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BtB2020 - The Holy Shell by dinne

Adrian 10 10 9 9
Allicya 6 8 7 8
BlackWolfTR 10 10 9 9
DJ Full 10 10 10 10
eRIC 9 10 10 10
Jay 9 10 10 10
Jorge22 9 10 10 10
Jose 4 8 8 9
Josey 9 8 10 10
Lizard Queen 10 10 10 10
Magnus 7 8 9 8
manarch2 9 9 9 9
MichaelP 7 9 9 9
MigMarado 10 7 8 8
Mman 9 10 10 9
Mytly 6 7 9 7
nad 9 10 10 10
Neltharion 8 7 9 7
Phil 10 9 9 9
Relic Hunter 10 10 10 9
requiemsoul 10 10 10 9
Ryan 9 9 10 10
Saki Croft 10 10 10 10
Samu 10 10 9 10
Topixtor 9 10 10 9
Treeble 10 10 10 10
release date: 14-Jun-2020
# of downloads: 674

average rating: 9.13
review count: 26
review this level

file size: 141.00 MB
file type: TR4
class: Oriental

author profile(s):

Reviewer's comments
"When I agreed to betatest this one, I couldn't predict it will start me an expedition through one of the most valuable minds I know. It might be I'm overrating this game as especially impactful to me, but when I wonder if I should withdraw points, I simply don't see what for. Everything here was carefully planned and executed beyond expectations of any levelbuilding competition. At one moment you may unlock a door only to be stopped by another lock, but this single messup is not enough to get a penalty. In the end, The Holy Shell is a very specific level. One day day you may think it's too intense or too much, another day you may be astonished by the author's extra care about things you won't see elsewhere. I guess it's a must play but you will only fully appreciate it when proper time comes." - DJ Full (05-Mar-2023)
"A decent challenging level with a lot of strong points but with a few major problems that tend to ruin the experience all over the playthrough. Will start by the good points. There are many enjoyable challenging tasks on this one, such as the pole timed run, the holy flares tasks and the battles against the enemies. There's only one difficult jump in all the adventure and even that im pretty sure it's not even forceful to be done, yet I think it's a plus if it was intended. The next thing, the level is huge, very huge; it's impressive to see how the author got to connect many areas in such impressive way. But at the same thing this turns in something bad, because if you forget an important pickup for some reason, it's most likely you'll have to do a huge amount of backtracking in order to get to it again. Another really big problem through all the level it's the constant darkness, even the outside areas tend to be really dark, even with the infinite flares it turned to excessively, also removing the binoculars wasn't a good idea. Definitely a level for the experts out there, and even some not very experienced players can handle it." - Neltharion (08-Sep-2022)
"This is second level in row which deserves highest praise for creativeity and ingenuity in design. The ideas in here that feel new and fresh are quite amazing and the whole construct is highly complex and well connected. Having said that, I could only appreciate and enjoy this setting becuase I chose to follow the walkthrough by the letter. Otherwise I would probably still be running around the place for weeks and weeks wondering what to do next and where to find it. And even with the walkthrough at hand this level is quite unforgiving to the player with limited ammo, a tough timed run that will test the skill of even the seasoned raiders among us and a number of other moments that will inevitably cause a few reloads before you get it right. On the bright side though, the quest for the 21 items that in the end get you your secret reward is a great addition and there are wonderful moments throughout, like the windy bridge, the torch actions, the integrated cutscenes, the whole quest to shoot those 7 towers with explosive arrows or the novel approach to make wraiths even more annoying by caging you in. So, all in all, I would really recommend evryone to test their skills on this one, but only with the walkthrough close by or with a lot of patience to bring along. [120 min]" - MichaelP (29-Aug-2020)
"This is the 8th BTB level I chose to play as it had the least amount of downloads at the time. SPOILER ALERT! My reviews tend to be very detailed in what I saw and enjoyed so if you think this will spoil it for you… stop reading now! What I liked about the level: 1) At first, I was apprehensive about playing this level because it warned about limited ammo, health and pickups. Turns out there are very few enemies who are killed with much less ammo and I happen to enjoy levels made this way. 2) The interconnectivity of the different areas is brilliantly designed. I love it when a builder makes maximum use of limited space with lots of gameplay in a compact area. 3) The brilliant idea of having to find 4 graffiti paintings and the cut scene used to open the first door was something I’ve not seen before. 4) The immersive feeling that I felt while playing this level was so overwhelming and believable for me that I was totally drawn into the experience right from the beginning. Perhaps it was the subtle detail of the lack of pickups to the area as having never been explored before. Or maybe it was the discovery of the ancient graffiti through tiny crevices of rock that made me feel like I had found ancient paintings that no human being had ever laid eyes on before. The realism in this level is mind blowing. 4) The unlimited flare is fantastic and makes one forget about the otherwise dank atmosphere in places. 