5. Level 14 – Lud’s Gate (Tomb Raider 3)
Tomb Raider was always one of the poster-games for the original PlayStation. Way back in 1996, the first Tomb Raider game was released. It was a revolutionary game in a time when quite a lot of content released by the PlayStation could be considered revolutionary. It was critically lauded and wildly successful with the public as it shifted 7.5 million units worldwide. The original game was considered widely influential and served as a template for many 3D action-adventure games moving forward.
Production on the original game began back in 1993, and after the plentiful success of the first game, PlayStation had a hit on its hands. The second game ramped up the difficulty as well as the skill in problem-solving the player would need to succeed as Lara traverses through many different settings.
By the time the third game rolled around in 1998, Tomb Raider had become a cultural phenomenon, and the release of the third game was highly anticipated. When it was finally released, the developers truly set down the gauntlet to the public: this was to be the game that really separated the men from the boys.
The first set of missions located in The Jungle weren’t all that taxing, but that is to be expected from levels so early on in the game. Don’t get me wrong, they were difficult, but they would prove to be child’s play compared to what was coming: Lud’s Gate, the words that gamers of a certain age scream as they rise from sweat-inducing nightmares deep within the hours of darkness.
Lud’s Gate was ridiculous, even by Tomb Raider’s challenging standards. Though Tomb Raider wasn’t considered an overtly visceral or violent game (when compared to other games like Resident Evil or Dino Crisis at least) what made it a game for the mature market was its difficulty. This was a game you really had to think about and into which you had to invest a lot of time. It challenged the mind on so many different levels and with Lud’s Gate; gamers had arguably the toughest level in Tomb Raider’s history up to that point.
Setting it in water straight off the bat made things trying, but Lud’s Gate offers a different kind of difficulty: frustration. Parts of the level take place in near complete darkness, meaning that if you get stuck at certain points when your flair runs out it could mean trouble. Straight at the start there is some obnoxiously placed barbed wire to get through, and throughout the mission Lara is presented with challenges such as trickily placed crawlspaces, with enemies right in your path meaning that you literally can’t do anything to stop them getting at least a few shots off on you and levers that have to be pulled under water (a staple of Tomb Raider games) that are so awkwardly placed that you almost drown every time, and so many other things such as underwater animals, harpoon guys and secret hatches that it take hours and hours of trial and error to find.
It probably won’t be remembered as the best level in the original trilogy of Tomb Raider, but it will certainly be considered one of the most difficult.