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The Great Maze: The Emperor's Heart by Dawos

CalrOsario 10 10 10 10
DJ Full 8 10 10 9
Juan Carlos 8 9 10 9
nad 8 8 10 10
Phil 8 8 9 8
Ryan 5 7 8 9
tuxraider 8 8 9 9
 
release date: 11-Mar-2023
# of downloads: 385

average rating: 8.75
review count: 7
 
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file size: 663.00 MB
file type: TR4
class: nc
 


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Reviewer's comments
"Complicated, sophisticated, convoluted, intimidating, overwhelming. When you finally get your head around it, you feel powerful. And then it opens up even more, displaying epicness yet rarely giving fast ways around. The answer if it's worth hours of confusion is up to you. An ultimate challenge for brain usage fans." - DJ Full (06-Nov-2023)
"I can't remember when I've been so conflicted about reviewing a custom level. In this case I wish to be fair, as always, in the numerical ratings I ascribe to the four listed categories, but their guidelines don't adequately provide a complete picture of what this game is all about. It's easily the most complex Tomb Raider game I've ever played, and from a purely aesthetic standpoint it's an engineering marvel. Forgive me for likening it to a gigantic Rubik's Cube that must be twisted and turned just so in order for it to turn out precisely as intended. But a game is meant to be enjoyed as well as appreciated, and I didn't really have a good time here. In most of the interlocking levels the lighting is oppressively dark, and although the surroundings are vast and sometimes even scenic, there's little in the way of color and beauty that I like to see while playing custom levels. I engaged the god mode patch early on, primarily for the purpose of gaining unlimited flares, but a side benefit was getting the ample weaponry and ammo that I needed to deal with those pesky blue ahmets that kept showing up uninvited at inopportune moments. And near the end of the game, the builder inadvisedly threw in a sustained earthquake before depriving the player of all weapons for a brief time. Lizard Queen, God bless her, was somehow able to figure out all the connecting pathways and write everything down in a comprehensive walkthrough that I literally could not have done without. Even at that I found myself stuck on a number of occasions and had to reach out frequently for her unfailing assistance. My total game time was a whopping 17 hours, but I took my time and was in no particular hurry over the two or three weeks that were devoted to the task. And that's another point in its favor. Rather than binning the game in disgust I found myself strangely addicted to it, even after multiple trips back and forth across ground previously covered (which must have given Lizard Queen fits with all the cutting and pasting required of her while she compiled the walkthrough), and I was drawn by this weird compulsion to see it through to the bitter end. If there were categories for "creativity" and "inventiveness" I would be compelled to award perfect 10s here, but since this is a game that I have no desire to replay anytime soon, I must temper my ratings accordingly." - Phil (07-Aug-2023)
"OK, I need to get my breath back for a minute because that was one absolute behemoth of an undertaking. Unfortunately (and I really do mean unfortunately because it's abundantly clear that a gigantic amount of time and effort has been put into this), I really didn't enjoy this as much as the builder no doubt intended. First things first, it's both terribly confusing and ambitious in equal measure for its own good. Steps have to be repeatedly retracted throughout the course of these ten interlinked levels and having to perform certain jump sequences numerous times got old real quick, particularly in the area with the domes in The Heart of the Maze. Why not trim the repeat trips down to a couple, or even three or four would be fine? Not very player-friendly to see the least. It's also possible to perform tasks in a less than ideal order and thereby become terribly disoriented or even stuck for good. Which leads me to my next criticism: supplies and enemies. If ever there was a game that reinforced my hatred for ahmets and Roman statues, this one is it. They're both far too overused which, coupled with the fact that most of them have to be killed to progress and the possible situation where you may run low real quick, plus having to lose your weapons to progress at one point, may lead to yet another stuck point. These could have been drastically reduced too IMO. The atmosphere was fine (although music was a little less varied than I would have liked) and I can't really complain about the textures, apart from them being a bit more stony and dark than I prefer. Overall, an ambitious piece of construction which I must praise the builder for, but I do think less would have been far, far more here..." - Ryan (23-Jul-2023)
"I started playing this game without really knowing what I was going to find. (Many times I start playing games without reading most of the accompanying information, including the context, because i choose more on screnshots and/or videos made available by the author). In this case, I should have paid more attention (including author warnings about the puzzles)... Because, Although it started with extreme simplicity, it evolved into extremely complex scenarios and paths/moves. The environment is intriguing but you get very pretty graphics and great gameplay diversification to some point, (but it is a maze!). On the over way It's a labyrinth that sometimes seems very suffocating... With Combats of high difficulty and/or very repetitive and/or very disproportionate in terms of difficulty. You keep getting very frustrating at one point, (extremely difficult overall).... It took me about 25 hours to "undo" the challenge and explore that huge underground system cave!! i did not get to it without severals days and multiple save and load!! The all thing (including puzzles) are just non-linear and extravagant. But i loved the experience!!! The atmosphere is brilliant and immersive!! So, despite everything, this level is extremely recomended!!" - CalrOsario (01-Jul-2023)
"I must always begind for giving thanks to the author of new levels. I really appreciate your big and generous work. This game is absolutly big, never ending. A lot of areas and confusing ways to go to the end, obviously a maze. But a very hard maze and, unfortunally impossible to know what is next. I had to look for solution in youtube many times. I don't like this. Sometimes you cannot know if you did enought in the rooms or passage where you are or, if you need to do more. I never found the revolver, so I was not able to kill the skull enemy and I dind´t know if it was important or not to destroy it. The game needs more signs in order to show where to go, more cameras, a lot of switches that you don't know what they are doing. A very dark level with only two packages of flares!! Some good puzzles but other to long with the same solution. Some puzzles din't seem logic to me. I finish the level thanks to the youtubers, but I really was close to stop trying many times. This is a level for people with a lot, a lot of patience. Maybe this is the must interesting thing of this game. the best of the game is the amazing work building the rooms, all the different parts of the game. Very artitstic and complex work in this sense." - Juan Carlos (22-May-2023)
"

Incredible level, and incredibly difficult. It's a really huge level, I had almost 18 hours of play time on the statistics screen at the end (minus countless of reloads and retries, which are not included in this number). This level has almost everything: puzzles, acrobatics, fighting enemies, all in a huge underground cave system.