5) The long narrow bridge across the cavern was perfect. If I ever encountered this bridge in real life (not likely but anyways), I would exactly walk as slowly as was required to traverse safely across that bridge. 6) The clever setup of the diagonal parallel bars to the roof top in the village which is very doable if you utilize the new repositioning feature of Lara while swinging. 7) A small point, but I love being able to jump over fences, so thank you for that. 8) The abandoned vegetable gardens in the village were such a nice touch adding an extra layer of realism. 8) I really like torch puzzles in levels because every builder has a different take on them and maybe because you have to jump to get to places. But what I didn’t know is that you can also swim with one! 9) Such a clever idea to dislodge a key stuck in rocks with the pickaxe. 10) How you are told specifically how many fire torches are left to ignite before you leave the village, saving tons of backtracking and how the message actually changes (I tested this) to give you the exact number still left to ignite. 11) Just loved how the bell falls when shot making the rope available. 12) Shooting the fire torches from so far away with explosive arrows is also something I’ve not see before. 13) Shooting the boxes under the gong stick from the broken bridge so that the stick slides to the fully accessible bridge is yet another brilliant example of the thought towards realism in this level. 14) The option of two endings is brilliant and of course I chose the easier one without the boss fight. 15) The ability to convert normal arrows into explosive arrows is pure genius and the messages that say you can go back and convert the normal ones you just picked up is more than I ever expected… simply fantastic. What I didn’t like: 1) I got stuck on top of a box in crawl position (sheesh). Neither the forward rollout nor regular crawl out worked so I had to reload to a previous savegame. 2) I got stuck again at the bottom of the cavern where you pickup the revolver and pickaxe and had to reload. 3) The double timed runs are so tight but were just barely doable for me by starting from the beginning on an angle (Thanks Dutchy). The run thru is smoother but still nasty! 4) A small thing but the ending payoff for the secret was a bit of a let down. After so much time gathering 21 malae, I was really looking forward to some kind of magnificent FMV like those throughout the level. I suppose not having to fight the Boss in the end was the bonus. 5) Just a wishlist, but would have been nice to include the number of malae in the message along with the number of fire torches to minimize backtracking. In conclusion: Believe it or not, despite the frustratingly difficult timed run, this is still hands down my favourite BTB2020 level. Never have I ever felt such a devotion to realism and never have I truly felt 100% immersed as I was in this one. The interconnectivity of all the areas with previously inaccessible doors opening as you progress made me want to go back and find all those hidden malae even if it meant backtracking. Everything you do in this level makes sense in a real world. Whoever this builder is, this is absolutely brilliant work, light years ahead of anything I’ve ever played before and I hope they continue building realistic levels like this with the only wish that maybe a choice of easy or hard on the tight timed runs would be possible please. Unfortunately, not suitable for beginner or average players (if that wasn’t already obvious)." - Lizard Queen (27-Aug-2020)
"Holy shell, Batman, this is the most work I’ve put into playing a Tomb Raider level in a long time. I let out an audible groan when I read the notes for this level, which claimed that it’s hard, long, big and non-linear. Firstly, that’s what she said to three quarters of that. Secondly: uuugghh. I was not ready for this. It’s all of those things and more. But is it fun? It can be. There are some great moments, like making your own explosive arrows or being attacked by ghosts. Not to mention the interconnectivity of the level, which is crazy. Make no mistake, though - this level is a maze of doors and keyholes and switches and hidden pathways. And then there’s the fact that some of the platforming can be pretty tricky, so it’s very possible to find the correct path and not realize that you’re able to progress at that time. Add to that some more esoteric moments, and the level can be absolutely miserable at times. The main goal is to find three Buddha statues and to shoot seven holy torches. This is hard enough because of how huge the level is, but the torches aren’t exactly placed in obvious locations, adding to the difficulty. There were times when I hated this level, but there were also times when I found it kind of brilliant. My net gaming time was nearly two hours, but you’d probably need to triple that to get close to my actual time spent playing this level. I don’t know how much of that time I actually enjoyed myself, but to me it was a bit like playing a FromSoftware game - I really felt like I had to fight to overcome something while playing this level, and I was strangely proud of myself when it ended. The level is split into two larger areas, a tomb and a village (although you’ll end up running back and forth between them). The author has gone all in on realism, even going so far as to limit Lara’s pistol ammunition - an… interesting choice, if nothing