofff...).

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Heirs of the Medjai

Horus - BtB2009 - Heirs of the Medjai

Here's another instance of Karnak which rivals if not surpasses it visually:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Archaeological Site

wrebbit - Archeological Site

Here's one level which wasn't part of Create a Classic competition, but it could well have been. Not just deliberately mixing the resources in a way which doesn't disturb, but also giving a new purpose to familiar objects - both tricks useful for creating attaching the familiar mood but detaching it from the original setting.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Ruins of Kaitelbu-Ra

Mystery-King - The Ruins of Kaitelbu-Ra

I would risk a statement the following one is the best library level until now. When you begin the game, it makes you treat it like an ordinary level, but then throwing in twists you surely cannot expect in a level of this sort.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Silence of the Library

Ankhrae - Silence of the Library

This one here is particularly notable for the builder's awareness of how to mix ornamental patterns without making them clash - so it looks very detailed and decorative but never too much. But I recommend to reserve a bit of extra memory for this one, since camera hints don't work and you need to remember far destinations.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Tomb of Achnaton

Gerbil - Tomb of Achnaton

Many of you remember that moment of Tomb Raider Requiem where Lara is getting flashbacks of her life episodes. But not many know this idea has been used in the previous age, and entire levelset has been dedicated just to it - a very neat way to switch settings rapidly so none of them gets boring:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Eternal Mysteries

JMN - Eternal Mysteries

A level builder is an unusual species. They normally live isolated life, building alone. Then they join competitions which are also solo projects. But then all of a sudden, they decide to collab. In the previous entry I mentioned Skribblerz Stonez, a parallel to Back to Basics, however with less rivalry, aiming for group excellency, leaning towards customization but still bound by a common idea. Each member of the project began the build in an identical starter room, but then they were supposed to morph them and shape the surroundings at will. This idea continued for five editions and evolved from totally classic to totally modern. Near the end, one of the builders even dared use meta2tr - an exporter/importer of entire levels to a polygon modeler program Metasequoia, which literally allows cutting the level into pieces with surgical precision, apply real UV maps and 3D details. However preserving or destroying the Tomb Raider mood is still up to the builder.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Dragon of Alexandria

Leonvdn - Dragon of Alexandria

But before that happened, Leon has built one of the first truly TRNG levels, and a rare phenomenon of a technically perfect debut, this is another one best played alone at night.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Lara Croft and the Forgotten Scribe

Leonvdn - Lara Croft and the Forgotten Scribe

You could say every community has its own flagship team event. In 2005 on laraslevelbase a team was formed who scripted a spin-off story of Natla getting back into power. While the plot is more like TR1, the game had one level which was unusually utilizing one of the most underused assets in stock - Cairo, to recreate one of the most famous mosques in the world.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Cordoba

Horus - Cordóba

Shortly after in 2007, the French community has pulled off another full-scale game. While not made literally of TR4 assets, it delivers the same spirit as The Last Revelation - Lara is meant to defeat an evil god and stop him from destroying the world. Comprising of 15 levels, "Revenge of Osiris" is still the biggest single-plot, multilevel team effort to date.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Castle of Corpus Fatalis

TimJ - The Castle of Corpus Fatalis

The latest, but I bet not last, team plot project, is a spiritual father to this blog - "Legend of Hathor" is what we made of default resource packs to honor the 20 years of TRLE. This time Lara doesn't save the world but returns to her old habit of going through various stages of challenge and setting, in order to snatch the final prize for herself. And since every level screams TR4, I can show all of them:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Temple of Hathor

Klona - Temple of Hathor

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Tomb of Menel

DJ Full - Tomb of Menel

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Vicennial Pyramid

Zreen - Vicennial Pyramid

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Poseidon Apparatus

Sabatu - Poseidon Apparatus

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Trial of Tefnut

Niveus - Trial of Tefnut

A very special kind of collab is family projects. Among the most notable is Legend of the Golden Scorpion, made by EssGee and his son. It consists of five levels delivering a common plot.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Legend of the Golden Scorpion

EssGee/MiniGee - Legend of the Golden Scorpion

When talking about TR4 we can't really overlook several custom attempts to rebuild the scrapped TR4 Gold. All of them were top-notch but the most standing out are multilevel releases by Cowboy and Feder.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Fading Light

Cowboy - Fading Light

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Fading Light 2

Cowboy - Fading Light 2

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Fountain of Youth

Feder - The Fountain of Youth

I was talking about plot supplements, but here's a location supplement - a level which sticks to TR4 but blends in a bit of TR3 jungle in order to supply the mood of Oasis - something we never got in TR4, and maybe we should have... now done!

