Level: BtB2016 - Sandstorm over Daraya back home search
Author(s): BtB 2016
total rating:8.32 Gameplay &
Objects &
Sound &
Lighting &
Drakan 9 9 9 8
Glouglouton 7 8 9 9
Jay 8 8 9 9
JesseG 9 9 7 7
Jorge22 7 9 8 8
Josey 10 10 10 9
Magnus 4 4 4 4
manarch2 8 8 8 8
Mman 9 9 8 8
Phil 9 10 10 8
Revenge 10 10 9 9
Ryan 8 9 9 9
Talos 7 10 7 7
Treeble 9 10 10 9
category averages
(14 reviews)
8.14 8.79 8.36 8.00

Reviewer's comments

"For the final level of this year's competition, things were off to a rough start to say the least, when I got stuck for *an hour* in the *first area in the level*. I could see a door that required the crowbar, but couldn't find the crowbar anywhere. There was a woman at a stall, so I thought maybe there were some coins somewhere? No coins. I looked for holes in the ground, crawlspaces, shimmy cracks, hidden ladders... Nothing. I couldn't find *anything* *anywhere*, and it's not like this was a huge area, either. Finally I restarted the level, and it turns out that what I'd missed was an impossible-to-spot switch behind some ivy. Like, it's *literally* impossible to see. What's supposed to happen is that you run past this switch into a dead end, and then when you run past it again, Lara will look over at it. Once. She looks over at it once. For one second. Now, I don't know if this didn't trigger for some reason, or if I was already looking over to the left which would have made it impossible to see that Lara was looking over there on her own, or if my attention was simply elsewhere for the one second she looks over there, but that's it - you get one chance and that's it. The worst part about this is that it's not even a puzzle! Why hide something only to go, "here's the thing I hid!"? It's like playing hide-and-seek, except you have to tell the person who's seeking where you're hiding ahead of time. What's the point? It's a complete non-puzzle and it soured me on the level right from the start. Nothing after this even makes up for this one awful moment, either. It's standard Back to Basics fare, and despite taking another fifty-five minutes, there's not much to it. You swim around for a bit, there are some timed challenges, and there's this big water-filled cave which I'm pretty sure I got through the wrong way, but I was past caring at that point. One puzzle in the game has a pushable object, *ten* switches and a bajillion raisable blocks - when I saw that room, my first thought was, "bleeeeuuuurrrgh", but apparently the testers found it so complex that the author decided to make the puzzle optional. I thought that was hilarious, but I wasn't exactly in a good mood at that point, so... The final area in the level also has a puzzle involving levers, but once I figured out how it worked, I thought it was one of the better challenges in the level. The ending flyby is also a highlight, and it ties into the story really well. The story is about a city near the Persian Gulf which is suffering from sandstorms, so naturally, they call Lara Croft to help out (is there *anything* she can't do?). The look of the level is... accurate? I mean, it kind of looks like there's a sandstorm and it's a bit rundown and depressing. It's really dull, though. I don't know who in their right mind looks at all the pretty objects and textures in the Back to Basics wad and decides to borrow inspiration from the City levels in The Last Revelation. I hope you like brown, because that's all you're getting! It's funny how one small thing can color your perception of something so thoroughly. Had I not gotten stuck at the beginning of the level, I'd placed it in the big pile of this year's "average, kind of mediocre" levels. Now instead, I'd crumple it up and throw it in the pile marked "give me an hour of my life back."" - Magnus (26-Jun-2017)

"This is set around a town in the middle of a sandstorm and the tunnels beneath it. The town and initial tunnels are nicely done but a little on the cubic side, but it gets better looking as it goes and there are some very interesting looking areas later, including a cave that makes use of water in a way I haven't really seen before. Objects are used well and there are some original ideas to sell the "sandstorm" theme of the main area. The gameplay is enjoyable throughout, and one puzzle being made optional seemed a bit unnecessary as it's actually pretty clever and not overly long despite the "warning". There's a bug with the camera at one point that seems to require loading a save to fix, which could probably be avoided. Most of the ammo being poison arrows seemed strange as they only properly work on human enemies, but there are no human enemies? They seem to do impact damage like normal arrows at least. The end area puzzle did seem a bit tedious (especially when getting attacked all the time), as you have to do the main actions multiple times even after you "get" how it works, but it doesn't take that long at least. There's a nice end to the story as well. Probably won't be one of my favourites but it's a good entry with no major issues." - Mman (17-Jun-2017)