else. It stops being an issue fairly quickly, as you’ll get more revolver ammunition and explosive arrows than you could use in five levels. I did appreciate the realism in the level design, though. The houses feel like houses, the tombs feel like tombs, and while it’s still gamey, I’m willing to buy this as a real location. Everything’s a bit too gray for my taste, but it’s well-built, and while I found the lighting too dark, the author has solved this problem by giving Lara an unlimited glow stick (an idea I love, as I always have to load a savegame every time I’ve used a flare because God forbid I waste one). So - was this level fun? Well, yes. But mostly no. But somehow more yes than no. This was level eleven in this year’s competition for me, but really it should also count as levels twelve, thirteen and maybe fourteen. Truly the Dark Souls of Tomb Raider custom levels." - Magnus (27-Aug-2020)
"I really don’t understand why this level has such glowing reviews. Perhaps some reviewers focus more on the builder’s efforts, rather than their own enjoyment of the level? Unfortunately, for me, it’s the other way around – while this huge and complex level is no doubt a labour of love and hard work on the builder’s part, it left me feeling utterly frustrated and exhausted, and I have rated it accordingly. The gameplay is so convoluted and unintuitive that I needed to check the walkthrough at practically every step, starting from literally 2 minutes into the level. There are so many tough timed runs and vicious traps – which are made even worse by certain bugs. I encountered a bug in the village area where I was stuck because Lara refused to do a backflip twist off a pole. I finally wound up replaying a large chunk of the level, and this time I could finally get past this section.
And to add insult to injury to all of this … you barely get enough ammo or medipacks for any of this. IMO, there’s a special place in hell for builders who take away Lara’s unlimited pistol ammo. If I wasn’t determined to play and review every level of this BtB, I would have binned this level in the first 10 minutes, when I was forced to try to kill hordes of poisonous spiders with limited ammo.
All of the above problems are made worse because of the persistent gloominess of the level. The village area is not too bad – at least it has some spots of colour – but the monastery is just so dark and dull that it’s practically impossible to see anything without flares (at least the builder is considerate enough to provide an unlimited glowstick – perhaps his/her sentence in hell will be commuted). I can deal with painfully difficult gameplay if it takes place in bright and magnificent halls; but the lack of either pleasant gameplay or pretty locations made me feel dissatisfied with this level.
I want to end on a positive note, so I’ll mention the stuff I liked in this level. I admire the builder’s attempt at creating a realistic atmosphere and complex story. The letters in the village that tell of the local people’s problems are a poignant touch. (I do hope that the poor villagers got their stolen items back.) The bridge that sways in the wind is really cool. The scene with Lara crafting the explosive arrows and then using them is impressive. There are some good gameplay bits, such as the method for getting the gong hammer and the tasks in the final room. The double-timed run through the swingpoles features a rather unique setup, and could have been fun if it wasn’t timed down to the nanosecond.
Overall: This was a frustrating experience for me, though I admire the builder’s skill in creating such a complex level." - Mytly (26-Aug-2020)
"Well this was a tough one, but unlike some I would not mark it down for that - it just presents a greater challenge. All tasks are doable even if it takes a few tries and the odd glance at a walkthrough. Lots of creativity and strong storyline enhanced the gameplay. The two quests (one for the secret) were a great addition . Not as Tibetan-looking as some of the others, but a wonderful level all the same. Highly recommended if you are up for the challenge." - Adrian (21-Aug-2020)
"This is a temple linked to a town with various natural areas in between, but there's a quite unique aspect to the aesthetic of this level; a heavy focus on realism. Despite the engine limits there's an attempt to give everything a sense of realistic design, with less of the heavy abstraction most classic Tomb Raider levels embrace; everything is built as something like an actual place (albeit heavily ruined) and has a certain feeling of logic running through it, if still limited by the nature of the engine. Texture and lighting use is also strong, and objects are used in ways I haven't seen elsewhere to further support the style. The one visual issue is that the main temple area has somewhat monotone feeling lighting; since other parts of the level show that the designer is fully capable of great lighting I think this is intentionally done to make the place feel dead and lifeless, but I feel that could have been done with more varied lighting. On the flipside, some of the side areas and town section have some of the best lighting in the contest, with a large canyon of rickety bridges that separates the two main sections being the standout. The realistic design also means the scale of a lot of areas is relatively subdued, although there are great visual set-pieces at times (like the previously mentioned canyon).

