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Tomb Raider V: Chronicles

DJ's Tomb Raider Level Editor Corner: Chronicles

Jul 24, 2021

A screenshot from a Tomb Raider game showing Lara in an outdoor environment with classical architecture and a twister in the distance.

After The Last Revelation, the fate of Lara was unknown. Each one of her friends gathered at the mourning table had his own story about her to recall – and so, Tomb Raider: Chronicles shows several of Lara’s adventures not connected with each other. As it was expected, the assets from each story were taken into the level editor.

Nick – Evening in Rome

This was a single-level  example for starters. And here is a multilevel one:

Łukasz Croft – The Colosseum

But as an ancient city still standing, Rome rather serves as a real-world anchor for a surreal plot – and as always, the final destinations may vary.

Sweet – The Mystery of Eden

tweetygwee – Italian Exploration

Pedros – The Quest of the God of Life

As you see, the workflow environment quite differs from what we saw in the TR4 chapter. This is because no TR5 resources were provided in a ready form, and a builder had to manually mix the ingredients. The catch is, once you learn how to do it, it is hard to stop – as a result, early Roman levels very rarely stayed 100% faithful to the original asset, and you can often see inclusions, mostly Greek ones from TR1 and TR4, mixed into the Roman foundation.

Cowboy – The Lost City of Pompeii

Such approach persisted for Mediterranean projects and over time, only one builder attempted to challenge it, making an entire custom asset from scratch. It was so good it even served as a starter for Greek Back to Basics and therefore its Roman origin is rarely remembered. Here it is:

Trix – Shadow of Vesuvius

LePerk’s levels are a bit harder but “Art History” is one of the most complete single levels of the class, throwing in some unexpected interactions and even blending in a spooky Irish overtone, on top of a few completely custom items.

LePerk – Art History

Here is yet another unusual mixture, this time of TR5 and TR2, which proves working unexpectedly well. Diversity of patterns and colors makes it feel like an older brother of “Christmas in Seville”, but it also has a bit of AOD overtone thanks to the outfit, house looting and the abundance of metal in the sewers – and I don’t remember if I saw a diagonal rainfall elsewhere:

Trey – City of Marostica

And of course there’s this – you know those classical tunes which are so good they become ringtones, then you know neither the author nor the title and then you figure them out 50 years later by accident? Piega had such Roments… moments, I mean – “ooh, so it was THIS level I remembered all those things from”?

Piega – The Last Crusade

The last pun needs a cooldown, and the next chapter of Chronicles serves it with frosty infiltration, so prepare all you got – battle tactics, observation, memory and ability to connect the dots – for a level which will take some time but will also reward it if you reserve enough. In Soviet Russia, the dinner eats you…

dinne – The Russian Base

Bigger but slower-paced, Walrus’s levelset is remarkable for another flawless combination of assets – the included ones come from Russia, VCI, Offshore Rig and more, but it never feels like something is out of place. 

Walrus – Big Trouble in Siberia

Next one is the slowest, having a train which was either parked or just frozen to the tracks. It seems the more you play, the more chill it gets. Okay, I’m clickbaiting you – this map is just a little piece of a 23-level game which will take you more than a week of hardcore playing to complete.

DNF Productions – Train Courtyard

Getting more and more frozen in time, we eventually reach eternity so it’s time we left Russia. Did we though? Isn’t there that one Russian guy stalking us through the isle? Not a biggie as long as he stays in the barn – but as a result of picturing Ireland as a horror setting, now somehow every dead and undead enemy seems to live here, and since pistols won’t help against magic, primitive survival gameplay comes in. How many new interactions can you design? Yes… 

Mordyga – The Hike

As if willing to rebel, other builders choose the “realistic Harry Potter” scenario, and so in many levels Lara uses her dual lead spell to bring the undead back to where they belong.

constantine – The Harp of Dagda

Some builders go as far as rolling back to TR4 gameplay – did you think a nitrous oxide puzzle could belong in Ireland? LaraHCroft did, and it fits surprisingly well.

LaraHCroft – The Complicated Case

There’s one builder who tried Ireland twice, once in classic and once in modern way. Here’s the first attempt:

Max – Ancient Artifact

And here’s the second one:

Max – Ancient Artifact II

But all the time, even in levels which are totally NOT Irish, picturing other locations, other games or even horror movies, one thing is always sure: if you notice that characteristic Irish floor texture, beware – for it has become like a TV trope, and if you see it, it’s obvious something scary is going to happen.

