Level: BtB2016 - When Ancients ruled the World back home search
Author(s): Tolle87
total rating:8.45 Gameplay &
Objects &
Sound &
Lighting &
Adrian 10 10 9 9
Drakan 10 9 10 9
Jay 9 8 10 9
JesseG 7 9 6 7
Josey 8 9 9 10
Magnus 5 5 5 5
manarch2 8 8 7 7
MichaelP 8 8 9 8
Mman 10 9 9 9
Mytly 10 8 8 9
Phil 10 10 10 10
Revenge 7 6 8 7
Ryan 9 8 9 9
Treeble 10 9 10 9
category averages
(14 reviews)
8.64 8.29 8.50 8.36

Reviewer's comments

"This is quite a massive adventure, built around two huge areas accompanied by plenty of smaller rooms around it. The dizzying flyby at the beginning gives you an idea that a good sense of orientation and excellent memory is required to succeed here - well, or good walkthrough reading skills alternatively. The author claims he can play through this in 50 minutes or so, but that would have to be a pure speedrun without bothering with any of the (optional) pickups and indeed with a perfect understanding of which step to take next at each corner. The player of course is not as knowledgeable about where to go next and gets relatively little help in the first part of the adventure. Hence, I found the first hour plus in this level a bit tedious in the sense that all I felt I was doing is collect pickups and key after key, find my way to door after door, while at the same time having rather little sense of making any progress in the game. I also was often annoyed with the condensed spaces in the outer and connecting rooms, where often objects are used just to inhibit Lara's movements, which really got in the way of more fluent exploration. There is a rather nice mirror, light beam puzzle in this first part, but apart from that, for me personally the game started for real only when I picked up the scroll and entered the "face your fears" part. From here to the end, it felt just right. Diverse and rather creative ideas followed in quick succession and even when you get back and place the skulls and get to do more explaration around the tower and the temple, the flow felt much better in this last hour until the final little gauntlet to reach the funny ending. So for me, a classic example of less can be more, as I could have done without the first 80 or so minutes and really enjoyed the last 60. As much as I can appreciate the rather ingenous overall architecture and construction, the experience of actually playing in it for so long was not all that great. Two additional remarks: I really like the placement of the 10 secrets which provided for a worthy extra challenge to search them and much has been discussed about this game suffering from a lot of lagging, but all I can say is that it was indeed only a very minor issue for me, probably because I am playing on my trusty 6 year old (!) desktop PC, while many others these days play on laptops who just do not seem to be configured in a way to handle these large areas in a custom level well. [145 min, 10 secrets]" - MichaelP (30-Jul-2017)

"I definitely think this level deserved higher scores - as it has a rich environment (okay bordering on the cluttered at times), clever stacked architecture of rooms, some challenging points of progression, good secret quest and some nice touches (scale puzzle, horse manure pool)." - Adrian (29-Jul-2017)

"How do I describe this level? At 3.5 hours, ‘huge’ and ‘staggeringly long’ seem to be a good start. ‘Complex’ is also a suitable adjective – there’s so much to do, so much ground to cover … it’s all overwhelming. However, it would be very unfair of me not to include words like ‘brilliant’, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘unique’. The gameplay is so incredibly detailed – I cannot believe this was built by one person in just 4 months. Every kind of task you can think of in case of TRLE levels can be found here. Puzzles, traps, timed jumps, platforming … it’s all there. Plus there are a number of unique moments and tasks, such as the ‘face your fears area’, where you have to – among other things – allow Lara to drown in order to move ahead. The explosion in the flooded basements is really cool. The use of the ‘mechanical horse’ to test the palatability of a kebab is hilarious and yucky (and the item you get is suitably named ‘Yuck’). And the scene of the Ancients revealing themselves and trying to smash poor Lara is awesome.
Though at the end, I was very glad I persevered, there were a number of times in this level when I felt that I wouldn’t be able to – or didn’t want to – finish it. The main culprit is the lag: there are so many huge areas, and every single room is so overstuffed with objects that the framerate is down to 3-5 fps in most of the hub areas. I nearly quit after spending hours trying to do the first cogwheel timed run, where Lara moved only in slow motion due to the lag. I advocated restraint to the builder of ‘Before the Afterglow’, but I think this builder needs that advice far more.
The level is divided into two main hub areas – a tall outdoor tower and a multilevel indoor room – plus some thousands of offshoot areas (that’s only a slight exaggeration). The visuals are quite good throughout, with lots of pretty gardens and complex architecture. The lighting and texturing are a little gaudy for my taste – the builder tends to throw all sorts of textures together willy-nilly – but on the whole, the style kind of works. The dungeon areas are nearly pitch dark, but that’s probably deliberate – Lara is presumably facing her fear of dark in that area.
Overall: A fascinating yet very frustrating level. Definitely a must-play, but keep the walkthrough handy. Recommended." - Mytly (30-Jun-2017)