The realism also extends to gameplay in multiple ways; both Lara and enemies cause much more damage in general, and even the pistols have limited ammo, so every shot feels more important. I normally don't like limited ammo pistols but this is one level where I feel it works; with the jacked up damage-which also helps as you know every enemy only needs one or two shots-it all adds up to a sort of survival horror atmosphere where every encounter feels dangerous and each expended resource feels painful, there are even some enemies you can skip, which makes killing them feel like a waste. It's quite forgiving in the end and is mostly psychological (further supported by realism touches like every enemy that should drop ammo logically doing so), but it gives the combat a very unique flavour and is one of the few TR maps I've played where it actually sticks out as an element; I wouldn't mind seeing some other maps try things like this. Usable items also only appear in somewhat logical locations, but the lower amount of stuff laying around is balanced by a secret hunt for various items. While there's a hard divide between the temple and village, the survival horror feel is also backed up by the design which gives those areas a semi-non-linear layout that gradually opens up until the whole of each area is very interlinked by the end. The downside of the realistic layout is that it also means there's a lot of connecting corridors and smallish, occasional repetitive rooms, which contributes to the layout potentially getting quite confusing as it gets more open. The biggest failing is the handling of the temple/village divide; the town can actually be all done in one go and is essentially the middle part of the map, but it's easy to miss important tasks there which leads to tons of backtracking if you return to the temple prematurely; the level does help with this by providing a hint if you try to leave without doing something, but there's another essential task in the town that it bizarrely seems to give no hint for. The flow would be made much better by simply closing off exit from the town until the important tasks are done, especially as there's a large setpiece that's obviously supposed to be the climax of the middle section, but then you can miss it and end up doing it right before the level's actual climax. Despite that, the level does generally do a good job giving text clues to tasks that aren't 100% intuitive by normal TR standards, as well as using text to provide various bits of backstory (and there's also a story running through the map, leading to an ending with multiple solutions). This is so different I'm not sure how I would rank it with the other levels, but for "Back to Basics" it's one of the unique levels I've ever played, and far ahead of the others in terms of using the new features to make something completely original." - Mman (20-Aug-2020)
"First of all, this was an incredible level! Congratulations and thank you for your amazing effort. I loved the storyline and the creativity put behind it, no doubt. What I would definitely have changed is the way the author framed this as such a "hard, long, big, non-linear" level. Yes, it is. Yes, ammo is limited. But the mental constraint of saving ammo all the time was unnecessary, in my opinion. I finished with about 100 different ammo... And I certainly missed out on malae so unecessarily save that same ammo. That covers the "hard" bit. Then comes the "long, big, non-linear" bit. Some of that, in my opinion, is lack of organization of gameplay and lack of cameras. I had to rely on the walkthrough (which I hate) a lot for some aspects, but mainly for the Buddha statuettes. The gameplay is fun, but without the walkthrough I don't really know how I'd have guessed or understood how to pull it off. Life is too short to spend hours running around huge empty, sometimes pointless, rooms. I want to end by stressing how wonderful and recommended this level is! I just would have focused less on making it "hard, long, big, non-linear" and more on making the storyline and the secret shine. I'm sure the builder has a lot of wonderful levels in her/him, judging from this gem. I'm looking forward to being a bit delighted (oh, and frustrated) at playing them." - MigMarado (16-Aug-2020)
"Absolutely magnificent design and atmosphere, loads of ingenious ideas, quite obviously very original. Dark, but good dark. On the flip side, excessive complexity and backtracking. Plenty of orientation hardships (not that there are cut scenes missing or anything). What else can I say? This level took me over four hours and 25 km in the statistics, I only found 10 malas and got the bad ending - but let's be honest: the bad ending wasn't so bad after all. I thought this was near perfect, but I did have a hard time, I can't hide it. The village was lovely. Recommended, but be aware that you'll have to take your time." - Jorge22 (15-Aug-2020)
