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Journal Entry Five: Base Camp Cistern Cavern
Completion: 14% Total Time Played: 9 hrs. 11 mins. Times I Killed Lara: This Level (1) Total (9)
Playthrough (Part 5): Lara is close to finding the Divine Source but Trinity is farther ahead. After upgrading my bow and spending a few skill points on my combat abilities, we head down the path and take out a few more rabbits and a crow. These little resources pay off even though I don’t like doing it. Enough of them help with upgrades so it’s good to take the time to hunt them. Sorry, critters. The zip line on a nearby tower is the exit out, but I do a little exploring in this open area first and find a few more Region Summary items, including a map that requires jumping over a razor wire fence. Once everything is pilfered, it’s down the zip and on toward the Gulag.
After landing, we’re met with a resistance fighter who offers Lara a side quest (lock pick reward for completion). We’re given the choice to accept or not, but that’s a no-brainer. The answer is yes and he tasks us with destroying the five communications towers nearby. Conveniently, there is a metal box right next to me and guess what? It’s locked. Motivation, I guess. There is also another campfire, but since the side missions are all in the surrounding area (and the last camp was literally two minutes ago), I will wait until I take out the towers before making camp.
A storm front moves in and the snows really begin to fall as temperatures drop. I know this because Lara’s animation changes significantly as she clutches herself to stay warm and her breathing becomes erratic. It’s a nice effect and somehow makes me concerned for her. But, no time to fret. The communications transmitters are clustered together not far from the camp and I find the first at the base of a tower. The ice axe quickly renders it useless. Exploring the tower, on the second tier, I also find a crate with the first of 4 Compound Bow parts. Nifty. It’s good to look everywhere because secrets and items seem to pop up in every corner.
I find a giant Soviet emblem on the outside of one wall near the top of the tower that praises cosmonauts. That’s random. I ride a zip line to the bottom and search around the base for more. Oh, I almost forgot. Remember those wolves I mentioned baying in the distance in the previous playthrough? Surprise. They find me. And eat me. And when I say me, of course I mean Lara. On the second try, I get to high ground and take a sniping position with the bow. It takes a few minutes and some jumping about to keep them off my heels, but I eventually tag them all. Bonus! Wolf skins.
It’s here where another Challenge Tomb prompt pops up and sends me off mission. While not quite as simple to find as a massive Byzantine ship stuck in a glacier like the previous Challenge Tomb, the tomb entrance here is still easy to spot as a large hole in the ground behind the tower. Just a matter of of dropping a tree stump onto the planks to break it open and then down we go into the tomb. The cave is intimidatingly dark, and there are signs that the soldiers who were here left in a big hurry. But I’m not scared. Or at least Lara isn’t. Down a bit farther and it’s time for some platforming.
There’s a narrow wall we can use the ice axes on and from there it’s just a bit of jumping and descending until she needs to climb up on a cross beam that activates an under water crank system. She drops into the water and comes across a round sealed door that is easily opened by a carelessly left behind bit of explosive. Boom and we are inside the tomb. There’s another campfire here, but Lara’s feeling lucky and walks right past it down a thin corridor and into a massive chamber with what she remarks as a cistern. By the glowy light at the top, I’m thinking that’s where we’re headed.
Getting there isn’t so easy as once I make the short narrow run along a stone buttress-type structure, the handholds on the cistern wall give way and Lara drops to the water below. This is looking more and more like the old games as the path to the top is not nearly as well marked as the first Challenge Tomb. This is good. I swim back to the previous room and see another round gate like the one at the entrance. Nearby is a can of fuel so you know what that means. The explosion blows open the door and raises the water a bit but not enough. Next comes a clever bit of timing involving a plank, a fuel can, a pulley, and my pistol.
First, we grab another can of fuel (honestly, whoever was here last really packed a lot of fuel) and toss it onto the plank. Behind the cistern, we go up a short flight of stairs that leads to a small ledge where she jumps up and onto a pulley that draws open a door above, allowing water to flow into the chamber. This rush of water pushes the plank to the other side of the room. After Lara lets go of the pulley, the water recedes and the plank slowly returns. Here’s the timing part. As it floats back, it passes another round door that, when I shoot the fuel can at the right time, blows it open and lets out more water. Not done yet, though.
Another round door lies in the next room and I have to figure out how to bring a can of explosive fuel to it because when I try the obvious way of swimming there, the can just sinks. Must be leaded fuel. But, there is another way. Using the same method as before, I toss a can onto the plank, jump on the pulley and let the water push it away. This time though, I swim out to the plank and jump on, grab the can and toss it through the large window above the door and the leap up into the room. Clever. Time for a boom. After a bit of scampering and tossing, The fuel is by the door and I shoot it with glee. More water. I swim out to the main chamber and finally, I can access the top of the cistern where Lara finds another ancient manuscript and through the power of reading, develops “Natural Instincts,” which makes things in the wild glow if they are useful to my adventure. That should take some of the guesswork out of it. Now it’s just a short leap back into the water and out of the room to the inner causeway where I successfully save at Base Camp 5: Cistern Cavern.
Impressions: This level is why Tomb Raider games can be so great. I began one mission, redirected to a side mission and ended up completely sidetracked and doing something unrelated to both. The options for exploration and doing things on your own pace really make this a fun experience. The puzzles in the Challenge Tomb were not so difficult as to be frustrating but also a little too easy, though it’s only the second one. It really feels like a nice nod to the originals. My favorite level thus far.
Best Moment: Evading the wolves.