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Level: BtB2015 - City of Sands back home search
Author(s): MarciderFan
total rating:5.95 Gameplay &
Puzzles
Enemies,
Objects &
Secrets
Atmosphere,
Sound &
Cameras
Lighting &
Textures
Bene 7 7 8 8
Chel 6 5 6 6
DJ Full 4 7 6 7
Drakan 9 8 8 7
janachorider 6 3 5 7
Jay 6 6 7 7
Jose 3 5 6 7
Josey 7 6 7 6
Magnus 3 2 3 3
manarch2 4 4 6 5
MichaelP 6 7 7 7
Mman 5 6 5 4
Mytly 6 5 7 6
Nomad 7 6 9 6
Orbit Dream 4 6 6 6
Phil 8 8 8 7
Relic Hunter 5 5 7 6
requiemsoul 4 4 5 4
Ryan 5 4 5 5
Tolle87 5 5 7 7
Treeble 7 8 9 8
category averages
(21 reviews)
5.57 5.57 6.52 6.14

Reviewer's comments

"While I was looking through the levels saved on my PC I realized that this was the one BtB Greece level I had not played. I don't know if this was a debut level or what, but for the builder here is my input as a player. I'm not trying to be mean, just honest and direct. The backtracking was almost cruel at many points. I did not kill Pierre the first time through and didn't realize that he had a quest item needed to progress so I had to go all the way back after making it through the maze to shoot him and snag his key. Then on top of my 'oops' backtrack I had to backtrack another few times for the next sequence of doors and puzzles and it was very tedious. The level was also very dark in several places. There are plenty of flares provided, but some rooms were so large and dark that a flare didn't really do much good! That light only goes so far. Took me forever to find where to use the blue key until I stared popping lots of flares and using the light function on the spyglass to realize that there was a structure near the big tree that I hadn't yet explored. Some levels best played with eyes open yes, but some ambient lighting would have been greatly appreciated. Some of the jumps were cheap and required 'glitching' and fiddling to get Lara positioned for that pixel perfect jump. The first jump in the room with the floating boat is the one I'm referring to. Those are just annoying. Yes, we can get them eventually, but when eyeballing a room for which route to take it's unnecessarily confusing. You can tell what jumps Lara can and can't make, usually. Having to fudge an illegal jump to proceed was frustrating. For secrets, yes by all means make us work for it. Not for progression in a room that's also very poorly lit. Ammo was very skimpy. Enemies were frequent and often positioned in places where having to resort to pistols resulted in being chewed on. Cerberus monsters in the maze! Aughh! I killed everything and had juice boxes and ambrosia to spare but it was still annoying, and I'm very conservative with ammo. Being forced to use the pistols to kill the centaurs, Minotaur, and harpies was mean. Yeah there was some thunderbolt ammo lying around in the big room that I noticed after offing the Minotaur and harpies that would have made life easier, but killing the big baddies takes precedence over pickup searching! Finally, what bugged me the most: the hit boxes for gates and columns. Lara smacks into invisible walls where the door will swing open, so the square in front of the gate is treated as a solid block. There is also a column in front of the pit of the first boulder trap that acts like a solid wall all around that annoyed me to all end. I would try jumping around some way, Lara would bounce off a thing that wasn't there and then 'smoosh!' Lucky I had some nice Greek Assyrtiko wine to go with this Greek level at this point! Those are my biggest complaints for the builder. I'd definitely try another level by this person again, since I think that he/she has potential and there was some good stuff there, it's just lost in the frustration after awhile. Much of the atmosphere was excellent. The abandoned town, which went from mundane to otherworldly after walking through that creepy skull gate was neat. The surreal realm where the Thunderbolt was lying was a cool idea too. The sense of isolation was very much in the spirit of the first Tomb Raider and I really enjoyed that. Only one human enemy showed up as a rude intrusion into the Greek exploration, just like St. Francis Folly. I guess that final takeaway is don't be mean to your raiders!" - Chel (18-Feb-2019)

"Well, not a bad debut, I think I was one of the betatesters years ago, but usually the builders never hear the betatesters' advices. Not bad the architecture and well applied textures, but monotonous in many rooms. The darkness is present almost in all rooms, not good even when there are enough flares. The gameplay is not good, without puzzles, only based about find items and pull switches, and the worst was that the player is forced to run from place to place very long paths only to pull a switch or get a key and run again through the same places very long paths to use the keys, reach the open doors or place the lyre; I've suffered this many times. There is enough ammo for the final battle, but only in the final room with all that enemies, when the player is only busy to fight and not to look for ammo. Looking for small keys in a huge and dark room when the calm is restored is not a funny task too. Good effort, but not an entertaining gameplay for my taste. Sorry." - Jose (19-Oct-2017)

