Rise of the Tomb Raider 'Baba Yaga' Review: Spell Check

Rise of the Tomb Raider's "Baba Yaga" DLC presents a short-but-sweet anthology story that offers more narrative punch and less gameplay than fans might expect. Our review.


Rise of the Tomb Raider left itself open to lots of exploration for further storytelling opportunities. From its ambiguous cliffhanger ending to the wide array of locales Lara explores, Crystal Dynamics has plenty of potential avenues for more tomb raiding. Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is its first attempt at story DLC, offering a short-but-sweet anthology that fits neatly into the main game, but doesn't present as much gameplay as fans may expect.

Starting in the Soviet Installation, Lara finds a new member of Jacob's tribe hiding from Trinity guards, who explains that she was trying to find her grandfather. The old man went looking for his wife, and his search led him to an area that even the locals avoid: the Vale, which is said to be the home of a fearsome witch.

The start point and standalone nature of the story means that it folds neatly into the main campaign, and you can start it rather early if you happen to be playing a new game when you reach it. Connecting it so early to the game proper means that it doesn't really use many of the more advanced later mechanics. 

It's well-produced, but feels rather short, and that's for a few reasons. For one, a major sequence is more of a guided narrative than real gameplay, albeit a visually striking and intense one. Plus, while the bulk of the content takes place in a new area, there is a decent amount of backtracking. At one point you have to gather resources, including deer pelts, no matter how many you may already have in your possession. As a result, the actual new content consists of one medium-sized puzzle room, a little bit of traversal, and one boss fight.

As I said, though, it is a short-but-sweet anthology, with an emphasis on sweet. Most of the character development takes place through journal entries that establish the complicated and somewhat heartbreaking story of how the girl's grandparents fell in love and were subsequently torn apart. 

The plot revelations were predictable--you may be able to accurately guess from even the extremely basic description I've already given--but fortunately, the game knows better than to treat Lara like a sap. It knows that we've figured it out, and so it lets her reflect that. As in the main game, she's treated as smart and capable, and it's the particular wrinkles of the lovers' history that make it stand out.

Your reward for completing the story is two pieces of specialized gear, which may make the rest of the game much easier if you play the DLC early on. But those souveniers are of secondary importance next to the strength of the story, which is really the standout here. It may not have very much to do but Baba Yaga casts an intriguing spell regardless.

This review is based on a Rise of the Tomb Raider Season Pass code provided by the publisher. Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch available to download for $9.99. The game is rated M.


From The Chatty

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    January 28, 2016 1:00 PM

    Steve Watts posted a new article, Rise of the Tomb Raider 'Baba Yaga' Review: Spell Check

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      January 28, 2016 1:12 PM

      the new bow/poison arrow combo could help out in single player quite a bit. The arrows from the dreamstinger turn enemies onto each other.

      I found out the hard way in an endurance mode game last night that those special arrows do not work on animals like the bear or bobcat. They will still kill wolves and smaller game, but that's about it. They work on the deathless ones at least. It's nice to remain hidden and hit someone with the special arrow and watch him fight other people. Basically they work exactly like bezerk darts from the assassins creed series. Regular bows w/ the regular poison and upgraded bolt action rifle are the two go to weapons for endurance mode.

      as for the dreamstinger bow itself, the stats are alright. It's not the best bow in the game by any means. That's still the grim whisperer aka ancient bow (arguably really|). A fully upgraded recurve bow will have slightly more damage/power, but the dreamstinger will shoot arrows much more quickly like the ancient bow. The compound bow is still the most damaging (but slowest) bow in the game, and as far as i know the compound bow is the only bow in the game that can headshot an armored enemy and kill them fully upgraded.