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Into the Realm of Eternal Darkness by BlackWolfTR

DJ Full 9 10 9 10
dragooncroft 10 10 10 10
Feats 10 10 10 10
JimmyBeon 8 8 10 10
Jorge22 10 10 10 10
Mahetus 10 10 10 10
Mman 10 10 10 10
Neltharion 9 9 10 9
requiemsoul 9 9 10 9
Ryan 10 10 10 10
Sabatu 10 10 10 10
Treeble 10 10 10 10
Wolf7 10 9 10 10
 
release date: 17-Jul-2023
# of downloads: 3318

average rating: 9.75
review count: 13
 
review this level

file size: 275.00 MB
file type: TR1
class: Mystery/Horror
 


author profile(s):
email(s):
blackwolftr@wp.pl

Reviewer's comments
""That was a great adventure, now for a well deserved rest!". These are Lara's closing words at the end of this exhilarating mammoth of an adventure, and I honestly couldn't have put it better myself. This is an awesome addition to the library of steadily growing TR1 custom levels, but it is not for the faint-hearted. It's spread across six levels, the fourth level (Chambers of Torture) and the fifth level (Black Palace) could possibly qualify as standalone levels anyway due to their staggering complexity and challenging gameplay (the latter of which definitely applies to the adventure as a whole). There's loads of action sequences, acrobatics, unique twists on familiar puzzles, bracing timed runs, tight underwater swims...honestly, the list goes on. I was tempted to dock a point or two from gameplay due to the difficulty, but I relented in the end as the variety really is brilliant. I also agree with Treeble's comment that the builder got the enemy ratio just right to enable you to make judicious use of your plentiful supplies/armament, any more enemies probably would have been overkill. The visual amenities are also vivid, with the black-and white landscape, the occasional splashes of colour, and the vast memorable environments, not to mention the eerie soundtracks that and to the feeling of isolation. Not for beginners, but for anyone else, this is a damn fine raid." - Ryan (09-Mar-2024)
"I had started this gave at the end of January, hoping to wrap it up and submit the written walkthrough before the official Remasters were released, but I got lucky and snagged an early copy and found myself pried away from this, so my playthrough was somewhat staggered (and I apologize if the walkthrough isn't entirely accurate as the revision and editorial sweep for the first three levels only happened almost a month after I had played and written the first draft. Sorry!), but even so the general feeling was pretty much constant from start to finish. It's ominous, it's heavy, it's amazing. From the start with an amazing rendition of the Croft Manor, with an external garden and crypt, through massive underground mining caverns, to a fortress and palace. It's just incredible, from start to finish, and the color palette, which isn't entirely black and white but offers shades of a handful of colors only now and then, make it all the better, perfectly matched by background ambient tracks. At all times you have a dreadful feeling of simply not belonging. Gameplaywise I have to say I definitely bit more than I could chew but I'm somewhat proud I made it to the end on my own, having hand drawn a dozen different maps or diagrams along the way, with only two stuck moments. That is to say that, with a bit of patience, you can conquer this beast just as well. There's a lot of running back and forth, trap sequences and set ups that will have you reloading lots of times until you get the timing right, With some of the levels being massive, it was easy to lose track of what to do, but more often than not the design is "circular" meaning the author puts you right back where you started specific fetch quests. The dopppelganger room was equally amazing and infuriating, and the boss fights in the final level were rough, the abomination in particular as you face additional minions, spike and flame traps, all at the peril of being pushed off the platform at any given moment. Kudos for the reworked soundtracks as well, the familiar tunes have been made slower and deeper, to match the overall somber feeling of the levels. On the other hand, I have to say that by the time I reached Black Palace I thought things were dragging a bit too much, it constantly felt as though as the author was trying to outstage himself at every new level of this series, which is great yes, but perhaps there is such a thing as "too much of a good thing". Still, this is one of the most unique and engaging level sets I've played. 6h15min, 4 secrets. 02/24" - Treeble (03-Mar-2024)
"After almost 9 hours of net gameplay (according to the statistics, as it was more like one month), I can't really remember most of this adventure, especially the start. Maybe I'm soft in comparison to some of the players here, but I found it generally very elaborated (extremely long and thus confusing, not necessarily in a terrible sense), with a good balance between exploration, puzzles, traps and combat, and I'm not sure how I finished, but I did (thank you so much, BlackWolf, for getting me through the mirror room in Black Castle; I suck at mirror rooms, namely with timed switches in between). I loved the black and white shades throughout most of the game. I thought the final part was really tough, namely the final combat, and then the escape. I'm glad there weren't more enemies, too many would have been too many. To sum it up, hard as it may have been, because it really was, it's fair to say this must have been the best TR1 level I've ever played." - Jorge22 (07-Oct-2023)
"I had a blast playing this level set! Quite challenging in parts but well worth the effort! Love the TR1 aesthetic, and the atmosphere in this level set is awesome. A little spooky & foreboding in all the right ways. Love the use of ambient sounds to elevate that atmosphere too. I honestly couldn't recommend this TRLE any more! Give it a go you won't regret it!" - Feats (02-Sep-2023)
"Let me just say this game was FANTASTIC! First off, I've never run into a secret accidentally, which was such a cool discovery. Second, I never felt so satisfied beating a custom level before. It was very challenging, but not ridiculous or unfair. The atmosphere was utterly fantastic, the enemies were perfect, creative and original. There were plenty of puzzles to solve and places to explore. My only critique would be the long hallways in the second to last level which take a while to traverse, but I will let this slide as I think it builds anticipation and adds to the atmosphere. Seriously well done level. I feel so accomplished beating this!" - dragooncroft (22-Aug-2023)
"The best custom level so far this year. "Chambers of torture" map is an instant classic. It's a complex game, with a very well done dark setting, varied and huge. The puzzles are very well design. The enemies are a bit annoying because they are very difficult to sidestep. Highly Recommended!" - requiemsoul (01-Aug-2023)