"This has to be one of the most underrated levels I have played. The backtracking, which is the level's biggest fault in my opinion deserves to be criticisized but the level has a lot of strong points. Among which, the atmosphere should take the top spot. Even though the game takes place insides most of the time, the game delivered the Greece feel from the general design to the enemies. The parts in which you can see glimpses of the outside and the central room with houses deserve a special mention, they really give you that exploration lust. The music is also one of the areas the game shines. I am a little undecided about the final section, it became too surreal and it would be better if the author did not design such an extreme contrast. With no real clue as to why (maybe the skeleton door signaled the things to come) player is pushed to a hellish and floating world, not to mention really dark. But the platforming at that part was loads of fun (and I guess incomplete too?). The chaotic mythological boss fight near the end was also very entertaining. At the end Lara runs to the sunlight and the level ends. I recommend this level." - Nomad (19-Oct-2017)

"There's a bunch of flaws that betray this as a beginner map- such as invisible walls at doors, upside-down spikes and large segments of too-dark flat lighting-but there's also some strong aspects to it; for the first part the sand city theme is well executed given how limited the textures are for it, and there are few areas that manage to be somewhat impressive. Despite the ambient lighting issues the lighting is sourced and the lighting streaming in from holes in the ceiling looks quite impressive at times. The gameplay starts off fine, if not especially thrilling, but runs into some issues towards the middle, where you suddenly have to start backtracking across the map multiple times and even the shortcuts feel inconvenient. Beyond easily missed keys it does pick up near the end though, with some surreal settings that provide more action for the climax. Not an especially good map, but it's best moments and initially unique theme do show the designer's potential for the future." - Mman (26-Apr-2016)

"This didn't really work for me. It is too dark and cramped in places. The backtracking got annoying too. Sorry but I didn't enjoy it as much as others." - Ryan (08-Mar-2016)

"I really don't like to be harsh with a debut level but sometimes it's unavoidable.It had potential to be decent but unfortunately it failed.It has original surroundings that create solid visual atmosphere, but gameplay simply threw all this nice-looking sand in your face.The builder can and should actually learn from this level because it's a school example and the most accurate collection of all those things that you should never put inside a level.There are technical mistakes with wrongly rotated doors, illegal slopes, non-working monkey swings and even game stoppers if you don't do the right thing at the right time.Let's say the builder was struggling to reach a deadline so he wasn't able to do a test, but that can only serve as an explanation, not as justification.Apart from technical issues, the gameplay also suffers from almost all flaws that you would put on the "most frustrating" list.The longest and most boring backtracking sequences, dark mazes with numerous monsters and wraiths that simply get you stuck in a narrow corridor and kill you by simultaneously poisoning, burning and ripping you, too many enemies on the screen with limited weapons and ammo....Also, some parts make no sense.For example, you do a complex sequence of things to reach the point where you can't do anything but walk to a certain random spot that triggers the enemy which spawns in the area where you already were long before all the hard work, so you can go back and kill him to pick up the keys.I felt like a dog who is told something like "Go there for no apparent reason and than come back to me so I will give you the bone that was here all the time".Almost every item you pick has to be used either literally next to a place you picked it or somewhere far behind in the area that requires serious backtracking.Things become a little better in the surreal area near the end, with lava and some good platforming.There are some good traps, especially few boulder chases.Camera hints are useful, although on the infinite timer until you start moving.Ambient tunes are also weird because you can re-enter some areas and hear the different tune than the last time you were in the same place, just because you ran through the one-way trigger somewhere.On the good side, there are some good tunes that go well with the action on the screen.Also, one minor thing - What was the point of going through the City of Sands?You don't keep any new ancient item, you don't save the world, you just go in there, risk your life, kill another tourist and get out.Sure, you get Perseus Sword but you take it practically near the entrance.Overall, for an untested debut level, it's ok and there are some ideas that show builder's potential for the future, but if we compare it to the other 23 BtB15 levels (excluding mine for collegial reasons, lets say mine is the worst one), it's some steps below them." - Tolle87 (25-Jan-2016)

