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Level: BtB2016 - Sandstorm over Daraya back home search
Author(s): Lara Croft
total rating:8.33 Gameplay &
Puzzles
Enemies,
Objects &
Secrets
Atmosphere,
Sound &
Cameras
Lighting &
Textures
Adrian 10 9 9 8
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
Jose 6 7 8 8
Josey 10 10 10 9
Magnus 4 4 4 4
manarch2 8 8 8 8
MichaelP 6 8 8 8
Mman 9 9 8 8
MrJavi94 8 8 9 8
Mytly 8 7 9 9
Phil 9 10 10 8
Revenge 10 10 9 9
Ryan 8 9 9 9
Talos 7 10 7 7
Tolle87 10 10 9 10
Treeble 9 10 10 9
category averages
(20 reviews)
8.10 8.60 8.45 8.15

Reviewer's comments

"A solid level from an experienced builder like Nerkan. There are some different areas to explore: the city, the caves and the final area with the boss and adjacent rooms. I've really enjoyed the first areas, even with the nasty hidden switch near the beginning (I tested the level), but when you reach the final area with the immortal boss chasing you at every moment when you are trying to think to solve the numerous tasks, that's not so nice 'cause it takes a very long time until you finish the level; and even with the textures hints, that final area is too complex for most players. But the worst for me was not to dispose of any extra gun. Of course, if you decide to solve the complex puzzle to get the revolver, you'll have an extra heavy gun (even so, not enough ammo for this gun); if not, you'll only dispose of the crossbow without explosive arrows, a poor gun to deal with all the heavy enemies you'll find in the final rooms. The best, the good atmosphere created with all that CD tracks, but even so I missed some camera shots in some rooms when triggering something to guide the players. Anyway, another good level from Nerkan, playable and enjoyable." - Jose (28-Oct-2017)

"Again I think this level has been undervalued. I agree much more with Phil than Magnus. There is a lot of great little touches (I very much liked the trapdoor dropping stone bunny onto another trapdoor idea) & a lovely atmosphere with a story that fits together with a nice ending. Found all the secrets which weren't unfairly hidden. There has been a fair bit of whinging from some reviewers: the initial hidden switch - well if you don't look in every shadowed area or behind every bush/tree/statue/column in Tombraider for something then you aint playing it right. And the builder also gave it away by making Lara look at the switch position - what more help could he give?!? That multi-switch puzzle also wasn't that hard - jotting down the orignal column positions & pulling a couple of switches to figure out the switch affected single lines of columns. Yes the patterns in the final area weren't always that different and the indestructable enemy was a nuisance, but that's what save slots are for! Thoroughly recommended - in my top 3 at the moment but still a few to go." - Adrian (09-Aug-2017)

"This was an adventure that I found extremely hard to rate. It has really a lot going for it, but at the end of the day I was just glad when it was finally over and that is never a good sign. Starting with the positive, the level really has a storyline that it carries quite well and it goes through various rather impressive location designs, like the mosque, the huge cave and the final area with the crowbar levers. It also has many, many fun tasks along the way, which will test the raiding skills of even the experienced players out there, with quite a few timed sequences and some platforming and climbing acrobatics. And it has a very extensive and spread out boss fight, or rather series of boss fights, which is well intended, but frankly I found it all a bit much to work my way through these in combination with a torch puzzle while being chased around by Seth. I also ran into a few too many moments where I believe the player had no chance to succeed without luck, builder mind reading or the use of the walkthrough - starting from the very first hidden lever at the beginning. The first half also had quite a few tedious parts with several long swims. So, all in all, I found this conceptually to be a very intriguing and cleverly constructed level, but most of the time I just did not enjoy myself playing it - and had no desire to even try and find solutions myself in the second half anymore and very quickly resorted to checking the walkthrough to not lose even more time. Sometimes less can be more... [95 min, 7 secrets]" - MichaelP (30-Jul-2017)

"I have to say something at start because as longer as I played this level, one thought has been rising inside of me: In my opinion, this level is heavily underrated compared to other BtB levels. My belief is that it should have been somewhere around podium, although I have ton of respect for fellow reviewers. Instead of saying "This level looks worse than some others", I will say "This level intentionally represents the area that looks worse than some other areas". After all, it's the sandstorm. True, there is predominant yellowish color throughout the level, but it looks sand-dusty in a good way, it has its purpose and it doesn't look bad because there are many effects that provide variety. There is a great amount of huge areas, starting from lovely city near the desert, with water channel under it and so on. For me, the most memorable was the huge breathtaking underwater cave with many ruins, rocks, bridges and waterfalls. Gameplay is very elaborate in certain areas, tasks are interconnected and they have much variety. There are some brilliant puzzles with movable and raising blocks (one of them being optional just for two secrets, good decision having in mind the overall complexity of the level), one multi-puzzle with mirrors, much platforming (not too hard) and an epic boss fight that lasts for some 15 minutes. There are some great object usages, like lifting the rock statue to a certain height so it can smash through the ground and my personal favorite with many rollingballs falling from the roofs and bomb-crushing the lake. There are several casual fights with thieves and leopards, but also some encounters with tougher enemies. If you don't go for puzzle-secrets, you might miss some ammo, but fortunately you have more than enough medipacks to avoid stress (fortunately the builder added them after beta version which was insanely difficult). The only thing that prevented me from perfect score is the usage of audio tunes that sounds like being out of place at some points. It's like the builders wanted to include all tunes that he liked, so he forced many of them in not-so-appropriate situations. Everything else is just great and I have to repeat - this level deserves way more attention than it has. An absolute masterpiece." - Tolle87 (05-Jul-2017)

"I like the majority of the gameplay in this level. The multi-stage mirror puzzle in the mosque is my particular favourite. The puzzle with the pushable and 10 switches is ingenious, but goes on a bit too long – but I can’t complain about that, since it’s optional. However, I can and will complain about the multi-lever puzzle in the final area. The puzzle itself is pretty complicated, and the pictures are all rather hard to distinguish from each other. But what takes the puzzle from ‘hard’ to ‘hear-tairingly frustrating’ is the fact that you have to solve it while being constantly attacked by an unkillable boss … argh!
Apart from that godawful boss, the use of enemies is not bad (though that one is cause enough for me to lop off a couple of points in the second category). I particularly liked the Roc enemy – this is one of only two levels in this BtB that uses that enemy. I don’t understand why we get two secrets for completing the optional puzzle – it’s essentially just one secret counted twice.
The city area in the beginning looks pretty good – the use of brownish fog especially creates a realistic sandy atmosphere. The interior of the mosque and the flooded caves are a bit less visually impressive, but the visuals pick up again at the end – the smaller rooms surrounding the boss-puzzle hub area are particularly nice. The final cutscene showing Daraya coming back to life is very impressive.
Overall: A pretty good level with a nicely puzzle-based gameplay, but the final puzzle nearly ruined the entire experience for me. Recommended." - Mytly (28-Jun-2017)

"I had a great and pleasant time playing this one. Right from the start we're sumerged in the Sirian city of Daraya, with some great real atmosphere and nice use of lighting along the way. There's a puzzle not far from the beginning that is not required, but if you want all the seven secrets you'll might want to reconsider about it, since it covers two secrets once completed. The level can be divided into three main parts: the first one until those creepy boulders fall off from the rooftops, then opening the way into some deeper caves with some platforming sequences and until you arrive the final part with demigod-like boss you can't kill. Found the seven nicely scattered secrets in 51 minutes. Highly recommended." - MrJavi94 (27-Jun-2017)

"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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