"In most respects this ambitious three-hour level is a tour de force despite the fact that the gorgeous Tibetan textures have largely been ignored by the builder. It's uniformly drab and lacking in color, yet somehow it sucks the player in, grabs him and refuses to let him go. The level also gives me an opportunity to urge José to reconsider his philosophy of awarding a 4 or a 5 in gameplay if he finds himself unable to proceed without the aid of a savegame. I might observe in passing that conquering a difficult move in a custom level is usually more a matter of technique and practice rather than of raw skill. In this case José cites the swingpole exercise as the first basis for his frustration. But the key here is that the first two swingpoles can be ignored, as you can jump over the fence to the third one with no difficulty. From there it's a rather simple matter to negotiate the remaining swingpoles and reach the roof. The later double timed run with more swingpoles, also mentioned by José is something else altogether. It's a truly difficult exercise, and even Dutchy's otherwise crystal-clear written walkthrough was not of much help to me here. You have to see it being done rather than just reading about it. Even so, I deviated slightly from Doggett TV's video walk by doing a double jump at the beginning rather than a long jump over the first row of posts (which requires pixel-perfect precision), but this didn't cost me more than a millisecond. The key is to save while Lara is hanging from the beam (which lifts the second timed gate), and this makes the remaining sprint up the pothole-riddled ramp relatively easy by comparison. The process required many repeated attempts for me. Exercising the patience to conquer difficult moves such as this gives the player a sense of well-deserved satisfaction that should boost his appreciation of the builder's talents rather than condemning it in his review. Anyway, that's how I feel about it. I don't think this level will be among my top three in the current BtB competition when all is said and done, mainly because of its neglect of the available eye-catching textures, but in all other respects it's certainly Hall of Fame material." - Phil (14-Aug-2020)
"This is a work of a competent and talented builder that used his/her ability to do a terrifying, sad, macabre level of a plagued village where desperate, sick Monks look for the means of using an artefact that will erradicate the plague, and are thrown into pools when they die, infecting and killing instantly anyone that touches their corpses. Graphically, the level is quite perfect, very realistic, and I will not judge the author's story option. It is a difficult level, with one impossible (for me) timed run, and one impossible (for me) sequence of pole swings. But the real problems are the backtracks, the confusing environment (caves with several options of similar paths, a village with several labyrinthic and similar streets), and the mysterious tasks (Graffitis). It is a level that is very difficult to finish without the help of a walkthrough, even if the player doesn't care for the finding of the 21 (!) objects that will give access to the Secret, located, by the way, in a lovely place. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful level, believe me, and I really appreciated some tasks, as the lighting of the torches, for example, and some ideas, as the conversion of normal arrows in explosive ones. Play it." - Josey (14-Aug-2020)
"These are some of the words that I would use to describe this level: complex gameplay, highly non-linear, gloomy atmosphere, realistic looking environment. Although, the gameplay and all the back tracking might drive some players mad, I truly enjoyed every moment of the game. It is very rare for a single level to feature so many innovative gameplay ideas and such a smart overall design that I just have to give full marks for the gameplay category. As mentioned, there is a lot of back tracking to be done because you are constantly finding new items and trying to figure out where to use them or trying to memorize how to access a certain area. Strategic component is also added to gunfights since your ammunition is limited for the pistols as well. However, there is enough ammo in the game, so you don’t need to worry about running out of it. Just don’t waste bullets on every spider, as the game tells you in the beginning. Atmosphere and the environment design is quite gloomy and reminds me of Tomb Raider 2013 by Crystal Dynamics, and I am pretty sure that this game was a source of inspiration for the builder. To put it briefly, this is currently one of my favorite levels in the BtB2020 competition and I would recommend it even for those players who usually dislike complex gameplay because it is a very special experience and you won’t find many other levels like this." - Samu (09-Aug-2020)
"I really liked the fact that this level is challenging and not so easy to beat! Even finding all the secrests was a funny challenge for me which I'm a completis in playing games generally and also because I do walkthrough on my channel. I love the atmosphere because it's creepy and mysterious. It really fascinated me the story about monks! About enemies and puzzles they are challenging too. For playing this level you sure have to be a veteran of TR series and you should be aware of mechanics. Regarding Lightning & Textures I can say that whoever it is the creator, put a lot of efforts and a lot of times because it's carefully curated! I didn't expect of course it was a colorful level since the background story is creepy!" - Saki Croft (25-Jul-2020)
"This level certainly is very creative and uses many elements not very typical for a tomb raider. It can be a good thing sometimes but this is a bit divisive for me. Some can love and play it and some can just get tired nearly the beginning. I think in general the atmosphere and textures are well applied but not always. The difficulty favors hardcore players and the fun main core can get lost sometimes and thats a pity because there are a lot of very good ideas and implementations that could be used in a very good gameplay. The atmosphere even though well done, is repetitive and this fact makes lots of places forgetful for me, lots of corridors look a lot alike perhaps because of (repetitive illumination and use of the same mood textures). The author focused more on using different and inventive features but i think he(or she) should think more about making it together with better level composition and a gameplay for less hardcore players. My favorite part in this one was the village, it is beautiful but i think it could be have been better with less melancholy. There are more interesting ways to pass the isolation feeling..." - Allicya (24-Jul-2020)