"This level has the longest story out of all Back to Basics 2016 levels. It also has the most secrets, and it's tied for most notes. So when the opening flyby (chugging along at around 15 FPS) shows a really tall room, it's not very surprising. This, as you might expect, is a huge level. The main thrust of the level is finding three skulls, but you also have to unlock the paths to the receptacles - so really there are six things to find. And it's just... God. There are paths everywhere, and doors and keys and switches. And behind every door there's a new area with more paths and doors and keys and switches. It just goes on and on and on. The one saving grace in all this is that you can usually be sure that once you enter a new area, you can stay there until you're done. Areas usually center around one idea, like opening up doors for a timed run or platforming over lava. Some of these are decently fun, but they all require way too many steps. Switches and doors and keys and bleeeuuurrgh. Everything's an ordeal in this level, and after a while I started dreading opening up new areas. And there are just so many of them - at one hour and forty-five minutes net gaming time, this manages to be the longest level in this year's competition. And not content with having too much level, the author also mixes and matches way too many different textures in every room, makes some rooms so large that the frame rate drops, and stuffs them with way too many objects. I wish the author had shown some restraint, because it just looks like a visual mess a lot of the time. Like if a participant on Hoarders lived in a house made of patch quilts. There's really no restraint shown in any part of the making of this level. It took me an entire evening just to finish this one level, and I really don't think that was time well spent. Sometimes you can have too much of a good thing, and sometimes... well, sometimes you can just have too much of something." - Magnus (26-Jun-2017)

"The theme of this level is very eclectic, with all kinds of textures, themes and objects used all around. It's done with such consistency throughout that it manages to work, and the sheer scale frequently impresses. The size and amount of objects does lead to some performance issues though. It occasionally feels a little cluttered too, but it's not really done anywhere it affects gameplay.
The easiest way to describe the base structure is something like St Francis' Folly, with a giant tower structure to climb with offshoot areas, but that simplifies it a bit too much, as it's more like multiple towers that intersect in complex ways. This is the kind of level that impresses with it's sheer size, as every time you think you grasp the layout another giant area reveals itself.
Despite it's size and somewhat non-linear design, the level does a good job sectioning individual puzzle areas off, and the central item holes are revealed quite early to give you a goal. you also open several shortcuts, and getting around is quite fast by the end despite how huge the place is. Tasks are varied and use many of the objects in the set, on top of requiring some more obscure movements (like getting the torch past water). There's also some creative ideas like an area based on various fears. Elements of humour are also well-executed. There were one or two tasks towards the end that felt slightly unnecessary, but even then they weren't stretched out too long, and it didn't overtake the creativity throughout for me. This level is far too long, complex, experimental and surreal to be more than a niche entry, but I loved it and it's sure to be one of my favourites of this BTB." - Mman (17-Jun-2017)

