Rise of the Tomb Raider’s first story-driven DLC released this week, and while it doesn’t expand the main storyline, it does have some interesting moments and a worthwhile final battle. Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is $9.99, or you can play it as part of the $29.99 season pass. Depending on your insistence on finding everything there is to see in the DLC, it clocks in somewhere between two and three hours. The short answer to whether or not you should buy and play it depends on if you want more Rise of the Tomb Raider, which if you’ve played the game (or seen our review) then you know that answer is yes.
Baba Yaga is not set after the events of the main campaign. Instead, it is embedded in the middle as a large sidequest. When you enter your save file, a large pink marker on the map points you to a woman named Nadia, who is under attack by Trinity soldiers. After saving her, she reveals her grandfather went on a suicide mission to get revenge for the death of her grandmother, who was killed by Baba Yaga. Nadia wants Lara’s help going after him. Baba Yaga is a monster of Slavic folklore – a witch who lives in a home that walks on gigantic bird legs. You can read more about her history here. Lara is skeptical of the witch’s existence, but as Lara reiterates to Nadia, some truth always exists behind the legend.
From there, Lara is treated to a handful of new puzzles and gun battles taking place in the new Wicked Vale area. It fits nicely into the main adventure as being more of what makes the new Tomb Raider great without straying too far from the templates set by the larger experience. One sequence stands out where Lara hallucinates due to some poisonous plants growing in this new section of the map. It offers some insight into Lara’s fears, functioning almost like the Scarecrow’s neurotoxin from the Batman: Arkham series.
The 2013 Tomb Raider dabbled with horror elements through the course of its narrative, but Rise scaled the scariness back significantly. It was nice to play through creepy moments and endure some jump scares again, considering the rest of Rise plays out as a straightforward action title.These hallucination scenes let Crystal Dynamics go a little crazy with the visuals while maintaining the somewhat grounded world of the new Tomb Raider.
The poisonous plants coupled with the final confrontation make for a memorable battle. The base version of Rise of the Tomb Raider doesn’t have many boss fights, but the few in place were memorable and fun to take on. The final battle here stands alongside the other large confrontations in the series by being intense, fast-paced, and demanding Lara use both her shooting and platforming skills.
The story of Baba Yaga steps in line with the rest of Rise of the Tomb Raider’s story, in that it’s not particularly compelling. Attempts are made to touch on Lara’s struggle with the fragility of human life, like when Nadia asks if you ever get used to people trying to kill you. Lara doesn’t have much to offer on the topic, though, as she basically just says no and moves on.
The history of Nadia’s grandparents are told through journal entries hidden in the Wicked Vale, and their romance is the most interesting part of the DLC’s story. Its conclusion is a little hard to swallow, but reading about their time in the Gulag and how they found each other is worth seeking out.
The DLC doesn’t expand beyond the original mechanics established by the main game, but it also doesn’t feel like anything has been scaled back. It fits comfortably in the total Rise of the Tomb raider package with some cool moments, an opportunity to gain a new special ammo-type that carries into the main game, and an enjoyable final confrontation that is worth seeing through.