"The main core of this game is indeed puzzles coupled up with exploring huge, wonderfully crafted environments, while surviving traps and battling enemies - your typical Tomb Raider till here, right? Yes, but there is more! What sells the experience is the wonderful choice of textures and colours plus the lighting, which keep a moody feel unique to Tomb Raider 1, the atypical environments Lara winds herself up into that look familiar yet there is something off about them, the intriguingly well thought puzzles (sometimes unique to this engine!) the game provides many, one more unique than the other and that eerie, melancholic soundtrack the game makes great usage of. Having played previous adventures by BlackWolf, it is nice to see the progress made with time, both in the looks department (Atmosphere, textures, lighting...) but also in the player-friendliness of the game, which in my opinion is a hugely important aspect of games in general. BlackWolf does his absolute best at being player-friendly, showing the player when a lever is going to be timed, giving the player a huge arsenal of ammo and also a big deal of medis to survive the combat and helping keeping it a fun distraction rather than a constant annoyance (you can tell I do not like TR combat). I have though two major complaints about the customs, one of which might just be player- issue on my side. First, while the content provided by the game is memorable and quite unique, there is a lot of stuff to do, even perhaps too much, leading to some levels feeling too long, which is a feeling I have had last with Brad's Biohazard, there is just too much to do, but that might just be me. Second, I feel like some of the trap placement was more leaning on the cheap side, not a real threat to avoid, but just an annoying traps added here in there to annoy the gullible (points at me), which could be a player issue? But it completely made some of the levels a chore to traverse at times. Despite these two major points, I still think this experience is worth your time, but be warned, it requires you to be a medium to experienced raider. It is also a quite unique experience that you are truly not going to find anywhere else. Recommended Wolfy Regards :3c" - Wolf7 (25-Jul-2023)
"Pretty outstanding TR1 level doing almost everything that is possible on this engine. Gameplay was pretty balanced although it could've been more challenging but its fine the way it is. Secrets are well hidden all through the adventure and they're rewarding. The strongest point of this level is atmosphere indeed, using the engine characteristics to create deeply inmersive areas. The song choice was good, specially the ambient tracks. My biggest complain is probably the texturing in the later levels, it turns to be rather repetitive and I think texture variation would've helped a bit. Overall, a really good levelset, accessible for everyone." - Neltharion (25-Jul-2023)
"This level is a MUST! I love non-classical themes for levels, especially with a horror theme, as much as I love TR1 (Egypt, Greece). If I told you I loved this level, I would not be lying. Full of traps and mysteries and beautiful dark sceneries. If I had to be a nitpicker, it would be: more enemies! There is a lot of ammo and I have started to use ammo at lv 5. I love the sound design with the music and general feel of the level. Some of the objects, like the enemies, have new textures and I am in love with them. This level is, by far, one of the best TR1 custom levels that I have ever played." - Sabatu (23-Jul-2023)
"This level set is very special, and is almost perfect, but there are some gameplay choices that really made it hard to keep playing. The Good: Texturing phenomenal. Lighting is perfect for TR1. Atmospheric. No bugs. Several decent sized levels. The Bad: Boulders you cannot prepare for, nor can you know how to avoid unless you already died once (or three times each time in my case) - I don't like that type of gameplay trial and error. Some items look like they are pickable, but they are not, found myself trying to pick up bones too many times. Secrets a bit too difficult to find in my opinion. Is the level set worth playing? Absolutely. BlackWolf has created something truly special, he put a lot of heart and soul into this project with the amount of polish it has. It is difficult no doubt, but if you ever want to visit a custom level with perfect TR1 vibes, this is the level set for you." - JimmyBeon (23-Jul-2023)
"Talented, slayage, iconic but for real now
It's an amazing level set with a strong horror/mystery atmosphere. Blackwolf did imho one of the best TR1 level set. Amazing story and great gameplay with a lot of fun puzzles and trap sequences in fact some people may not like trial and error traps but it's a matter of taste. The visuals and general vibe is just outstanding. The author put a lot of effort into this level set. I'm looking forward for his another project.
This level set does not belong to the easiest one, there is a few tricky moments that many inexperienced players may struggle with but it is do-able in the end.
Definitely recommended!" - Mahetus (23-Jul-2023)
"While dragging with off-topic activities, the familiar prologue was also the reason why I took this level so early - so let's just cut it out of the equation and move underground. The second level dragged even more, I would cut corridors in half - however the steep ascent/descent was done really good. Levels 3-4-5-6 are the true core of the game and it was worth waiting for them, even though aesthetics weren't my cup of tea. The soundtrack was notorious but maybe it wouldn't be if I didn't extend the game duration by obsessing over 100% - which was quite a challenge since the secrets were of every kind: perfect, challenging and almost trolling. I think a secret should be like a mushroom in the forest - findable if you care enough, rewarding when you find it. In short - it has some flaws but it may be of the best TR1-engine games to date. Recommended to play in casual mode." - DJ Full (23-Jul-2023)
"This follows a horror-type theme, as you start off in Lara's home (and even some of it's immediate surroundings) that's clearly being twisted into something else, then move below into a strange sort of underground junkyard, and then the main theme kicks in with the rest being in a semi-monochrome nightmare world floating in an abyss. The lighting and texturing is near-perfect for Tomb Raider 1, and the way it sells the dark world theme while working within TR1 limitations and only very selectively using true darkness due to the lack of flares makes it even more impressive. The later monochrome texturing could easily get repetitive, but it mixes in other striking colours (namely purples) to contrast which keeps it varied despite that. Object use is also great with lots of new ones (including a lot of use of TR1's sprite objects) as well as various enemy edits; one of which was so well-done it could almost pass as a new enemy outside of one or two animations betraying what it's based on. It also uses objects and textures in clever ways to convey the storyline, Lara's voice is also an AI recreation of her classic one, and while it slips up a little it's mostly fine (and dialogue is still kept minimal). The architecture is also great, and, later on in particular, many areas are massive (even by TR4 standards) with intentional use of engine limits like TR1's low draw distance to have moments like an immense structure looming out of total darkness. The closest thing I had to an issue is that Spiderwebs felt slightly overused in Lara's Home as it made it seem like she hadn't been anywhere in months (and being TR1 means there aren't even Spiders as enemies), although based on later I guess it's supposed to be a product of the nightmare world "leaking".

