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Escape from the Dragons Lair by Ex Core Design

Chel 9 10 10 10
Cowboy 9 10 10 10
DJ Full 9 10 10 10
g12STL 10 10 9 10
John 8 8 8 9
Jorge22 8 8 8 9
Jose 8 10 9 10
Lara 10 10 10 10
Lorax 9 9 10 10
manarch2 8 8 8 8
Manymee 10 10 10 10
Mehrbod 10 9 10 10
Mman 9 9 8 8
Nuri 6 7 8 7
Phil 9 8 8 8
Raina Audron 9 9 10 10
Ryan 8 8 9 9
SeniorBlitz 10 9 10 9
The Snarky Lesbian 9 9 9 8
TimJ 9 10 10 9
Torry 9 9 10 9
Treeble 8 9 9 9
 
release date: 14-May-2019
# of downloads: 369

average rating: 9.07
review count: 22
 
review this level

file size: 26.80 MB
file type: TR2
class: Oriental
 


author profile(s):
email(s):
excoredesign@gmail.com

Reviewer's comments
"The builders idea for this level is that it is an additional level to the TR2 game, fitting in and taking place after the dragons lair level. A lot of this level is very reminiscent of the floating islands level when it comes to the visuals, music, atmosphere, and the rooms and areas that you "revisit" as well as obviously the floating platforms gameplay but you also have some some small elements from temple of Xian as well. Gameplay is mostly fresh and challenging so you might need a walkthrough at certain small parts like me but its rarely unfair actually apart from a couple of small areas so most of time you'll be able to figure out what to do even if it does take you several attempts. I have to say the traps come thick and fast here with boulders, spikes, blades, lava, fire and even some timed sequences and runs involving these as well. Springboards and ziplines are also back but now these are used in tasks as well rather then just simple ways of getting around which adds even more variety. Unfortunately the only enemies were those annoying floating guards so a bit disappointing there but yeah overall a solid challenging level especially if your a fan of the last part of TR2" - John (25-Mar-2023)
"To begin, I have to say that I had no music in the game and that I went to read the previous reviews to see if others had the same issues. Apparently not, but renaming the exe fixed the issue. Apparently, the borderfix I installed for TR5 caused this bug and uninstalling it also fixed it.
The level begins right after having killed the dragon in TRII and puts you directly back in this very stressful situation full of falling debris where you need to escape. It's a very well crafted moment with fixed cameras to put the focus on boulders chasing you, but if you're attentive enough you can easily take your time, that's brilliant. Having just played Forbidden Place, it was really interesting to play this other production taking place in a very similar location and a comparable atmosphere. It was also very interesting to see that there also was a shootable tile (an invisible tibetan bell really) three years ahead of Forbidden Place that made massive use of this trick! The grenade launcher fight was IMO one of the best intense moment of Tomb Raiding, mainly because TR2 had the best enemies and they are rarely used in custom levels, but it's also a fight where Lara doesn't have a lot of ammunition so it can be stressful if you don't have the right strategy. I really liked the boulder puzzle, it was reminiscent of a similar trap in TR1UB. I had a crash exactly when landing on the square of the jade secret and several times when trying to get out of this. It seems like the engine needs to draw too many polygons.
The secrets were nicely hidden and felt very in line with those of the main game. I was always looking forward to seeing what little picture the author would have chosen for them. Several times the author used cameras to make Lara watch something, either a clue or just a beautiful construction. At other places, the camera moved to show Lara in a very cinematographic view, like in the final garden. Musical cues were placed at the right place and, even though it was a bit strange to hear music from TR3, it was welcome nonetheless.
Visually the level is stunning and clearly on par with the main game, except for some minor flaws. It's really a shame that the author couldn't have a skybox and went into limits because the floating islands portions of this level could really have used some more details to enhance the atmosphere. I wonder if it would have been possible nowadays with TRMain and TombEditor. The ascent with the trapdoor room and sprinboard corridor was a bit uninspired, those rooms could have been architecturaly more pleasing. I was also expecting the end to take place in the Great Wall after escaping this fantastic realm of floating islands, it would have been a great way to show Lara going back to the real world.