"Very big and very complex level. It's really easy to get lost here. Gameplay was very different. Many nice and interesting tasks like find and shoot with bow 7 torches or find 4 graffiti. Many hard jumps, parkours and time trials. We have here also the limited ammo for pistols and we can't just shot everything like in normal levels. We must save ammo. To find only one secret in this level we need to collect 21 malae. I only find 10 malae so I didn't able to get it. And really nice idea with 2 endings. I have ending with boss battle. Sounds was very good. Texturization was very nicely done. But Athmosphere and Lighting was a bit boring. I completed this level in 2 hours and 16 minutes. I definetly recommend this level but only to expert players. New players will be have big trouble in this level due to his big complexility." - BlackWolfTR (19-Jul-2020)
"I’m just glad a walkthrough was available for this or I doubt I’d have managed to get through it. It really is an incredibly complex level, but very enjoyable with ‘assistance’. It also contains one of the trickiest and most beautifully devised timed runs I’ve ever (after many attempts and a few close tries I finally took pity on my aching fingers and got my better half to do it for me). It’s superbly made and obviously the work of an innovative thinker and I’d like to say a great big thank you to the builder for giving Lara a permanent light source; I do wish we had more of that! The ending, with Lara emerging into the light is nothing short of elegiac. This certainly isn’t an easy level, but it is magnificent." - Jay (11-Jul-2020)
"Now, here's something completely different (and I say that even after having played through Beyond the Caves of Nyalam). Right from the outset, this level's creativity and originality shines through, commencing with a unique puzzle that requires Lara to use her observation skills to decipher (although that isn't immediately obvious) four murals to gain access to the main portion of the level. It probably helps to have the walkthrough within arm's length as you progress as some of the gameplay concepts are quirky to say the least, particularly the sequence where you have to convert normal arrows to explosive arrows for use in a later puzzle. The expansive nature of the level and the backtracking also has the potential to get rather overwhelming. Those aside, I have to admit that the way this level is constructed is ingenious. The gameplay sequences are pitched at just the right difficulty (although one particular timed sequence proved to be quite a doozy until I stumbled across the trick to executing it properly), the surroundings are positively stunning, the cutscenes throughout are neatly done and I also liked the way the secret quest was set up (although the malae items tended to blend in with their surroundings a little too well). The idea of offering alternate endings was a nice touch, although I mistakenly saved while going through the "good" ending and wasn't able to get back to the choice of paths without replaying the entire thing, so I allowed Lara to go for a rest after playing the one, as I had already spent about 140 minutes here which I thought was sufficient. Overall, this is likely not a level for everyone's taste, but you can't help but appreciate all of the craftsmanship and effort that went into it." - Ryan (10-Jul-2020)
"This level and "Garden of the four seasons" are the best ones of this superb BtB. Very unique, imaginative, and with puzzles with a smart design. It´s complex (some jump are a bit hard) but I do not think it is a level only for experts (and here almost all of us are). Some area could have been more iluminated. A masterpiece and highly recommended." - requiemsoul (09-Jul-2020)
"Well this one is different, but in a good way; I can't imagine the amount of work put into scripting and setting up all those new features, and I want to reward the obvious care for all the smallest details, both visual-wise and gameplay-wise. The result is a huge, entertaining, innovative game that kept me glued to the screen till the very end, making me forget it was built on such an old and limited engine, but still feeling like a modern and polished version of old school Tomb Raider, mixed with the Reboot and Crystal Dynamics games. I enjoyed the hunt for the bracelets, even if of course missing one leds to enormous backtrackings; however the extensive use of shortcuts fully makes up for that, so going back to find the 3 I missed was not such a chore; I also loved how you are prompted to remain into the village for lighting up the torches, hinting you can complete that area without returning, however it wasn't really so clear as I missed a key thinking it was in the other area... but maybe that was just my bad and you can't really expect to be guided so much. So, gameplay is varied but mostly focused on exploration with some twists, the creative use of the bow and all the other little ideas like the graffiti or the spider-avoiding minigame were awesome. Combat was a little downside, and I'm not talking about the limited ammo - even if it really doesn't even matter anymore after you find the bow - but because it's... not as important as I thought, except for the hoards of soldiers in the village area; it would have be nice if they didn't deal so much damage, with so little meds provided... a bit over the top and unfair in my opinion, but nothing tha can't be avoided with the powerful ammo you have. There could be so much to say... but I don't want to spoil everything. Textures were perfect in my opinion, as well as the geometry, only the lighting felt monotone but nicely executed. The final secret was rewarding and both finales were satysfing. But another thing really did stand out here: the story, or rather, the lore. Documents, cutscenes, little touches like the house were you find all the stolen goods, everything gives a sense of going forward in the story, set in a believable world. Levels that can do this succesfully are really, really rare, and ultimately this feature alone makes this offering step up from many others. My compliments, looking forward for your next masterpiece." - Topixtor (09-Jul-2020)
