This blog mirrors the last TRLE community stream including 3 trilogies - classic, gold and reboot - so I had to compress it a lot. Rather than games greatly exposed already, I show good levels you might have not heard about. It starts as always - with crude levelsets, absolutely great if you look for raw isolation. It's no coincidence so many of them are rooted in TR1.
But this need never dies and you might get such level even two decades later.
EyeOfIsis - Lost Lunar Complex
Among a gallore of TC14's levels, a lesser one stands out. In BtB2009 where people were allowed to pick a theme, he treated Temple of the Cat completely offtopic, producing a spinoff of a spinoff. A packed, organized clockwork, it should flop - but it didn't:
Moving to TR2 chapters in the order from the original game, we start with the Great Wall. Of 9000 attempts I picked this one, because in a challenge of unboring this level, the builder has succeeded - and did much more.
Alike for Venice, the attempts are uncountable. But what about a twist? While the current discussion if horror elements belong in Tomb Raider is still going on, in custom levels it's been solved ages ago.
The city was also one of those hijacked for a Christmas level. Not so common, the prequel to this one was made by a different builder - Miss Kroft. Nick also has a Gold-class levelset Late Summer worth mentioning.
I picked Piega's 2010 contest level for a common denominator of entire group of 23. Yes, I really think you should play all of them because this package is like a cherry on top of a cherry.
To sum up Venice's many lives, here's the latest one. Might be you heard about it.
It frequently happens an author makes a level more popular than his older release and suddenly the former loses audience. Yep, this is still my favourite of Feder, and I cannot let it vanish in the shadows because it's just ingenious.
While Tomb Raider and RMS Titanic possibly wears the crown (or a diamond necklace) of the most played Maria Doria levels, there's one which keeps going under the radar. The heart of the game rivals the best ship levels...
...like this one, maxing out Piega's revamped HD asset.
Of forgotten sagas we got over time, Mystery of Eden consists of 11 levels and is one of those games where you can see the simplicity yet still have fun.
A dragon tale but not like you might think, quite opposed to well-anchored twists and customs, Year of the Dragon shares the mood of Chinese chapter in its own way.
To me still the best one of Danath, and another one underplayed because of the author's new releases, Mystic Realm will make you jump. For more than one reason.
We will also never forget The Great Chi and his input for the community. Some things were lost, but he will live forever in thewolf's game.
About to leave TR2 and take a shower in the manor... oh no, something went wrong and we need to solve it first AGAIN. This level is a bit harder but was up there far before Messy Christmas, Croftmas Manor and modern Advent team levels arrived to steal the scene.
We're now in TR2 Gold. Fortunately, the game engine didn't allow damage water back then, and some builders stayed faithful to it.
The textures of this one are mostly from the oil rig platform levels, but the vibe and gameplay is definitely Gold.
Meant for speedrun purposes but also playable the old-fashioned slow way, TimJ's map can be done in 15 or 50 minutes and is always a pleasure to watch.
You can experience the rust and frost much more pronounced in what is for now the only level showing the mood of Golden Mask with a high-definition asset.
To me, still the opus magnum of classic tributes, this one derives from multiple settings of the first trilogy, over the course of 10 levels. Here, small rooms often have more character than big rooms in other games, and the slow yet regular pacing makes it the best when played in solitude.
And now, into the forests of TR3... Before Mike became our resident BtB builder, he has planted this one.
Compared to it, Flake must have dropped an entire truck of jungle saplings. Low canopies with high draw distance make it look much denser and bigger. I can't remember this approach from any other level.
Ma.ximo is one of builders who don't neglect any visual FX tool. He made several short levels, so I advise to play them all in release order.
Oh, what's this? The game must have frozen... as well as the author's building process - I really hope this is finished one day, because it was the one and only.
I think 20x20x20 levels are like those 3D cube miniatures which capture the root (haha, jungle.. haha, root.. meh) of the chapter. But they're often more playable.
