Oasis

Author: Feder Released: August 13th 2022

Introduction

Discovering a mysterious underground river that leads to an ancient Egyptian dam used to divert the current from their sacred monuments. Lara decides to follow it in search for treasures left behind, but soon finds out she is not the only one who has taken an interest to grab whatever relics lay inside the structures of this lost oasis.

Review

Coming into this from one of Feder’s prior levels, Ruins of the Lost City, I expected a similar entry level experience only to find out it wasn’t as smooth of a process. This due to any negative issues which were mostly self inflicted, OASIS just expects a broader usage of Lara’s move pool beyond performing the basic jumps. Progression otherwise doesn’t differentiate too much compared to RUINS, in parts coming across like a reiteration of prior ideas only now taking place within a different setting. This can be seen around the midway point with a similar looking jumping puzzle chamber and toward the end you’ll be flooding the last area again. There’s some definite deja vu going on but aspects that separate the two releases still exist. OASIS is very dense for a singular level that still retains the need for careful observation in order to proceed, I enjoyed simply exploring every little nook for any extra supplies. The beginning cavern alone is jam packed with trinkets, spending a good amount of time here to seek them out before pressing onward, failing those jumps over and over just so I can grab that one ammo box I’ll probably never use.

Oasis by FederOasis by Feder

Locales are varied by combining elements of a buried construction being invaded with an overgrowth of vines and vegetation, taking this further by using models for most plant life instead of flat projections. You’ll be visiting flooded chambers with hanging rope bridges to cross gaps, the titular above ground oasis beneath an starless black sky and an underground cavern hiding away a massive sphinx monument that’s just begging to be climbed. The Egyptian theme caries itself well here and wouldn’t be out of place amongst the original levels, while going for a denser look blended together with a style closer to Unfinished Business leaning heavily on a feline motif. Many cat statues are dotted around that at first seem like decoration, when approached reveal hints to secret stashes by shifting the camera perspective. There was always an incentive to seek these out purely for the adventure, not always being successful to attain their rewards but still had fun trying regardless. I had to laugh upon seeing a pair of uzis being hidden in plain sight via unorthodox means.

Oasis by FederOasis by Feder

I’m still not great at Tomb Raider combat whenever enemies get thrown at my face, it boils down to moving well while holding down the trigger to avoid taking melee damage but I often fumble about. Enemy placement takes great advantage of that fact by having you fight during inconvenient situations, charging at you from narrow halls with little space to dodge or pulling yourself onto a high platform only to find a Panther now lurking around there. Atop the sphinx was a mummy being an absolute nuisance as you’re not given much of an angle to shoot him from and forced to take the fight head on. Verticality is a common component from timed ascents to careful descents, so placing foes at these points always creates a danger having to deal with them from precarious heights. Other methods include area denial such as the two Panthers guarding the central oasis isle, meticulous about rushing Lara the moment she sets foot on land and then hiding behind the middle structure if attempting to snipe them from across the water. Resorting to your pistols just isn’t going to cut it against these damage sponges without a drawn out fight, highlighting just how important seeking out better weaponry and secret ammo stashes is for the long term.

Oasis by FederOasis by Feder

I needed to reference a walkthrough at least twice not long after starting, having a decent grasp each time where I needed to go but having no clue what I’m lacking to accomplish it. My first hurdle was grabbing hold onto a central ledge which looked doable but I couldn’t quite reach it. Turns out I’d been misjudging the highest point as an attainable ledge grab and having to shimmy my jump toward the lowest edge not realising it made a difference in this scenario. That one issue was on me. The second blunder was trying to make a jump while the ceiling is too low not acknowledging the purpose of a nearby slope. From then on I vouched to hold off any further help having realised I’m not thinking enough about the tools left to my disposal. It was a learning experience but managed to get by in the end with trial and error, not always enjoying the process but these victories were still mine. There was one timed platform in particular I couldn’t reach and then climb up fast enough before it reverts back into position, watching as Lara pulls herself up onto thin air only to drop moments after. I’ve never made use of side flips during the base game, yet became the perfect solution. Not only did it work consistently but also gained the necessary height without the need to ledge grab considering how tight the timing is here. By no means an advanced trick to pull off but serves as an example of traversal methods I’ve overlooked for years.

Conclusion

I didn’t hold much of an attachment to the Egyptian theme compared to the nostalgic South American style found in RUINS, but how OASIS defines its visuals and level density gave me a renewed appreciation. I enjoy how the level balances large portions of tricky vertical climbs and descents with simpler breathers for exploration. Enemies love to exploit your positioning at every opportunity while the navigation retains that need for careful observation. OASIS is a rewarding and adventurous experience as we ascend from underground areas to the surface and eventually loop back round to the starting cavern so we can flood the sphinx chamber. While there’s a little more expectation to utilise Lara’s movement beyond basic jumps, it helped me learn some aspects I otherwise would have ignored in preparation for future custom levels I dive into.

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