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25 years Classic Engine Competition - Caves of Atlantis by DroneQuadcopter

BlackWolfTR 8 5 4 5
dinne 5 5 4 5
DJ Full 6 8 6 4
Jose 4 6 6 7
Mahetus 6 5 4 5
manarch2 3 5 5 5
MigMarado 7 7 7 8
Mman 5 5 4 4
Ryan 5 5 5 6
Wolf7 4 6 8 7
release date: 25-Oct-2021
# of downloads: 93

average rating: 5.48
review count: 10
review this level

file size: 204.00 MB
file type: TR2
class: Atlantis

author profile(s):

Reviewer's comments
"Hm. Yes I agree it could be better, but it often felt more satisfying than the current rating indicates. Not too good, not too bad, I guess." - DJ Full (06-Feb-2023)
"This is a Tomb Raider 2 engine level with the general theme being a Natla's Mines type setting, with a TR1 mine theme and some Atlantis elements, but it also mixes in some TR 2 sunken ship areas to a section of it. A lot of connecting areas are a bit simple and cubic, but there are also some very large scale areas where more gameplay takes place with some interesting geometry. The texturing is a bit repetitive though, with little variety in some larger locations, and, even accounting for TR2 engine limits, the lighting doesn't make much use of what contrasting elements it can support, with most of it being flattish-white with very little use of darkness and shadow. The mix of themes isn't especially supported by the design of the map, but it does lend it a certain weirdness that elevates what would feel a bit generic otherwise, so I guess I like the idea overall. There didn't seem to be any music beyond the ambient theme either.
The Natla's Mine theme extends to starting you with no weapons, and there's the weird choice of the hub having a non-linear split, but you needing to go the "right" way to find weapons and actually start being able to freely explore. Luckily I stumbled on the correct way quickly so avoided major issues, but it could be a much bigger issue if you take a wrong way first and spawn enemies in the hub-adjacent sections. It initially seems quite empty with a bunch of giant rooms to run around, but, once you do get some means of defense, the initially intimidating amount of paths does start to focus itself around finding four fuses sectioned off by a Palace Midas-esque switch puzzle. The handling of the individual fuse hunts is weirdly handled a couple of times though (the worst being the one you are supposed to do first), as you can miss keys and have to do a ton of backtracking later, when this could have been easily averted with a couple of extra choke-points that only open when keys are acquired (and is already done once or twice). My feeling towards the gameplay is quite mixed as a lot of is going around big empty rooms, but then there are some actually decent challenges at points, and the secret hunts are some of the most interesting segments of the map; those show the designer is very capable of engaging design despite a lot of it being empty and uninteresting. After getting guns the combat is okay-albeit a bit reliant on surprise flamethrowers-and I did appreciate the Harpoon Gun actually being semi-important (although it also suffers from the problem of being missable), but I do feel a few more (super)natural enemies would fit parts of the setting better than random goons. Something about the engine tweaks this map does also result in something being off about the camera, with it frequently going through walls (especially when you look, which makes that function nearly unusable at times) and shaking violently in uneven geometry. A level that's frequently a bit of a repetitive slog, but has enough interesting moments and ideas that it's obvious the designer is capable of greatness if they improved the overall gameplay flow and had more to actually do in some of the impressively large areas." - Mman (16-Feb-2022)
"Definitely not a level for my taste. It seems intended to be a very ambitious level, with a lot of big areas to explore, very long and complex, with several tricky tasks sometimes, but the backtracking is terrible. When I started to write the walkthrough I got many difficulties to explain the better way to proceed so the readers could follow the better way to finish with no much backtracking, but even the second and third secrets force the players to repeat the same movements along the same paths long ways. On the other hand, I found enough pickups to finish without problems, the enemies are well balanced and the architecture is usually good. I missed some more cameras and musics, but the atmosphere is not bad at all. If you like travel dozens of kilometers exploring huge areas perhaps this level could be good for you." - Jose (06-Feb-2022)
"This level undoubtedly has its moments, but unfortunately you have to work a little too much to experience them. My overall impression was sadly tainted by the arduous nature of the majority of the gameplay, which could have been much more enjoyable with a little more thought and consideration. The idea of reusing the Palace Midas switch puzzle gambit is a neat concept, but then there's the potential to do things in a less than optimal order where enemies are concerned and having no weapons does put you on edge more than you would like. The backtracking is also a major issue throughout, not helped by the various rooms and hallways blending into one another after criss- crossing them numerous times. Some shortcuts would have been ideal here. Enemies aren't too bad as far as they go, but nor is there much variation between the countless thugs, scuba divers and vicious fishes, and in terms of secrets... Well I'll leave that for you to decide as a few of the side trips are quite lengthy. Texturing isn't too bad throughout either, but there's nothing impressive about it either, and the main rooms just stand out for being big more than anything else. There's definitely some potential here, but it just needs brought out in a more player-friendly level than this." - Ryan (02-Feb-2022)
"Well, I was beta testing this level, and yes I expected more from this author, especially after his debut release. I know he couldn't change some things due to limits, so even a slight change could lead to the crash, yet still, flaws are there I would say a bit too many.
Maybe I'll start with this. There's a lot of potential but it's wasted, unfortunately. It could be a really good level but the execution is done improperly. Gameplay is rather confusing since there's no real indication where to go first. Technically there are camera hints but they won't tell too much to be honest. I think this is possible to fix without the crash issue. ;)
Despite all these flaws I still do think the gameplay is enjoyable at some points, it's not the best as I mentioned above but it has some good moments. :)
I think this level is "a bit" too big for a new builder that has still a lot to learn. Don't get me wrong being ambitious is overall a good thing but knowing what are you able to do or not. Firstly small things and slowly getting to the bigger ones. ;)
Also, regarding gameplay it is hevily focused on exploring with some backtracking, platforming and shooting like casual TR2 but even this as I mentioned should be executed a bit better than this what we get.
Texturing is very wallpapered, there's a few variation only. (Add at least some green to make rooms look different than others) Lighting is basically flat and I think in some areas there should be better usage of light bulbs with more intensity to give some nice contrast. These things make level look boring.
Next annoying thing is buggy/shaking camera, I know there are passed limits and without this "buggy camera" you won't be able to fight the enemies normally so unfortunately the author cannot avoid it, although I do think this level should be split into two to avoid issues like these but that is what I'd do.
After all, level with a lot of wasted potential. There's so much things that should've been done differently to make this level more enjoyable.
DroneSpencer I really hope your next release will be better. You have a lot of potential to be a great builder. As I mentioned start with smaller things and soon you'll get there!" - Mahetus (19-Nov-2021)