"This level is quite a mess. Not mainly in the negative sense, as there are barely levels that is so immersive, at least potentially if the builder had polished things up more, but anyway. It basically revolves around two large-scale and especially high areas which are heavily interlinked, making the gameplay very complex, at times also confusing. There are a few fillers in the gameplay that make it longer than it actually should be, and a little bit more fluent progression would've helped from time to time, still overall, actually, I'm pretty content with what I've experienced, with lots of smaller and longer tasks that put you on your teeth and a nice overall progression to the top of the tower and down again. Hard to list all in such a long level, but I really loved those fear rooms, the use of mirrors and of course the final tasks with the horse and the camels, really epic design here. The torch puzzle was well intended and the following explosion scene is impressive but I don't think I managed it in the way the builder wanted it; I also had the bug with Lara not aiming at the last bull, no save/reload helped here sadly. In terms of objects, the builder has obviously put a lot of imagination in this game, but I also think that the amount of objects is just a bit over the top and that caused a quite heavy lag at the top of the areas. It was as if the builder wanted to cover some shortcomings in terms of architecture and visuals with all those objects, as on a closer look there are quite a few distorted textures, not very realistic lighting and the general room design is a bit chaotic as well. It's still good work and especially the cameras and sounds do their job well here (at one point there are two sound tracks playing over each other though). The ten secrets are a great sidequest and overall I enjoyed the 1:45 hours spent in here, although a little reduction in terms of space, length and object density might have been a good choice." - manarch2 (29-May-2017)

"One thing is certain: this level will not lose points for extreme simplicity and lack of ornamentation. In fact, it is so crowded of decorations and objects that Lara hardly can move, and has her necessary movements constantly impaired. Nevertheless, one must recognize the hard, sweaty labor endured by the author in order to use every single ornamental feature millions of times, providing the necessary space for all of this and having some lag as an inevitable consequence. The result are overwhelming, suffocating environments and a lot of visual pollution. The level is also big, and of the brave category named “I need a GPS”. Thus mentioned, let’s proceed to good and bad things. The level has simple, but good puzzles, hard timed runs, well placed and fortunately not very tough enemies, a lot of acrobatics through low walls, and fences, and vases of flowers, and impairing things (sometimes it seems almost impossible that Lara can do a jump, but it is a false impression), a lot of backtracks, some funny instances (as that of the horse food taster, for example), some very scary areas (those snakes that could not be killed were certainly very unusual, not to mention those rooms drenched in darkness where we hear the voice of some big unseen beast), and even some falsely fearful ones. A creative and unusual author, by all means. As to the rest, a few more camera hints would be useful, I loved the music and the lighting was good, except into the purposefully dark areas. (Btw, did anyone discover that lighting a flare and tossing it to the ground lights that very dark area where flares are forbidden?) Play it." - Josey (28-May-2017)

"This is an awesome, awesome level, and I'm amazed that the scores to date haven't placed it near the top of the BtB competition. I nursed it over a period of several days while playing other levels, and although my game clock registered over three and a half hours by the time I finally hit the concluding flyby, I never once felt that the level was overstaying its welcome. The colors, lighting and surroundings are nothing short of suburb, and I missed one of the 10 secrets only because I plowed ahead without first reading Dutchy's warning to carry my lighted lamp across the field of vanishing pillars. A level as complex as this one probably lay fully blown but dormant for years until the BtB competition afforded the builder am opportunity to execute his or her well laid-out plans. Some have complained about the lag time, but I never encountered this problem. A near perfect level. Highest recommendations." - Phil (27-May-2017)

"Lara breaks visits a dozen wise camels and a diarrhetic horse to steal ancient knowledge. I have to wonder if there was some subtext in this competition to build the longest level. If it were, this would be the winner (I have 4 levels left to play). However, my grading rubric is not so forgiving. I'll get to the layout of the level in a minute, but it causes the gameplay to be mostly platforming which is engaging at times, but there is too much of it. I did enjoy the mirror and block puzzles, however the amount of backtracking is atrocious. If you miss the chamber key, or the route containing the hourglass receptacle, buckle up. Even with the walkthrough it was hard to figure out where to backtrack to, because a lot of the level blends together. If the gameplay were more segmented (ex. trapping a player in a certain area until they've finished what they need to do there) this would have been a more player-friendly raid. Also, not allowing the player to use flares (or weapons) in the darkest areas of the level is rather tortuous and I don't understand why that decision was made. There is a good chunk of combat, which served as a nice change of pace from the other parts of the level. That platform at the very end could have been just a bit bigger because the enemy is so large. Decorative objects are used well, which is good considering the amount of area to cover in this level. Let's get to the layout: there are way too many floors in this temple. A tall chamber that makes Lara feel small is one thing, but an eccentric 6-floor temple with random platforms and stairs jutting out everywhere is a bit overboard, especially when paired with a matching multi-floor garden and a multi-floor outdoor monument area. It is dizzying and lacks architectural sense, removing immersion from the raid. I'm adding "levels that are more tall than they are wide" to my list of pet peeves, as I've never seen that formula play out well. The audio is used effectively, especially the last cutscene. More camera cues would have helped (that small button that causes the star emblem to appear in the dark crypt area), but the flybys are used very well. The texturing is a mixed bag; in the main areas textures are applied well, but I was surprised how much that contrasted with the side areas. There was a lot of wallpapering in the caves and tunnels, and some textures are stretched on walls or warped on triangular surfaces. The lighting is dark in some places, but otherwise it uses a good amount of coloring. Overall a creative entry for sure, but it could have been a more enjoyable raid if it was structured differently. 2 hours 47 minutes." - JesseG (21-May-2017)