Anyway, whether the author really is an ex-member of Core Design or no, it doesn't really matter as this level is worth playing and a good follow-up to the Floating Islands built by Heather Stevens (née Gibson) at the time. It's a great experience worth playing and recommended for everyone wanting a bit more classic TR2." - TimJ (11-Aug-2022)
"Wow, just the immediate danger that you are put into is a good telling of what is to come with this game! The innovative traps and the difficult enemies in some of the most inconvenient places ever. While well balanced with some easy parts and some trolls, it makes the game that much more fun! Great work on this one! Basically the last bits of TR2 in reverse! I'd recommend everyone try this level out!" - g12STL (12-Sep-2021)
"I played this level alongside TR2 and it felt like a legitimate second half to the Dragon's Lair level. I can't say for sure whether or not the developer actually worked at Core Design but it's very possible, this is some real professional quality for a first level. Without being too specific, this level makes good use of a couple things/areas that stuck out in the original TR2 Dragon's Lair level. If this is an actual Core dev these really could be unfinished ideas from TR2. Excellent level. Anyone who likes TR2 should love this." - Lorax (07-Jun-2021)
"Just, wow!!! The best TR2 level ever hosted within this website. I enjoyed every second of it and got amazed by the amount of creation and novelty this game successfully manages to deliver to the kind players in large. Thank you for this stunning adventure! (Core Design...?)" - Mehrbod (12-Apr-2020)
"The Floating Islands are probably one of my favorite late game levels in TR history, like with Atlantis in Tomb Raider I, it is just so otherworldly, it makes you feel like Lara really is in place she doesn't belong, the oppressive elements of the level, be it the enemies, the background music or the presentation as a whole makes it a memorable and a stand-out experience, so this project caught my attention, furthermore the builder's name made me wander, are they really a former Core Design employee? Whether or not that is true, here we have an incredibly authentic and tightly designed, even if rather short adventure, it made me feel like I was playing an official level that was removed during TR2's development, transitioning pretty well from Dragon's Lair, testing all of your tomb rading skills in a fair but challenging manner, while also revisiting some familiar locations that don't feel forced-in, but seemingly integrated to maintain continuity with the original. Play it, it is worth your time, specially if you enjoyed the original final levels." - SeniorBlitz (25-Jan-2020)
"If this is really an ex core design to finish off Tomb Raider 2 then it does the job admirably and I spent a good hour here figuring out the way forward. There are some tough jumping sequences, a devilish boulder trap and multiple enemies that attack en masse so this is for the experienced raider. I only found one secret as I made my way through without the walk through which always shows competent level design. There were two switches right at the beginning that simply would not work and I surmise that these were for something that never eventuated in the original design. The level graphics wise is as good as the original so no complaints." - Torry (29-Sep-2019)
"We've had a couple of fantastic Floating Islands TR2 levels rather recently so this one really doesn't break the mold, but that doesn't mean it's not a worthy adventure on its own. By tying it into the main TR2 game, you get a couple of familiar areas along the way, but really this is mostly centered around traps. So many of them, in fact, you'll find yourself saving and reloading quite a few times. There are some nice setups, such as the many boulders trap (akin to Atlantean Stronghold in TRUB) and the very first combat encounter is very nicely laid out in a tight combat arena that will test your skills (and/or patience). Generally speaking the atmosphere and textures are spot on. On the down side, I also couldn't figure out on my own the five lever puzzle for the last door, and I'd thought I was so clever when I noticed two different textures on the bottom of each lever but alas, that meant nothing. 45 minutes, 1 secret. 09/19" - Treeble (29-Sep-2019)
"This great mini level was supposedly designed by a former member of core design and it's a continuation from just after the dragon's lair level. While it's not an easy mission to complete, it certainly was fun and meant as an experts challenge. However, there were at least two areas where a clearer hint would have been more helpful. I hope we will see more from this level designer in future." - Cowboy (03-Sep-2019)