"The author already said it in the readme file: "This level is hard, long, big, non-linear..." Just the kind of levels I don't like. Weeks ago, I decided to play and review all the BtB levels this year, so I can't do an exception with this one, but if it were otherwise, I would abandone soon and never review it. Just like I did it in the level "A Debt in Tibet", I can't give a 5 or more in the gameplay section if I'm not be able to finish a level by myself and need to ask for savegames to finish it. Another pain. The swing around with the poles was too hard, and the timed run in the temple with the poles was too hard too; finally I was able to cross the tight rope (chain) with the darts. On the other hand, I found an excellent architecture and texturization, the rooms are very well ornated with a very good use of objects and enemies, found enough ammo for the guns and there are some cool details like the strong wind in the bridges or the nice animations. Hopefully someday this author decides to build a great level for everybody and not only for a few expert players." - Jose (07-Jul-2020)
"This is the sole BtB-Tibet level I found myself "bailing" out on to return later when a walkthrough would be available. The reason for that is that this might have been the most overwhelmed I've ever felt playing a Tomb Raider level, official or otherwise. From the get go you are surprised with tricks and features you're not used to, such as triggering a door by looking at different engravings on the walls, and it doesn't let up. From that angle, this is a technical marvel in its own and my dummy mind just can't get around to how advanced it feels. Lighting is also very realistic, and combined with the sandboxy feel of the game it really feels like "next level" stuff. The limited ammo at the beginning had me worrying and running away from spiders, unsure whether there'd be enough ammo or not (there might be just enough to kill all of the enemies we come across actually, but better safe than sorry, right?). That being said, while I do appreciate how far the envelope has been pushed with this massive open-ended level, if it weren't for the walkthrough I suspect I'd be playing this for days on end — two taps on the back of those who made it through without any help. The secret is also a very elaborate quest for 21 malae items placed throughout the map, very small and hard to spot and rather often in unexpected locations (the one in the chair comes to mind). All in all, definitely a great level, amazing atmosphere and a lot of quirks make it an unique adventure, however due to its non-linearity it may cause some unnecessary frustration and a lot of running around aimlessly if you decide to fly solo. 130 minutes, 1 secret. 07/20" - Treeble (06-Jul-2020)
"It's been about a week since I played this. Some levels are ones you can have an immediate, coherent impression upon completing them. With this one I needed that extra time to form more coherent thoughts as a great deal of effort appeared to go into the construction of this game. This game brims with original tasks, use of objects, and pleasantly surprising deviations from usual gameplay patterns from the very beginning. The graffiti task, the use of the tombs of climbable ledges, the shaking bridge, the conversion of normal arrows to explosive arrows, neat use of a wooden cage's support beams as poles to grab and platform off of, capping off with a clever double timed run and a final sequence featuring two endings had a lot of design put into them while being gameplay-friendly and grounded in realism. While the level is quite long and feels sprawling, backtracks are nicely tied up with the ability to open new doors to serve as shortcuts and tie separate areas together to the point its fairly easy to make out where each distinct area is. The hunt for the manae bracelets also provides an additional challenge and a rewarding secret for your trouble. Some players may be put off by the limited pistol ammo, but there is enough provided to make it through the entire game, justified as the enemies you can dispatch with them have their health nerfed to the point it doesn't make the player feel like they are at a major disadvantage. Once the mercenaries come out, Lara has access to the Magnum which is given plentiful ammunition, and is necessary as their damage is buffed considerably. Every setting featured in the level is given excellent care to bring out its atmosphere. The beginning tombs felt cursed and desolate, the eerie abandoned atmosphere of the village, the canyon with the shaking bridge, the orchard, and the sanctum of the eponymous Holy Shell all felt unique even though the same collection of assets is used. The only miss I recognized through the level was the pools of water throughout seemed to make the submerged areas wavy instead of the water itself. The water had this weird property of being still, yet the textures in each pool waved about. Perhaps it was an intended stylistic choice that didn't really click with me. In any case, The Holy Shell is a truly fascinating adventure that is worth the nearly three hours I've spent in it. My highest recommendations!" - Relic Hunter (04-Jul-2020)