"Do players really have to read the builder's mind? How should I know which switch combination to use first? When I came back from the lava river there is a firethrower in the switch room and without weapons I cannot deal with him - so I had to start this level almost from scratch. Very annoying. Same (if not game-stopping) with the harpoon gun you should find before going down in the huge underwater cave (which btw consists of nothing but boringly long hallways with underwater levers at the end). What makes things worse is that horrible backtracking you're forced to, run kilometers back and forth just because the builder is not willing to provide shortcuts, and sometimes it's even worse - like when you use the gem and get the fuse, you could easily get back to the previous hall, but no, it's more fun to return through the entire underwater cave. The secrets also actually punish the player, especially when you are forced to backtrack to an area where you already have a huge backtrack, or when you have to do that final platforming sequence twice just to find some useless ammo or weaponry. Without the few trap sequences, nothing in this level had been really enjoyable. Cameras are weird, often flickering, especially when you press the Look button. The texturing is clean and somewhat interesting even if heavily wallpapered, while the atmosphere of the areas mainly lives from their hugeness and a bit of nice architectural design, but the areas felt often bare and lifeless. This 1:10 hour long level is a good example where the builder wanted too much, especially in terms of length, but in this way made it a lot less enjoyable. There is undoubtedly some raw talent and I hope it's not wasted." - manarch2 (09-Nov-2021)
"Somewhat better than Pedro's level but not a huge step up in terms of enjoyment. I sincerely hope, Spencer, you read this review and take things objectively and not personally, you are a new builder and I can see your ambition, this was just a step in the wrong and the right direction. Keep on making, you can do it! ^w^
Gameplay wise this level is for sure a huge one, that does and will make you spend time in different places, in the positive we have some very good trap sequences and some nice platforming, coupled up with a nice lever system that actually lays out for you the pattern for the doors so you just need to look for them. Just, heh. Sadly this is not made very easy by the incredibly huge map we are given the possibility to explore that quite does not help the explorer, there are some hints trying to help the player but they sadly did not work for me and I found myself very often walking in circles due to that. One major flaw is in the Maria Doria like area where a key that is not shown in the normal path lays there to be taken and I walked off once, only to realize later on I had one door closed and I had no way to go back there so I had to redo an entire long task for me to do it. This is quite a major flaw that I feel I need to point out, the flow of the level: The builder promises everything makes sense and effectively if you do things in the order the game wants you to, you find yourself in a better situation, but if you decide instead to make one area before the other you find yourself targeted by fish and scuba divers alike shooting at you with NO WAY OF ANSWERING BACK. While more varied than Pedro's "level" I feel like I cannot give more than 4 for the gameplay. The ambition is there, the ideas are scattered, there is too much space to work into.
Enemies were indeed quite varied and I like to theorize they are actually not real humans rather some reincarnations made by Natla or whoever is messing in Atlantis, that is why we find enemies that do not really match is such a place, the combating was quite nice but ... heh, the flow of the level, I did the underwater part with NO DAMN HARPOON GUN, which was not fun to play through. There is one enemy encounter that felt very unfair and has to be the one in which I exit a door and find two flame throwers and have FEW SPACE to get far from them. Talking about secrets, one was very easy to find another one was not that easy still required me to do a quite tediously long jumping section to get that. Not worth it for sure. I feel like I should praise the combating when it works and the interesting blend of different goons with Atlantis like objects. No more than 6
Atmosphere? I actually liked it and I felt like it was more fine than anything else in the level. It feels mysterious as you wander in these caves and try to understand what is happening how are we meeting places we have seen in the past, what are people doing down there, are they actually here? Why are pieces of old puzzles making an appearance? I know it probably was not what Spencer went for, but it worked out for me, quite a bit. Cameras sometimes are glitchy but that is not the builder's fault at all. 8 is the mark I give
Texturing was the weakest in the game, due to a lack of different texture usage some of the areas just looked like the same with little to none variety going on, there is one room with a huge mountain-like environment in which you are asked to jump onto some tiles which is impossible due to the great idea of making those ledges look the same!, the lighting luckily helped and there were no moments in which I found myself struggling with trying to see, which is a huge positive in favor of the section. I give it a 7, 5 points for lighting and 2 for texturing.
In conclusions, it is a level that kept me in for two hours and eleven minutes and I did not really enjoy my time here while the ambition is palpable the overall level layout did not do it for me. It is a step-up in some way since the author's debut and a huge step down in other cases. Play it following a walkthrough, makes it more enjoyable in what it tries to be and achieved partially. Good job regardless, Spencer. Onto BlackwolfTR next. Wolfy Regards." - Wolf7 (09-Nov-2021)
"A very uninspired, soul-less, empty, boring, lazy and wasted level. I am disappointed because the debut level of this author was better than this one, it shown creativity and potential for the future. This level instead has an -overload- of huge unused areas which only work as corridors, so the gameplay density is very very low and all of these areas look very much the same, a small asset is used and texturing is extremely lazy: floor has one texture, wall has one, ceiling has one (or 2, but still, that is the impression). The experience is then very dull. Geometry looks copypasted from elsewhere because often it looks not blended with the rest. But let's keep speculations aside, it just looks not good visually.
Gameplay-wise nothing interesting happens, just some traps revive the level but mostly it consists in a constant running, re-exploring the same looking areas, occasional combat, some traps, lot of backtracking, some platforming that is probably the strongest part of the level together with traps, although often it looks like a filler and uninspired as well. In the middle of the level there is a depressive huge filler part made of lever-door-lever-door underwater for 4-5 times and the level ends with some combat and platforming.
I watched a walkthough later and I noticed I didn't use a fuse and a red key, I wonder if they were for secrets or if I met a skip. Either way, I wasn't motivated to look for secrets and I didn't have fun at all... Constant running in huge empty environment, same-looking, with nothing to do or at least worth looking at, environments are also pretty much unlit and lack of contrast so that the geometry often annoyingly hides and texturing is as I described already. Good points of this level are just the ones that aren't flaws: sounds are ok, I found only 1 softlock (around a moving spike wall)... And, I don't know.
A small bad point is also given by a bugged frustrating camera.
The level finishes with some weapons found in a secret although there is no enemy to use them with and the camera points towards the door for the secret instead of the ending, which is also weird.
I'm sorry but I'm not satisfied, mostly bored and I wouldn't recommend this level." - dinne (04-Nov-2021)
"The main thing here is that the level seems non-linear but, in fact, it is very much linear. The author says that you must follow the correct path as indicated through hints, but the hints are not very intuitive. I ended up only finding a key weapon at the very end... The gameplay suffered from this confusing set-up... If you follow the correct order, you will enjoy this level all the more! I recommend the level, and also that you only commit to opening a door when you know it is where you should go next.