"The level info page cautions us to check out the builder's readme before playing, but there was none provided with my download. At long last I've tweaked the settings in order to play TR2 levels on my computer, but with less satisfying results than with the TR3 levels. The graphics are still rough-edged at the highest possible resolution, but at least I can see well enough to detect the pickups and enemies. This is quite a difficult level, with several pixel-perfect jump sequences. Also, for the first time I was unable to utilize my god mode patch (maybe it just doesn't work with TR2 levels), so I had to engage the formidable enemies here (mainly warriors) while watching my health bar steadily depleting out of the corner of my eye. José has provided his typically reliable walkthrough, and with his help I made it through in an hour and twenty minutes. Those catapults have always given me a hard time, but the tips mentioned in the walkthrough helped me greatly this time. I'm not a fan of this engine, but the level is a must play and I can recommend it without reservation." - Phil (07-Aug-2019)
"This is an attempt to make a transition level between Dragon's Lair and the cutscene of Lara escaping the Great Wall (I guess it's a surprise I can't think of something like that done before). It's also seemingly by an ex-Core developer, but I'm not sure that's fully confirmed yet. The setting does a good job expanding the Floating Island theme a bit, and there are some callbacks to the original to show that you're returning back to the entrance (but not enough for the nostalgia to bog down original content). There's nothing super impressive visually (although a couple of giant voids are a nice extension of the theme), but it's all well executed and follows/extends the theme of the original. The gameplay is quite focused and carries on from the action style of Dragon's Lair and the more intense traps of Xian, with a mostly linear course of tricky jumps, traps and combat (including some arena set-ups I found legitimately creative). It's overall harder than most of the original game but feels like a fitting escalation, with the final puzzle being the only letdown as a timed switch puzzle that seemingly has no clues (or if there is no-one has found them yet) and basically forced looking at a walkthrough or tons of trial and error. Outside of that slightly disappointing end it lives up to it's concept and provides one of the best custom TR2 levels. Hopefully our supposed ex-Core designer has some more level ideas to make." - Mman (06-Jun-2019)
"Level starts right where Lara's adventure in Tomb Raider 2 ended, disregarding the level Home sweet Home. We revisit some rooms from the Floating Islands and then discover new areas till Lara finally finds her way out. I like the idea of expanding the Dragons Lair, a throwback to some familiar areas from the previous level and adding new ones to it. And we finally know now what's inside that lava- cave where those floating warriors came out ( I know it's just a custom level builder's speculation tho) but I always was curious about that cave back then when playing Tomb raider 2 as a kid and I think it's funny how this level shows us one imagination of it. There are typical puzzles and traps you have to go through and some tough enemies. The level design was actually nothing that stands out next to all the other Floating islands- type of levels. And so was the gameplay. I can't help but to disagree with the excessively high scores that this level receives. I mean, we definitely have experienced better TR2 levels than this, haven't we?" - Nuri (04-Jun-2019)
"Loved every minute of this level. It really brought me back to those late nights, playing TR2 with nothing but the flash of Lara's guns lighting up the room. The nostalgia was amazing. Lighting, texturing, music, everything was literally so perfect, even right down to the enemies and pick ups. This truly is the final chapter of Lara's adventure in TR2, and for it to be built by an EX CORE DESIGN member is the icing on top! A truly special level that, I believe, will live on in this community as a trophy! Highly recommended!" - Lara (03-Jun-2019)
"Now I was always wondering how did Lara run out of the complex, when she was on the other end, but she came out the same cave as she entered... This gives it a nice logical explanation, really love how it was handled. It is meant to be the last level and it is hard, save often! Lots of attention to detail and while you mostly backtrack through the floating islands, but it still feels new and the progression flows well. Great work!" - Raina Audron (02-Jun-2019)
"I loveeeeed this level. It was actually quite a nice surprise. This level, by ExCoreDesign (Are they actually an ex Member of Core Design?) is superb.
1) it was made in the Tomb Raider II Engine I love so much (More PreTR4, less TR4 pls).