Bibi Phoque – The Ring

eTux – Blair Witch Project

One of surprising examples of Irish asset was the tropical segment of “Templar’s Secret” – if LaraHCroft could give us a motorbike, then why wouldn’t Feder give us a quad?

Feder – Tropical Island

Speaking of Templars, Luis’s story is something to try when you want more homage – it roots very firmly in character of the original adventure, and also utilizes familiar cinematics adapted in a way to tell an alternate plot:

LOTRKingluis – The Cursed Templar

Not last, and not least: did you know the Irish rock and grass textures are actually Alexandria ones dimmed? Trix seemed to have noticed that and cleverly used it as a foundation of her solar eclipse level:

Trix – Eclipse Over Knossos

Somehow the TR5 Ireland has almost totally missed a cardinal element of horror – one of the most divisive gameplay modes ever invented, which some builders will dismiss, and other ones will walk extra miles to perfect: stealth. Tomb Raider had it since Nevada but it’s usually VCI where it stays. One of the first custom builders to design it, and also port the associated TR5 mechanics into the editor, was Tomo.

Tomo – The Last Saga

On the other edge of the timeline, Lara_Fox_Croft included stealth in more than one level, to eventually become an expert on espionage gameplay. Here is how it started:

Lara_Fox_Croft – The 13th Floor

and here is how it’s going, crossbreeding tomb raider with Metal Gear Solid :

Lara_Fox_Croft – Search for the Golden Elephant Part 3

But since Tomb Raider had stealth since Nevada, you can also take the VCI assets and use them with native mechanics of TR3 engine – gameplaywise, it is pretty much compatible backwards.

CelticGuard – Behind Closed Doors

There is literally a gallore of high-tech labs available to play, ranging from vast and classic:

Emoo – Recon Labs

to modern and condensed:

UziMaster – The Victoria Stone

but the topic mostly stays the same: something went wrong in the lab and you need to fix it by disposing of all the mutated creatures and very often also the staff responsible.

StormChaser – Genesis Project

Of course, the authorities behind it all will of course always get away, so you can get more and more levels of this sort.

Sponge – Sanmonto UK Ltd.

And since the “laboratory” is an universal keyword to open every plot possible, those levels can literally contain anything, providing a ground for levels which aim to be realistic:

Alberico – V.C.S.L. 2

PH – Egypt Again… Again

Baddy – Atlantis 2

…as well as for those almost totally surreal:

Tony – The Ashura’s Invasion

Too many? Maybe. So of course, as if to mirror this question, there’s THIS level. It’s hard to tell if Simen wanted to go hyper-realistic or if he had enough and wanted to completely mock the genre. But the final effect is amazing so I stan it regardless.

Bojrkraider – Budapest

But one level in TR5 is not playable yet frequently visible – the main menu. And it’s probably this omnipresence paired with inaccessibility which made it a dark horse of custom level building: anytime you enter a location made of the title screen asset, it feels like a dream you both know and don’t. Beaming with potential to host a hidden world, it inspired several unusual custom levels, including the pivot map of Piega’s flagship game:

Piega – The Holy Fountain

Okay. Before I go, let me return to the present times because, as the most tombraiderish of all Chronicles, not only was Rome the Dominus Maximus of the corresponding branch of level building, but is now undergoing a reneissance – on top of normal usages, each round of Create a Classic competition had one or more projects using this asset, and the current one has at least two in the works – so keep in mind it wasn’t built in a day, but still prepare for fun – it’s coming Rome.

dcw123 – Rome (Beta Demo)

911 – Rome Streets Mystery

LOTRKingLuis – All Roads Lead to Rome

Dennis DeGrande – The Colosseum

Gabriel Oliveira – Evening in Quebec

Some of these levels were featured in our monthly level editor stream. You can check out VOD’s from the livestream if you missed it!

Saki_Croft plays ‘Art History’ by LePerk


NonDescriptMidnight plays ‘The Cursed Templar’ by LOTRKingluis


TomReginald plays ‘Ice Age 3 Sanmonto’ by Clara, Masha, Sponge


Tomb_of_Ash plays ‘The Last Saga 4’ by Tomo


JaClouis96 plays ‘The Blair Witch Project’ by Etux


Shilor plays ‘The Russian Base’ by dinne


dj_full plays ‘The Holy Fountain’ by Piega


Squidshire plays ‘Shadow of Vesuvius’ by Trix


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Tomb Raider V: Chronicles

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