"It seems this builder has run out of time - some things are polished and some are half-designed. While this is acceptable and edible in case of locations, mazelike or not, artificially-parkoured or not, repetitive or not, then in case of puzzles it brings crucial design flaws and I don't speak about collision blocks, inverted spikes, shortcuts or illegal slopes we're all used to, but about the intended necessity for multiple runs from one corner of the map to another, also with an unintended overlay of backtracking if you skip some items on the way, what may happen especially in the moment when Pierre appears to defend Lara from a lion. If you look into the readme you may get a clue to kill him anyway, but if not then you have a greater chance to assume he's an ally. SUMMARY: Parts and points of this level are troubling, but if you take that one precaution to kill everything and check for dropped stuff, you may enjoy other parts and points which have some atmosphere to absorb and challenges to overcome." - DJ Full (11-Jan-2016)

"In the reviews tag cloud for this level, the word 'backtracking' looms large - that's because of the ridiculous amount of backtracking, the gameplay lowlight of this level. You have to trudge back and forth across the entire map around 6-7 times: use a switch at one end of the map to open a door at the other, get a key behind that door for a door back in the original room, and so on and on. It's quite an achievement (well, the dubious kind, anyway) for a level when a dark, boring, enemy-filled maze isn't the worst thing about it. The whole level has an amateurish air, with wrongly placed doors, upside-down spikes, dead ends, and a general player-unfriendly feel. On a positive note: I rather like the hell-like section near the end, which features some enjoyable jumping challenges. There are some decent traps, such as a slope with multiple boulder traps (though this one is a mixed blessing, as the boulders make the screen shake all the way till the end).
Enemies are used rather poorly, such as the ones that keep accosting you in the maze. There are a huge number of enemies in the final battle, but all of them can be defeated by the simple expedient of standing at the top of the slope at the entrance to the room, and picking them off at leisure - even flying enemies can't cross such a steep slope. The use of Pierre as an enemy whom you have to kill to get a key is illogical, as he not only does not harm Lara, but in fact kills a lion for her.
It's a bit of a mystery to me why a builder would look at the lovely and colourful textures in the BtB 2015 package, and think to himself/herself 'Nope - I'm going to use only the grey and brown ones.' Ok, to be fair, the hell section is predominantly red/orange in colour. And there are some nice looking rooms which feature collapsed ceilings, with light rays pouring in and greenery growing down into the sandy underground rooms. Fog is used well to give a dusty, decrepit atmosphere to many areas.
Overall: A rather flawed level, but with a few good bits. If this is a debut level, I hope the builder takes the above points as constructive criticism when building his/her next level." - Mytly (31-Dec-2015)

"City of Sands (or City of *Snands*, as it's referred to in the readme) reminds me of Back to Basic Venice's Door to Venice, in the sense that both levels wasted their respective wads and textures. Door to Venice took place entirely in the sewers beneath Venice, while the entirety of Snands takes place in an underground city. Not a terrible idea in and of itself, but there's so much potential to build beautiful areas with this year's wad, and this just looks like any generic Egyptian level released in the first couple of years of the Level Editor. It starts out really linear and exceedingly simple, although there is a rather irritating maze along the way. It's pitch-black, and while you do get torches, you keep having to drop them as you're accosted by enemies every few steps - and there's really not enough room in the maze to fight enemies successfully. Enemies are really overused in general in the level. Outside of the maze, they're not very challenging, but they do get very tiresome after a while. Also tiresome is the lighting, as it's a very dark level for the most part. There also don't seem to be many sun bulbs, which makes the lighting really flat and makes keys and keyholes really easy to miss. This becomes a problem later in the level, when you get to what I assume the residents of Snands called The Repository of Keys and have to start backtracking. It's not too challenging, since it's not a big level (despite lasting for 45 minutes), but it's easy to get stuck for a while if you miss a key or a keyhole somewhere in the flat darkness. It seems to be a level by an inexperienced author, and it's a solid enough effort if that's the case, but there are also a lot of minor issues that really should have been smoothed out: spikes appear upside-down; doors are placed the wrong way; there's a slope next to a wall; and there are several places where it feels like the author built a room with one path in mind, only for there to be another way to get through the room, but the author never fixed it for some reason. All of these issues are extremely obvious, so I'm left wondering if the author didn't have time to fix them, or just couldn't be bothered? Or maybe the Back to Basics subforum isn't the haven of helpfulness we've been led to believe, and everyone was too busy trying to win the competition to help fledgling level builders with their levels. Either way, it's a shame. The texturing seems to have had a bit more care put into it, but it's really simple and it's all so very, very next-gen brown. The author really decided to run with the 'snands' motif, and it's all browns and grays, which is a shame when there are so many colorful textures available. It's a drab level and the gameplay isn't great, but everyone has to start somewhere, so to the author: hang in there?" - Magnus (30-Dec-2015)