"I scarcely know how to start with this one. For one thing, I got so massively confused half way through that I had to put it on hold and wait for the walkthrough. That may give you some idea of the complexity going on here. It's a huge, complex level and it's easy to find yourself in an area before you can do much there. Exploration will take you a long, long time if you elect to have a go without the benefit of help, and I have the utmost admiration for those who manage it. My main thoughts are basically that this is just too clever for its own good. It certainly is clever, I'll not deny, and there are wonderful (and comic) moments that go a long way towards offsetting the frustrations, but it isn't exactly player-friendly. Brilliant title song at the end, by the way." - Jay (02-May-2017)

"My God, that was an incredibly looooong level. It's incredibly non-linear with a lot of varied gameplay tasks to conquer, and can be split into two main sections, around a central tower for the first and around a room with archways and different tiers. Don't get the idea the idea that you'll finish this in an hour, it took me 2 hours and 20 minutes to successfully reach the finish trigger and I enjoyed almost every bit (aside from the lagging that I experienced in a few areas). One neat touch was using a kebab in a hilarious manner in conjunction with a horse. Another great level... and didn't I hear the phrase "When Ancients Ruled the World" in the final flyby?" - Ryan (01-May-2017)

"Consider "10 secrets" a warning to this level's length. To say it's massive is an understatement, and not only it's filled with huge areas, they're more often than not vertical spaces, so there's a lot of platforming involved as you quest for an obscene amount of quest items to proceed. Visually speaking at times it felt too poluted with too many objects crammed into the areas, but generally speaking it does look good and areas are easily identified - reaching them whenever you need to backtrack might prove differently however. From what I can tell there isn't a whole lot of backtracking involved as it's a bit of a sandbox styled level in which you can do things in any order you desire, but it takes a bit of luck to understand what you're supposed to do next sometimes. Fortunately gameplay is varied enough so despite the huge timesink, the level doesn't become repetitive and I actually thought it was rather intriguing how little it relies on combat, leaving most of it for the final sequence. It was the first time I saw an illegal slope actually integrated into gameplay. Also, I couldn't help but laugh at the 'food testing simulator', though it certainly endangered at least one living person, am I right? 185 minutes, 6 secrets. 04/17" - Treeble (29-Apr-2017)

"Very nice level but very long, there is a lot of things to do and before finding the finish trigger you will have run a lot. Very good ideas like the horse that fills the pool in a funny way, the light beams, etc ... Excellent!" - Drakan (26-Apr-2017)

"Holy cow, I thought I would never be able to finish this level ! It was so long ! As well, I'm very mixed concerning the gameplay, some parts I enjoyed, some others I didn't at all, and that's because of the visual aspects of this level. There were far too many different objects and textures used, which made the level very confusing for most of the time and that actually, to my mind, lowered the gameplay quality as well. Other parts, were better designed and with better gameplay (the 'fear rooms' were brilliant for example). I liked the fact that at the end the level becomes more linear and more challenging, with more ennemies as well, contrary to the rest of the level in which they were rare which is a bit of a shame. I had to look on the forums for help several times as well, like for the torch trick that I would never have guessed :o. It's really hard for me to review the gameplay because I didn't like some parts while I enjoyed a lot of others, though I still gave it a 7 because there were some really good stuff and some nice puzzles, same for the visuals because some places were better designed and with atmospheric lighting as well. The music and cameras were well used, as well. Statistics : 3h52, 3 (out of ten !) secrets found." - Revenge (20-Apr-2017)
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