News Game Rise of the Tomb Raider: Baba Yaga DLC review

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I couldn’t get on board with Rise of the Tomb Raider’s eye-rolling B-movie melodrama and simple puzzle design, even though I enjoyed leaping around the icy Siberian landscape and spelunking the occasional tomb. So, posited as a short bit of story DLC, Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch needs to do some impressive work to distract from the awkward dialogue and weak characters from the the main campaign. And in that respect, it fails. There’s nothing to learn about Lara we didn’t already know.

But in (almost) completely ignoring the main protagonist as anything other than a walking, talking, bow-and-arrow, The Temple of the Witch—like the primary campaign—manages to be a decent place to shoot arrows and climb around while ogling the intricate vistas. But I already did plenty of that in the main game, and there’s nothing substantially new introduced in the DLC. It’s just a $10 ticket to romp around a much smaller bouncy castle, crowded by a handful of sad, strange-looking Siberians with perfect English accents. And they won’t bounce with you.

The DLC is structured like the rest of the game: a few puzzles, some climbing, a bit of reminiscing about Lara’s Very Dead Dad—this time though, some of it is presented through the lens of psychedelia. Early on, Lara meets a young woman looking for their lost grandfather. He set out to find the Baba Yaga, a witch ripped straight from the popular folk tale who apparently A) exists and B) murdered grandpa’s wife way back when. And since everyone in the Tomb Raider universe is driven by blind, burning vindication, grandfather abandons his living family to do some good ol’ fashioned revenge killing. Lara enters the Baba Yaga’s turf in pursuit of the old feller, and is immediately dosed by some potent fiction flower pollen. The stuff sends her tripping, warping the world and creatures around her into a saturated hellscape, where every skull has glowing eyes and drips with black ooze—the kind of nightmare drug realm I imagined the slightest inhalation of second hand joint smoke might banish me to in my peak D.A.R.E. years. It’s a pretty hokey visual palette that, while interesting to look at, doesn’t serve as a meaningful playground for storytelling.

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