"This level begins with a very interesting task. Lara has to find four symbols and look at them to get ahead, which I haven't played like this before. In the further course the game consists of two parts, the village and the area of the tombs. In the village there is a lot to do before Lara finds the crossbow, which is urgently needed to continue the game. In general there are several tasks in this game that I liked very much, like finding and loading the crossbow with explosive ammo, swinging around the corner, finding and shooting the seven holy torches or the action of getting the gong stick, just to name a few. The timerun to one of the Buddhas was excellently thought out, but quite tight. I especially liked the windy bridge, as well as the whole action where Lara loads the explosive ammunition. Great musik. In general, everything in this game is well thought out and in the right place. But the real challenge is to find the 21 bracelets to unlock the only secret in the game. If you want them, you will experience a small break in the gameplay, because these bracelets are small and very difficult to see. I only found 19 and it cost me some backtracks and a lot of time. Nevertheless, the game is highly recommended." - nad (30-Jun-2020)
"Whatever the risk was when the builder set up this indeed long and complex game, it has paid off at least if you ask me. Sometimes I really wanted to throw some of those malae on the builder's head because of some longer backtracks if you have missed certain items, but once you aware that you can do all things in the village without a return, things become easier and the game is not overly confusing. The technical skill of the builder is high as there are lots of novelties like those paintings at the start Lara really has to look at, along many others. I also have never seen diagonally placed pole ropes before. The double timed run in the room with many poles is also highly memorable as well as the way to get out of the cage, or the cinematic finale; I was almost sad that the goal of the timed run was not grabbing the heart before the monk, because I actually was there in time, but the "real" task was nice as well (even if the timer is more forgiving here). Really lots of fun encounters and tasks, devious traps - well done overall. The enemy fights are also somewhat novel, with limited ammo (not very nasty and known right from the start) and some you can and should better avoid. A few enemies tended to run into walls but nothing serious. The object placement is sometimes a bit weird with objects being stuck in walls or in each other, while in some parts this felt intended I think it's not always realistic. The atmosphere is quite effective, even if quite grim and monotonous even in the supposedly brighter village sections. I really liked that large cave with the two bridges, and sounds are also very nicely used. The texturing is very clean throughout, the lighting might've been a tiny bit better with a few more highlights, i.e. lighter or darker rooms, but it still conveys a nice feeling of abandonment and isolation. Overall, not perfect in any category but highly creative, highly unique and this is what I demand more from those levels, so also highly recommended from me. Found the excellent secret in 1:15 hours." - manarch2 (28-Jun-2020)
"Often in BtB contests there is one particular level very different from the rest , and this is it. The holy shell shines by its originality , also by its difficulty. There is only a few difficult actions to perform (i found the timed doors to get one of the buddha statuettes very hard ; even after watching Doggett TV to be sure how it may be done) also the unorthodoxy of the gameplay and inventive use of some objects can make one scratches his hair. Some of the new possibilities of moves and scripting have been put to good use, but at the difference of other levels where things appear by some kind of TR magical law, this builder tried to make things appear to happen by more natural laws. Also scripting was used to offer different kind of gameplay linked to the storyline which is always a plus. The atmosphere is terrific and i don't know if i have ever came across a level where the setting appears so real. The village is awesomely built as it looks exactly what a village should look without all the fantasy bells and whistles. The lighting is exactly spot on and the RGB lighting of the objects could not be better to create a harmonious world without nothing jarring. The orchard is so beautiful (my favourite place even if there is almost no gameplay here), and so is the windy canyon with the bridge. The inside of the monastery/necropolis is gloomy with attention to details to illustrate a ruined and cursed place. You begin the level with no spyglass and limited bullets so it's better to flee from some of the enemies until you reach the village, then you will have more powerful weapons/ammos you will need to set objects on fire and defend yourself. The level is not perfect , some of the tigers were stuck when coming back later, and i could enter the house in the orchard by falling through the roof , but that does not really matter. This immersive level comes from another dimension of levelbuilding made by a skilled designer who thinks outside the box. Recommanded to perseverant players for a strong sense of accomplishment. I'm not sure i would like to replay some parts of it though, for it can also be frustrating and the fun is not granted immediately." - eRIC (28-Jun-2020)