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Last Day in Fayyum

dennis16 - The Last Day in Fayyum

Before Titak started Titaking, there was this. It only uses 10% of TR4 resources but its soul mostly goes there. It's a nice trip if you wanna witness a builder one step from the breaking point of writing "custom" all over the place, mueheheheheheh... Note you should play this level together with the following "Realm of the Damned" since they were meant to be connected.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Search for the Mystic Stones

Titak - Search for the Mystic Stones

TonyTomb, whom I already mentioned in the previous blog, needs more exposure. He's the source of several things which you might consider unique from much later levels. Through several idiosyncratic levels, "Isle of the Sun" follows the story of Hathor and her hidden temple.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Isle of the Sun Part 2

TonyTomb - Isle of the Sun Part 2

Of course, the eternal debate if games even need a story also took place in TRLE. Some levels encapsulate a single idea so efficiently they make you forget about the absent plot. For example here we have a map built in TRNG but simulating vanilla, reusing the Ptolemaic model to exploit main attributes of every planet - e.g. Earth has water, Venus has storm. While puzzles made of manually moveable elements are already great by default, and The Last Revelation could consist pretty much entirely of them, then having one which is half cup old half cup new pushes the experience even further beyond.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Buried Temple

tombraider1703 - The Buried Temple

And of course I wouldn't be myself if I didn't mention that map where you can swim between the teeth of a HUGE SCULPTED CROCODILE... Omnomnom.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Sobek's Sanctuary

Aza - Sobek's Sanctuary

But one of my favourites of the kind is this solid chunk of gameplay orientated around a pillar. Normally I would dislike climbing up then down then up, but this level gets away with a twist, and it's also one of very few which utilize eclectic patterns without making them feel like forced to coexist. It's like a compressed showcase of skills, and also a remarkable tribute to a builder's close person.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Unremarkable Egyptian Pillar

Skyld - The Unremarkable Egyptian Pillar

At the edge opposite to that friendly are levels made for challenge - skipping stories, skipping visuals, they make you wanna skip themselves - but if you don't, and if you beat them, the feeling of reward is... well... rewarding!

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Search for the Amulet

Blacksheep - Search for the Amulet

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Challenge of Ba

Raymond - Challenge of Ba

Balancing a challenge is skill, but balancing a challenge with visuals is mastery. Here is a rare example of a level which plays exactly as good as it looks. Every room is a surprise and an engagement. While that is enough, you also get some special effects included.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Sacrifice to Horus

Morgoth - The Sacrifice to Horus

Very similar in character to the one listed above but with more of showtime style, it shows creativity of a builder who has become legendary later on the timeline.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Guardians of Tomb

Lima - Guardians of Tomb

Purely classic in gameplay, "Quattour" features one of the best aqueduct rooms but also requires being observant - make sure you pay attention or miss the pickups and suffer.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Quattuor

Ghostraider - Quattuor

I remember this was the first level I beta tested in my life. Mytly had a whole galore of people who could do that, but for some reason I was chosen, and hence the title. No, actually no. But yes, I beta tested this and it was the first one in my life.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Chosen

Mytly - Chosen

Having Cambodian core but then twisting to a crossover between TR3 and TR4, Phabius gives you an unexpected, unique blend of colors. You wouldn't think it could work that well, but it does. And it has some neat platforming on top of that.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Asphaeings Amulet 3 - The Escape

Phabius Phodes - Asphaeings Amulet 3 - The Escape

By now it seems Sabatu won't only single-handedly provide an entire new era, but also will do so his own speedrun way: the fastest builder we know has delivered his Create a Classic entry in two weeks, after discarding another which also took him two. John Williams comes to mind, losing an Oscar for Jurassic Park to himself by winning it for Star Wars the same year. This is just AAA efficiency, iconic, unstoppable, not just creating a classic but also creating a class.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Pyramid of Horus

Sabatu - Create a Classic 2019 - The Pyramid of Horus

If we're at it, I need to point out that earlier work which everybody overlooks because of the author's later masterworks, but which still has one of the most meaningful 3D horizons ever applied.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Journey

Sabatu - The Journey

I swear this is the last level from Sabatu......for now, because before I upload this he might release 89 new ones. I don't know about this guy - he's like those modded players in Minecraft: I log out, I take a nap, I log back in and they have a fully automated endgame factory:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Mystery of the Lost Pyramid

Sabatu - Mystery of the Lost Pyramid

For now Opaque's most transparent work plays without fireworks or surprises, but focuses on carefully executing every element and some assets are used in a way superior to how we remember them from TR4. If you want to learn how to utilize lighting, this level could pretty much serve as a tutorial.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Quest for the Golden Armor

Opaque - Quest for the Golden Armour

Another, much earlier one which could be such a tutorial. A very rare case of a well done Cambodian level, a class still not used to its full potential while the focus is almost completely shifted to its younger brother - Back to Basics: Khmer Empire, which we'll talk about some time later:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Return to Jazimiya

Verner - Return to Jazimiya

Speaking of tutorials, there's this one made over 15 years ago to supplement special setups not covered in the official manual. I know the title says "tutorial", but it's a fully standalone level, and due to its teaching purpose it's very accessible to beginner players.

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level Egyptian Dream Tutorial

MagPlus - Egyptian Dream Tutorial

I'm about to wrap this episode dedicated to TR4 levels. But keep in mind we barely scratched the surface. For the end, let me show a leap in definition through a modern remake of a familiar map:

A screenshot from Tomb Raider Level Editor custom level The Sanctuary of Light 1

tombraider1703 - The Sanctuary of Light - Part 1

-DJ

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