There's an intentional bit of lead in at the start, as the initial exploration of Lara's house is pretty safe, but stranger and more dangerous areas and seemingly ancient ruins start to show up, and it quickly becomes clear that something is very wrong; it does a good job pacing the gradual reveal before it goes all in on the surreality. While there are six levels they're all very long and have lots to do in them (with the semi-exception of the last boss level that's relatively short in comparison); as well as the tasks there's also a great use of space, with things like the castle on a floating island in the third level being fully explorable, or the even larger castle later on occasionally bringing you "outside" to remind you of the massive void it is built inside. There's a large array of puzzles and traps, with almost every element from TR1 being used in a creative new way, as well as some completely new things. Even the Lara clone shows up for a completely original sequence (it does reveal some frustrations with it's slightly odd collision, but it's manageable once you realise how it works). There's quite a bit of combat too, and given the premise and being a TR1 set there's quite of lot of fighting Mutants in confined spaces, but there's usually something to exploit to put things in your favour, and there's plenty of ammo and health provided (and that was despite me missing most of the secrets). Every time I thought it might be running out of ideas it managed to spring something I haven't seen before, or twist an old element in a completely new way.

It's very complex and difficult but, while unforgiving, I didn't find much that felt too pixel-perfect (although there was one jumping grab that seemed weirdly difficult), and I appreciate that it fixes TR1's jump timing so it works like the sequels; the only thing that got a bit old for me was the "random swinging blade/slamming door in a corridor" trick, that led to multiple random feeling deaths, but the more interesting and creatively cruel traps made up for that. The final combat areas got a little absurd, but, as mentioned, you at least should have enough to just facetank through if all else fails. For all the creative puzzle ideas the only one I felt didn't fully work is the chess based one, as it wasn't clear you had to only jump on the start/end tiles for each piece and while I had the solution from the start it took several tries before I finally worked that out. The sheer size can make backtracking around get a little prolonged occasionally, but the spectacle is so great otherwise I think it's forgivable here, and plenty of shortcuts and interlinking is present where the layouts allow. While I come close once or twice I also didn't get stuck despite the size, as there's a decent amount of camera hints and other clues to the less intuitive interactions, and for all those issues, the high points and constant creativity elsewhere made up for them.

There have been multiple great pre-TR4 sets recently, but I still wouldn't quite put them with the absolute best of the TRLE community as a whole. This is the exception; it's intentionally oppressive theming and somewhat brutal difficulty won't be for everyone, but it's a masterpiece of nightmarish mood and creative design that seemingly pushes what TR1 can/should do to the absolute limit (and maybe beyond) and makes it look easy. I can easily see it seeing a new standard for future releases. As a side-note, between Leoc and Blackwolf's releases I wonder if something about the older engine enables these surreal releases or if it's just a coincidence that they keep coming for TR1-3. Top" - Mman (21-Jul-2023)