Concluding the jungles (for now), yet another needs a bump. Most of people know Trix's Time Odyssey levels but it's her crash site adventure which I consider a model on how to use lighting, not just in TRLE, but in any engine. It's just flawless.
Justin is known from the second highest rated custom level, but his Dark Skies cityscape stands among the best London renditions. Here I also need to mention the jungle part of his older Atlantis saga.
And now, arguably the best London level which doesn't overstep the classic mood:
Once upon a time, London got its own Back to Basics competition. Here's a good example of what has been made for it:
Among these London levels, one is particularly extraordinary, formed almost exclusively of the Illuminati part. If you step in, will they let you out?
Nevada levels often feel like TR3 ones with parts shuffled. Except from this one, made by the Brazilian community. I'm still waiting for Part 2.
After the military bit it's time for tropical chill... actually, no. This level hides so much you will have to play it several times to understand 100% of it, and it likely remains in the top 5 most daring experiments in TRLE history.
Now we chill for real. If you were overwhelmed with the previous one, this one will give you what you wanted, offering several hours in the Pacific.
Tomo has recently returned with the fifth part of his Last Saga. Here's a magma blast from the past:
Remember the bridge in Madubu? Yes, THAT bridge. Now you can cross it in another levelset which fills the plot hole. The entire saga has 4 parts and also touches on the subject of Tinnos.
Speaking of Tinnos, there are several multilevel adventures which follow the TR3 pattern and make this lost city the core of the game. Here's one currently in status of legend which becomes a myth:
And, similarly constructed but much smaller in scope, good for desserts or appetizers:
At some point we had a boom of texture remasters and we also got a HD Tinnos pack, which makes the setting look clean and unlost, like if it's been through a laundry:
But there was even an attempt to smoothen the entire look by running it through third-party modelers. Round pillars are just a teaser, there's much more wonder behind this door:
Eventually, to quit with a bang, I give you a levelset probably the most dedicated to Tinnos, made of nine levels located exclusively there. I still don't know how the author has managed to pull it off but yes, it's there.
Wait, did I forget Antarctica? Oh, DAM it...
And now, the ultimate mix of TR3. The revised version is also much like AOD in TR3 engine.
There's some weird trend among the builders. If something was in a Gold expansion, it almost always stays small, like if it was forbidden to be more than one level. So we get those small adventures perfect for an evening play:
But of course there are exceptions, like this minisaga, including the ancestor of underwater bases:
which was then followed by Crystals of Amun, to achieve the visual summit in levels like Gateway to Atlantis and Sleeping with the Fishes:
Another one by Baddy lets us actually ride the Chunnel train instead of exploring its wrecked form:
A builder who treat expansions on par with mainlines is definitely Seth94. As long as there's a complete chapter, it's a base for a complete story, no matter which game it comes from. He first did it with TR2 Gold in Search for the Golden Mask, and then with the French location of Lost Artifact:
Originally I wanted to split this blog into separate trilogies but we still don't have many Reboot-inspired levels. For now nobody has built a shipwreck beach, or a sky gondola, so I really don't know what they're waiting for. But there is one level which captures the mood of hanging japanese monastery. It didn't get much screen time in the mainline, so here you get like 5 hours:
And just when I was about to close the Reboot topic, I remembered something which I maybe should have not:
Moving on to Rise, there are some locations which pay direct tribute. LoreRaider did his best to capture the frozen mountain mood from the pre-Syrian prologue.
And speaking of Syria, AgentXP's final room of her 2016 level was a retrification of the Prophet's Tomb.
Spinning off but still sounded and visualized alike, we get a bit of Mongolia. Makes me wonder how it would be if the full thing has seen the light of the day.
But I think if any level is close to tributing Shadow of the Tomb Raider, it might be this one. It preserved elements from older Peru, but also allowed the new engine to increase the definition of the surroundings, so now the architecture is properly eaten by nature. Omnomnom.
See you around, somewhere, sometime