"I feel that this level has gotten something of a bad rap by the previous reviewers. To be sure, it seems the builder had a list of Things That Most Irritate Players close at hand, and incorporated them all into the gameplay as he went along, and it seems that the builder ignored all the ornate textures provided with the Grecian package and elected instead to provide yet another dark and drab exercise in a confined interior environment, but I found that it all started growing on me near the end. I gave myself unlimited flares near the beginning, fearing the worst, but to the builder's credit I found that he provided ample flares along the way. And the backtracking became a major issue for me toward the end of the level. But then you come across this surreal (and dark, but never mind) lava area where the final tasks take place, and it got quite interesting at this point. I know nothing about building a level, but I believe that earlier speculations that this is a debut effort are off the mark. The elements of gameplay have been mapped out with painstaking care, and even if you find the backtracking annoying (as I did, but Dutchy has given us a thorough walkthrough that takes the player step by step through the level) you have to admit that this level has not been carelessly thrown together. In summary, the builder should be admonished for eschewing the aesthetics offered with the BtB package, but we have here an engaging raid that for me required an hour and 43 minutes to play. (I never pay attention to the playing times recorded by manarch2.) Recommended, with the noted reservations." - Phil (30-Nov-2015)

"Perhaps overall my least favourite BtB level but still not without its moments. The sand theme is actually quite neatly inserted and some rooms have a quite believable and at times atmospheric appearance. Of course there are all the typical mistakes in this level (paper thin walls, invisible blocks in front of doors, badly placed objects - the spikes are upside down, for example -, repetitive texturing and an oppressively grey and dark - though never too annoying - lighting that all show the not yet quite refined skills of the builder. The gameplay is also mostly a not very inspired hunt for key items and there's quite a bit of backtracking (and an annoying maze as an addition) involved too, but there are also a few more decent platforming parts, two boulder traps and some nice fights to solve. What I really disliked were the key dropped by Pierre (saw no need to kill him) and the very long ladders and passages that have to be passed. The enemy usage is decent (liked the final battle), while there are sadly no secrets to find in 25 minutes. For a (probably) first effort this is certainly not bad." - manarch2 (21-Nov-2015)

"Level quite dark on the whole, a lot of backtracking that affect the gameplay. The final battle is pretty easy but put the key under enemy can be detrimental because the keys can be trapped under the statics and can not be recovered, I had to redo the battle in the arrivals hall to be sure recover. Correct level." - Drakan (21-Nov-2015)

"This could have been such a much better level with a bit for time and feedback from testers taken into account. It starts out rather well in the first 15 minutes with a convincing environment and a bit of exploration and then hits ist first pain point after about 15 minutes with a rather annoying maze area. It goes further downhill from there, as this is when the massive backtracking begins as you get sent back and forth several times about the entire map, repeating those routes you have already seen multiple times. I thought the boulder slope later on was another small highlight and actually did not mind the rumbling from then on all that much. The change in setting to the lava cave worked pretty well and the battle arena was fun, but then again a bad design choice, as the enemies drop two really small keys in that arena and if you miss one of them you end up standing at the final door - and are in for another major backtrack then. The level also shows a few technical beginner mistakes with invisible door blocks and wrong OCB settings for spikes, but these are indeed minor and do not interfere with the game as such. All in all, not as bad a level as the scores and reviews might make you think, but could have been so much more. [50 min, no secrets]" - MichaelP (18-Nov-2015)

"This begins with an area dripping with atmosphere or, rather, swirling with it - one can almost feel the grit of sand in the brown haze blowing through. Soon there is much to and fro...not playing this at one sitting, I got continually lost whenever I got back to playing it. The rolling ball challenge was a good one, especially with the exit being placed where it was. The lava room was a bit of a puzzle such as: a MS that isn't and a way around that wasn't and a very easy looking, basic jump that Lara does easily but in this case just would not grab. The atmosphere in the lava room was spooky (nicely) dark but always with enough flares. I enjoyed the maze....it's more a matter of what/where to avoid and getting out when the needed items are picked up but no way to know that until explored fully. Found a few collision bugs - those invisible blocks in front of doors. Lots of good ideas, some of which have to be "firmed up". The nucleus of extraordinary good gameplay and building is evident and I look forward to what this builder will create in the future. ooops almost forgot to mention: the Thunderbolt and ammo is always perfect and a lot of fun to use." - Bene (18-Nov-2015)