2) it plays in the rare and beautiful Floating Isles Tileset.
3) it has a nice difficulty curve, giving you a couple of really tough encounters here and there that require some thinking in how to get through best. Especially with the Ammo to Time Spent ratio being fairly good. I'm pretty sure I actually got to use all of the weapons I had with me, and you'll actually have to use them for their strengths, this level does not throw ammo at you that you can do whatever.
4) This level might be one of the closest thing we have to SMW Troll levels. By that I mean that this level knows how to troll you a bit. Be it odd puzzles, pickups that cannot be gotten at all, enemy filled traps and that Bolder-Maze. That Bolder Maze might be my favorite thing about this level. The moment you think you get it, and then it stabs you in the back. Same with other areas of the level. Jumping puzzles that require a ton of skill and tries, that are set up so that you can never quite get completely comfortable. Nothing works the same, Floating Isles are treacherous and the Secrets are very well hidden. In fact I only found one of the Secrets at all.
Only thing I found a bit meh was the last "riddle" with the switches and spikes. I have no idea how you find out the right combination, I had to use the walkthrough for this. But that would be my only Minus Point for this. Everything else was great. Revisiting places that you visited in the Vanilla Game, green knive throwers, zip- lines, troll pickups. This level has it all.
So yeah, I thoroughly enjoyed myself when I played this level on stream. Every troll made me giggle, finding unexpected solutions to certain puzzles. I LOVED playing this level. So whether or not the creator of this level really IS an ex-Member of Core Design, this level was worth it, and I REALLY REALLY hope they continue building levels. Especially for the non-TR4 lovers among us. Please, continue making awesome levels in the older engines! And make them as trolly as possible." - The Snarky Lesbian (30-May-2019)
"Really an excellent debut. You can notice the TR2 spirit here and enjoy a classic level full of old features and a great atmosphere. There are a lot of traps to avoid and hard enemies to kill, but also enough guns and ammo, but no so many medipacks so don't waste them. The gameplay is entertaining with not very hard tasks but I'm not agree with the hidden extra boulders in the dangerous platform or the absence of hints in the final room with 5 wall switches. The best were the architecture and texturization, but you'll find many other cool features too. I hope this builder can offer us new jewels like this in the future. Highly recommended, but not for beginners." - Jose (24-May-2019)
"This was so much fun. Thank you, thank you possibly- maybe Ex Core Developer for giving us this romp. This level was hard and oftentimes brutally exacting without being too over the top difficult. I loved so much about it. The floating emerald green islands parts were a blast and brought back so many good memories. Excellent integration of some old, familiar sections with a bunch of newness. I love that you threw in some very sticky combat situations that made me really work to drop the baddies. One of my fave challenges back in the day was to beat the old-school Core trilogy using only the pistols or all weapons but no medipacks. I don't think I could do either with this level, not without having a stroke. Tight quarters, multiple vicious enemies, and no harpoon gun to soften up those hibernating stone warriors before rousing them. Item pickups were pretty much perfect. Not too many or too stingy. It was good to see this engine pushed to its limits without also seeing the level bug out at times. Great job in balancing out everything. I'm kinda sad that you had to sacrifice several rooms to get everything to play nice. Maybe there will be a director's cut TR4 edition or a 2-part TR2 release in the future? I'm selfish and can only dream... Use of musical cues was spot-on, and you got me with that jump scare while I was shimmying over the lava. My only point deduction is for that damn spike trap. I didn't see a hint anywhere at all so it was solved only after pulling all the combos and reloading until I got it right. If you put a clue in there somewhere then I have to apologize for being blind, apparently! Also! That final, small medipack that sits on the slope near the level's end, taunting us with its unobtainable presence. Nice." - Chel (23-May-2019)