"Wow, what a nice, beautiful game! Even a somewhat tedious pushblock puzzle can be bypassed with the use of a friendly button. We have here a little of everything that pleases raiders: lovely environments, a very good choice of music, difficult and easy swims, tough and not so tough enemies, hard and not so hard timeruns, good puzzles, actions that require thoughtfulness and skill, a tense, nervous but very interesting series of actions at the end, with a terrible immortal boss (even if I think that the pictures below the crowbar levers should be a little more clear, to facilitate the matchings), and, to crown it all, a lovely movie showing a city returning to normal life. What more can I say? Here is the essence of TR in a nutshell. Play it, by all means." - Josey (01-Jun-2017)

"What an intro with the great effect of fallen trees but then directly moving to a floating door … oh well, forgivable. This level shows a few minor shortcomings: a cave area in the town part had paper thin walls, the water surface texture is missing in one pool and the waterfall cave is not all too realistically designed on closer look, but still the overall atmosphere is nice enough with the canalization and the nice views over the town and the outside areas. While it's hard to get started in this level with a very well hidden lever – Lara only watched at it when she ran back (?), the gameplay really has a lot on offer. Personally I don't see why the pushable puzzle was optional as with a good strategy on hand it's not so long (and also why two secrets as a reward? One is certainly enough.) . The mirror puzzle was also interesting, if a bit linear, the final puzzle with the crowbar levers is so-so – I liked the clever puzzle but having to avoid the bolts of the Seth-like enemy is not really fun. Overall the finale, however, quite fantastic, as most conclusions in this contest actually. The visuals are very decent, if not perfect as mentioned above, as well, cameras and sounds are quite solidly used – at one point I had a strange camera bug after a fixed camera, but saving/reloading helped here and it was actually rather funny. In total a good level that took me exactly an hour to complete with seven easy to medium hidden secrets." - manarch2 (29-May-2017)

"Very good level, but very long, I found a secret and did not want to do the puzzle of all rb and all levers. I preferred the 2nd half of the level, although the enigma of colors and crowbarswitchs was a bit incomprehensible for my poor English. I ended up understanding the meaning of colors, fortunately lol. The final with the big chicken is quite simple, just pass behind it and pick up the end item." - Drakan (22-May-2017)

"No more sandstorms thanks to Lara! I thought this level was all fine and dandy and enjoyable but the final rooms seem a bit lacking gameplay wise - that is making things too complicated may be as bad as making them too easy. Finding your way in the huge waterfalls room is a bit nightmare-ish but I made it (almost) on my own. The room with the levers and the immortal enemy chasing you around (luckily, mine got stuck against a wall half way) is much less player- friendly and I actually decided to use the walkthrough just to know which levers I had to use at each time instead of spending the entire next week on the same game. A nice level despite that." - Jorge22 (17-May-2017)

"Each time I feel that I've just played the probable winner of the current BtB competition, I download the next level and have to revise my thinking. I was rather surprised to see that Daraya now ranks 9th in the standings, because as I was playing it I had this impression of raw excellence. It also helps to have Dutchy's walkthroughs close by to guide one's progress. The only complaint I have about this adventure of slightly more than two hours was the darkness in the latter segments, which overshadowed the ingenuity of the crowbar exercises at the end. I was also wondering about all those poisonous arrows that I was accumulating, only to find that they were put to good use in dealing with the boss enemies in the side rooms of the "generator" area. Fortunately, the immortal boss there was stuck in a wall about half the time and was therefore not a constant distraction. I've participated in all the BtB competitions to date, and even though I'm only halfway through with this one I can state categorically that in terms of overall quality it has no equal." - Phil (11-May-2017)

"Lara infiltrates marketplaces, caves, and more in order to save the city from an endless sandstorm. Treating that one optional puzzle as a big secret, this level is one of the few in this competition so far that didn't feel too long or too short to me. This level has the strongest offering of puzzles so far of the levels I have played. There are a good amount of enemies and a few traps from time to time. The builder chose to make the longest puzzle optional, and I think that was a good move, as it can be quite time consuming especially for the less puzzle-inclined raiders. It may have been a good idea to make it not last as long (maybe only one or two endpoints instead of four), but still I enjoyed completing it and unlocking the rewards for the trouble. The final boss could have been more polished however. It is hard to figure out a puzzle involving crowbar switches and pictures, when an invincible guy is flying around showering you with pain. The exploration, which wasn't a large chunk of gameplay, can feel a little too much like a labyrinth near the start. The combat is quite creative toward the end, where each encounter has an "elemental room" attached to it. Decorative objects are put to good use, although I suppose it was inevitable that a builder would use those large bushes to conceal a switch. The geometry in this level is lacking compared to the other entries. The outdoor areas are more angular and less natural looking, but the town area is put well together overall. This is probably the first time I'll ever say music was used a bit too frequently. It felt like every time you unearthed a mirror, or used a puzzle, or opened a door, there was dramatic music, and that takes away from the moments where music is much more warranted. The intro and ending flybys were nice touches, especially that falling leaves effect - that made me do a double take for sure. The texturing has more flaws than in competing levels. There are more warped and mis-rotated textures present, and the cliff sides have many stretched and wallpapered textures. The lighting was a bit dark in some specific areas, but I got excited to finally see some green and red lighting showcased - what a relief from the constant yellows and blues I've seen in this competition. Overall, although not as visually strong, this will be an enjoyable entry to play through, particularly for raiders who enjoy puzzles. 1 hour 45 minutes." - JesseG (09-May-2017)