The story is very good (set in the Azores, an archipelago of Portugal, my country), yet it promises some interesting elements that you never actually fully glimpse within the level.

There is a great deal of promise, the level is clearly interesting. There are dull moments, in the almost constant back and forth, and also in some unnecessary deviations (secrets, in particular, are too easy to find but really take to long to recover). The texture set was not fully used, as there were repetitive parts that could have been distinct, so as to stand out more. Therefore, there is a lot to improve. For me, the level ended up feeling repetitive and not as original as the premise allowed.

Dear DroneSpencer, good job! Thank you very much for this interesting and challenging level (especially without the harpoon gun...)! Next time, either make it linear or fully non-linear. This kind of mixture didn't do it for me." - MigMarado (25-Oct-2021)
"Decent release from DroneSpencer in Atlantis theme. Gameplay is the best part of this level. There's some platforming, traps and some puzzles. I liked how we needed to maneuver between different locations and pulling correct combination of switches to open some doors. Some enemies didn't fit into environment in my opinon, like baddies with from Tibet or goons from Venice. Author could take some more enemies from offshore rig levels. There were some incorrect sounds, for example when scuba divers were shooting with harpoon gun. Also I think the ambient of level didn't really fit because we have been in caves and ambient with strong winds is kinda out of place. Better option would be ambient from TR1 "Caves" or Atlantis. Camera hints were nice but level overally has some problems with camera because often camera is making weird things like getting out of map and it's a bit annoying. About design of the room... Geometry was good and some rooms looked really good and spectacular but texturing was a bit repetetive and more transitions could have been used. Sometimes I found lighting a bit flat and overally more dark areas would work good. Another thing is that some locations felt pretty empty, without any decorations. I know that author has struggled with limitations and some flaws can be forgiven. I can recommend this level since it's enjoyable." - BlackWolfTR (25-Oct-2021)