"A really remarkable TR 2 offering with a lot of fun gameplay elements (often involving the beloved springboards but also interesting platforming and traps like the boulder platform). At times it a bit too much tends to be a shooter but enough weapons and ammo are provided so not bad after all. I did not find a hint for the lever puzzle with the spike ceiling so I had to do it by trial and error. The secrets are well hidden and there are even some updated enemies to spice the thing up. The looks are very solid as well and architecture, texturing and lighting are professionally applied. There's nothing that was completely new here, but there's also enough creativity and care to make this a quirky and enjoyable raid lasting for 30 minutes at my end, standing in line of quite a few good TR 2 releases in the recent past. More of this is welcome!" - manarch2 (22-May-2019)
"Yay, floating islands, always a favourite of mine and some of the distances here are incredibly high and vast, so vertigo sufferers look away now. I don't know whether this builder did previously work for the Core Design team (as Jorge says, there have been many wonderful builds between the release of the original TR2 and the present day), but regardless he/she has done a pretty good job for a first offering. Everything is competent throughout, the looks being pleasing to the eye and the gameplay involving, but I did think that the falling ceiling gauntlets were annoying, a few of the jumps too tricky and the trial and error sequence at the end rather odd. Aside from those, a job well done, I think." - Ryan (22-May-2019)
"The best floater level we ever got in this engine, applying all features it can handle in a perfectly coherent and creatively clever way. No matter if it's a master troll or really a work of an original dev, this could be an official epilogue, not just of quality similar to Feder's (unless it's him in disguise), but also perfectly aligned with mood, style and design of TR2 without the feeling of copypaste we usually get in other cases like this. I don't think I can complain about anything except from the spike ceiling room - was there ever a hint for that? Anyway this builder can really create a spiritual successor, so I hope we'll see more of these. What about that greyscale level scrapped from Nightmare in Vegas?" - DJ Full (19-May-2019)
"10/10 for "the creativity and technical ability needed for coming up with and designing the Puzzles & Storyline." What else can I say? On top of taking us back to the most memorable level in TR2 with its eerie music and setting, we get to use the jumping platforms from the Temple of Xian, plus the longest zip line trip in the history of zip line trips. ECD being an actual original member of CD, I can't fault the level on the puzzles anywhere. I was stumped only once, for the rest of the gameplay it was pretty straightforward as to what to do, which was always a main point of TR2's gameplay. In best CD fashion there were ammo pickups galore, sorely needed to deal with the flying helicopter greenies and their spear-wielding mates. For the most part these were ok to deal with but in the room with the 4 enemies and 4 floorswitch pillars I found an exploit which allowed me to kill them without taking damage (after dying about 20 times I accepted this gladly). I found the gold secret by accident, not looking for secrets at all as is my wont on the first playthrough. The atmosphere, sound and cameras? One hundred percent professional. We get the many wakeup calls we are used to from the Classics, which made me super happy, because the sound is usually the weakest part of any custom level as the bits are either totally unused or just way too sparingly. Here we get treated to not only all the soundbytes I love so much but also the classic (and in most custom levels sadly highly underused) zoom-out moment that really gives you an idea of Lara's situation at hand. Lighting and Textures were of course beautifully implemented, so I'll skip to the gushing part and would just like to say a huge thank you to ECD for giving us this tasty morsel which should in my eyes be included in every TR2 walk/playthrough from now on, as canon. I'm happy as a sandboy (-girl) and hope that Mr ECD is going to build a few more gems for us. :)" - Manymee (18-May-2019)
"Well... Was this kind of short level built by someone who used to work for Core on the original Tomb Raider games? Or wasn't it? You know, after the super-excellent job quite a few builders have done in re-creating Tomb Raider throughout all these years, honestly, it's hard to tell. I didn't read the readme because it was (I just saw it now) named *Escape*. Luckily, I didn't experience any issues. The first thing that comes to my mind after having finished this floating islands style level is *difficult*. And not always very clear (I thank Dogget for the video help when needed). Those are my complaints. Other than that, it looks ok for a TR2 level, the music and sounds are well applied, there's loads of action and not at all an obvious story line. I enjoyed it, thought it was a more than decent entry and so... play it if you're felling nostalgic." - Jorge22 (17-May-2019)