"This particular level has a very austere appearance to it, enhanced by the sandy, plain textures and the beginning flyby showing the leaves being blown off trees. The after-effects of the sandstorm, no doubt. This level actually notched up at the one-hour mark, although I know it would have been much longer if I had not known where to go. Again, varied gameplay and good atmosphere, although there is a slight over-reliance on pushable puzzles. Good fun, though and this marks the halfway point of the contest for me." - Ryan (02-May-2017)

"Hmmm, approximately one hour net gaming time? That B2B guideline seems to have largely gone out of the window this year and this particular entry took me just over three hours of net gaming time. OK, I'm not a quick player, but still ... On to the good bits. The atmosphere in this level is extremely effective, with the sound of the wind, the drifts of sand and the slightly grainy look to the air - it all combines to give a very authentic feel. The gameplay is an interesting mix of good puzzles and agility tests and the various areas are differently themed which gives pleasant variety. I especially enjoyed the large waterfall area with its 'what's my route?' scenario. The timed elements are not too tight and the only part I found taxing was the last room. Trying to work out various crowbar switch combinations was a good idea, but I was driven almost to distraction by the boss baddie setting Lara on fire at most inopportune moments (alright, there isn't an exactly an opportune moment to go up in flames, but you know what I mean). Still, frantic though it was, it did make an exciting end to the game. Definitely a must-play." - Jay (29-Apr-2017)

"I love how this level integrates its proposed storyline so well, from the very beginning with the sandstorm shaking leaves off trees, through the deserted city and then towards the end with the curse uplift. As far as gameplay is concerned one clear characteristic here is the use of pushblock puzzles. I loved the first one (which the author was very thoughtful to make optional) with the alternating grid of raising blocks, but found myself rolling my eyes when three other pushblock puzzles came along, although these were much simpler. There was a nice sequence over timed trapdoors and a very elaborate platforming sequence in a cave later on, and plus the final showdown is a very elaborate combination of elements which spiced things up. 120 minutes, 7 secrets. 04/17" - Treeble (29-Apr-2017)

"Level recommended (good lighting; good textures ...) .The only "big" mistake is the final puzzle with The four lever. A nightmare (fortunately the invicible ennemy was blocked against a wall). Nevertheless I've enjoyed the first puzzle to obtain the magnum (good) and the second one with the mirrors." - Glouglouton (27-Apr-2017)

"This level is quite a heavy one as well, but I had some much fun with it. It starts in a city, well designed and with a nice fog effect to recreate the sandstorm, before going to underground caves and waterfalls that made me think a lot about Nevada Desert, and was very nicely built. Overall, the architecture was really nice and the level had a very good atmosphere. The gameplay in particular was excellent. The puzzle that was optional was absolutely brilliant, I didn't understand first how it was working but once that was done I had so much fun doing it ! Timed runs annoy me sometimes when they're way too hard but in this level I had just the right amount of time to do them. I enjoyed a lot the final area that was challenging and kinda epic :D Concerning the visuals, the level really pretty as well and with appropriate lighting overall. Very highly recommended :) Stats : 2h45, found all them 7 secrets as well." - Revenge (21-Apr-2017)

"Another nice level of this competition "from one thousand and one Night" We find ourselves in a town hit by a storm Sand, making the atmosphere magical and fascinating. But be prepared to spend a lot of time with this level: 3 hours and 19 minutes of stress! Same identical problem of another level of this competition, Lara of Arabia: too long. A part of the gameplay in the area of Waterfalls, along with the large room with the crowbar switch and the Immortal boss do not help the player at all. But unlike the Room with water, I really enjoyed the puzzle of the crowbar lever switch. But to see the same enigma with the mirrors of Prince of Persia The Sands of Time played with the editor was great! Had to recharge because of a tiny bug in the room with the Two boss-jaguars with the hammer (I did not find the puzzle), and I have fought so hard in the room with the phoenix-turkey, because I was without medikit. Do not waste it! As in other levels, there are also very large rooms in this area not realistic (and my question is always the same: why? Why create mix of different styles? It's a mystery) and with choice of textures fairly questionable. I had very little lag in big areas (not like Lara Croft and the Forty Thieves: I will play it as last one for this reason), but nothing serious. Concluding: Another good level of BtB, but arm yourself a lot of patience." - Talos (20-Apr-2017)
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