"This game has at least two strong points: (1) with exception of the"surreal" part, the places are very realistic; (2) it has some of the best rolling ball challenges that I have seen. But it is full of very dark places, has too many backtracks, has a boring labyrinth full of monsters, the music is continuous (never a good idea) and moreover, the game lacks creativity in terms of tasks, places and puzzles. I also found some minor bugs when Lara had to grab ledges in order to pass by opened double gates: she had to grab the part of the ledge that was directly in front of the opened part of the gate, because she was unable to grab the other part. So, I'm sorry to say that my marks were not very good." - Josey (17-Nov-2015)

"Not quite sure what to make of this level. On the one hand, I was surprised to run into the invisible door bug (which I hadn't seen in a long, long while!) ever so often, but on the other, I thought the atmosphere of the sand covered areas was dense and quite convincing. On the one hand, gameplay was very linear and standard, but on the other, there was a massive amount of unnecessary padding by having the player backtrack so many times in that secluded city square area. There is a clautrosphobic maze along the way as well, and the final fiery areas felt somewhat rushed, like an afterthought. So, yeah. 60 minutes. 11/15" - Treeble (04-Nov-2015)

"The start of the level had a promising ambiance about it with the sandy fog permeating through this buried city, and initially the object placement seemed nice and very fitting for the environment. Further in, however, the environments aren't treated to the same care and polish that the beginning seems to have gotten. There are somewhat large, square areas with not much detail, and long hallways to traverse through that don't have much to see. The lighting is fitting through most of the level, but in the final part with the lava-buried city there's an ill-fitting white fog that makes it difficult to see combined with dark red lighting. I've noticed that some of the textured in the beginning were applied somewhat like wallpaper where they could have been aligned and rotated to lessen that effect. As for the gameplay it's rather basic. Most of what Lara does is go on fetch quests for switches and items, does some straightforward platforming among ledges and platforms, shoot some bad guys and avoid a few traps. The boulder traps were nice ideas, but the second sequence of boulders could have been better designed. As the boulders never finish rolling, the screen shaking they cause persists through the rest of the level and starts to get annoying after a while. There were some serious missteps in gameplay design too. At one point you need to backtrack between a small village and previously visited corridors for switches and puzzle items that force the player to again make that backtrack for similar reasons. The maze with the monsters was also rather annoying with how taking a wrong turn or approaching one of the passageways from a different side caused monsters to spawn. Those two faulty aspects broke up the linear, but solid flow the gameplay had established up to that point. The premise of the level was a good one, but the design suffers from flaws that don't make this entry as fun of an experience. Despite that, the builder shows potential and might treat us to a better rendition of this concept in the future." - Relic Hunter (01-Nov-2015)

"Well, I could certainly have done without the maze and so much backtracking in one level really ought to be illegal, but apart from the bits that activated my grumpy old woman mode, I quite enjoyed the gameplay actually. Initially, the hazy sand covered ruins are hugely atmospheric and there are some interesting tasks to achieve. Enemies can gang up a bit from time to time, but that's probably the most challenging aspect; otherwise it's all readily achievable for most players. It's not a bad level, but could definitely have done with some 'tightening up' to avoid the irritation quotient." - Jay (30-Oct-2015)

"The first thirty minutes of this subterranean adventure were quite enjoyable.There was plenty of exploration in a TR1-esque environment,with a highly original visual theme (as intimated by the level's title);and an effective sense of lonely exploration.The lighting is generally murky,but enough flares are provided for this not to be a problem;and gameplay progression is interesting (including a nifty little lattice courtyard).It's as the level progresses that things really start to go sour:a large,enemy filled and tedious maze;miles of dreary backtracking through endless corridors;places where you can easily get irreversibly stuck if you do something in a manner unenvisaged by the builder;vital keys that are incredibly easy to miss within a map so large it seriously outstays its welcome,and where the sandy theme is quickly forgotten.Things generally pick up toward the end,with a decent Lava jumping cavern and a battle with massed foes - but everywhere there are signs of this being a debut level: doors placed the wrong way round;rolling boulders that fail to stop rolling,producing a slightly shaky screen for the remainder of the adventure;an incorrectly triggered door which opens because of standing on the square beneath the hang lever. At one hour and fifty minutes,this massively outstayed its welcome,and became something of a despondent trudge quite some time before the Finish Trigger came along.A shame,as this showed a lot of promise and clearly wanted to be an epic.In this instance,less would have been more." - Orbit Dream (26-Oct-2015)

"A debut level obviously.too much darkness,bad enemy/object placement and backtracking." - janachorider (25-Oct-2015)

"I guess...a debut map. The lack of lighting is annoying and bactacking is excessive and unnecessary, there are many ilegal and unintended methods. Difficulty: Easy/Medium. 50 minutes." - requiemsoul (13-Oct-2015)
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