I suspect this level got harder than the builder intended, and will be too difficult for many. You need patience and a long breath when playing this. The game starts with a small separate very simple training level, which is extremely misleading, and won't prepare you for anything that's to come. Then the real level starts, but it stays nice and easy for a while. It's partitioned into multiple sub-levels for technical reasons, but it's meant to be a single big level. You will move between them all the time.

GAMEPLAY: A lot of exploration (it's literally a great maze), getting over obstacles, solving puzzles, killing lots of enemies. I really appreciated the exploration aspect, though I got stuck all the time after discovering the initially accessible passages. It often happened that I didn't know what to do next, and had a huge area to cover trying to look for new hints. This is one of the difficulties, not uncommon in many other levels, but here it felt extreme due to the size of it. I was close to giving up many times. You need to collect a lot of key-like items, until you can access the central platform in the "The Heart of the Maze". Most of the enemies are "Ahmets", and they usually attack in a pack. Not that hard to deal with, and there are enough medipacks everywhere, but overpowering near the end of the game. I actually cheated and gave myself more shotgun ammo, because I didn't think I'd be able to finish the final stretch (Note: if you run out of ammo, new ammo will actually appear). I almost gave up here as well. The final stretch is pretty mean. New enemies are spawning everywhere, new obstacles appear until you beat the enemies, and you probably lost some of your weapons. In addition to the "Ahmets", there are these big warrior things, which are hard to kill, seem to need a random amount of ammo, and have weird delayed deaths.

VISUALS: The textures are in a pretty consistent look, which could be considered solid, but boring. But the architecture makes up for it. The various areas look fairly different too (more like building in the upper areas, more like cave in the lower ones). Some minor faults here and there, but it looks very nice. One problem is with the partition into sub-levels. This is probably for technical reasons, because too large levels will become unmanageable or slow. But the level transitions are set at the oddest places. You can see closed doors, which you notice are actually open, once you step closer and transition into the level containing that door. This is also for technical reasons, but it can be confusing.

AUDIENCE: If you want to finish it: experts only, you need to be patient and unafraid. But anyone can take a look and play large parts of it, and enjoy the atmosphere. It gets exponentially harder later on.

I DISLIKED:

  • The maze is so big and confusing, you spend most of your time backtracking (either fruitless, or for necessary revisits). Insane backtracking. Probably too much for most.
  • The enemies were annoying, towards the end even unfair.
  • You can (and have to) lose all of your guns in two places. The revolver is a reward for secrets, but you can lose it and not get it back.
  • Some of the puzzles were too clever for me. It was hard to reset them and solve them from the video walktroughs.
  • Some really mean jumps.
  • The difficulty varies widely depending on the path you take. You might accidentally take the worst path, which is unfair.
  • My least favorite area was "The Framework" with its pull doors and the 4 levers. It was OK at first, but turned into an awful chore after a while.

I LIKED:

  • It's impressive and I loved exploring it. It's a maze, exactly as promised, and it's deep.
  • It's fun how it unexpectedly gives you access to areas you could only see from far before, or whole new areas. This review creating expectations will probably have the reverse access, but I was impressed how deep the level went. I was astonished.
  • Very non-linear. (Although that can also be a problem.)
  • Many areas see use multiple times, although that could be exhausting too.
  • I especially liked the use of 3D architecture, and seeing places that were reachable only much later. The main room (The Heart of the Maze) gives you a good idea of the complexity, that involves heights as well.
  • Plenty of items (ammo, medipacks) throughout the level, which help to notice whether you were in an area before, a bit like breadcrumbs.
  • Most of the challenges were interesting, even if I complained about some others.

In summary, really nice level, especially amazing for being the first level of the builder. But the unexpected and varying difficulty was frustrating, and will probably be frustrating to others. Worth checking out in any case.

" - tuxraider (14-Apr-2023)
"First of all, I would like to say that this level is one of the most complex I have ever played. The entire level consists of several parts that are linked together. Most of them can be reached through the central room, but not only, and that's the point. In all areas the rooms are very large as well as the central room which is simply huge. Even though some rooms are quite empty, they still fit very well into the overall design concept. The music and especially the lighting are used very well and the textures fit very well to the whole ambience. The goal in the game is to find and use four stones to unlock the Emperor's Heart. This is easier said than done, because to achieve this you have to complete many tasks. For me, some were quite difficult to understand, like some lever positions, but others I liked very much, like the tasks with the rotating walls. At a certain point in the game, Lara will lose her weapons but get them back later. Right from here the game gets more and more difficult. There are many fights with warriors that clear the way and also the places where the stones are to be used. Difficult are not the many warriors, but the many ahmets and knights that appear at the same time and distract Lara. And it was precisely these ahmets that bothered me throughout the game, as there were simply too many of them. In almost every part, Lara is always attacked by at least two ahmets and not only once, but constantly. While you have to give credit to the level builder for this fantastic job of building such a complex level, it's exactly this that will be the player's doom. He will sooner or later lose his orientation, because you can reach many areas without being able to do everything there, because you still have to do something in other areas. This is not exactly player friendly, but what do you expect from a level that has the title "The Great Maze". Namely a very big maze :) Highly recommended for those who like this kind of levels." - nad (24-Mar-2023)