It’s kind of cool to see a piece of downloadable content based on a real world subject, even if that subject is a supernatural being from Slavic folklore. I myself didn’t grow up listening to bedtime stories about the Baba Yaga, but I do fondly remember seeing it on TV when I was younger. And now it’s back, in the first piece of post-release content for Rise of the Tomb Raider, a title which we thoroughly enjoyed, both on consoles and PC.
I’ll have to admit though, after playing through Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, my biggest disappointment was the portrayal of Baba Yaga itself (herself?). Going by tradition, Baba Yaga is a transformed, usually elderly looking woman, who chases around her prey from a house which she controls, which also happens to be outfitted with a pair of chicken legs. Her traditional weapon of choice? Why, a mortar and pestle, of course.
Rise of the Tomb Raider’s take on it is a bit more grounded in reality. Almost completely separated from the main game, the DLC focuses on Lara’s pursuit of a witch (the Baba Yaga), who has been haunting and terrorizing the nearby villagers. The story takes place in a brand new side area titled Wicked Vale, giving you some new terrain and locales to explore. While it doesn’t tie that much into the core story from the main game, The Temple of the Witch does continue to explore the relationship between Lara and her (still) deceased father, which was arguably one of the more prominent plot beats from the core narrative.
The new side-story might sound interesting, and it is genuinely surreal at times, but for the most part Temple of the Witch is pretty par for the course when it comes to the minute-to-minute gameplay. Fending off feral animals and your more traditional enemies is all here, though there’s a supernatural and hallucinogenic element to the enemy design, which does tie into some of the story beats. Environmental puzzles are also back, with some of them falling on the more difficult side of things, which isn’t an unwelcome addition at all.
Still, it’s hard to ignore some of the DLC’s shortcomings. For starters, there are no new challenge tombs to plunder; a shame, considering how great these tombs were in the main game. To be honest, there isn’t much to do once you’ve battled the final boss (which I won’t spoil). Outside of a new weapon and a few collectibles, Wicked Vale is surprisingly barren when it comes to post-story content. The short run time doesn’t help either; Temple of the Witch only clocks in at an hour or two, and part of that playtime includes returning to the Soviet Installation from the core game.
Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is as well-produced as Rise of the Tomb Raider, and if you’re looking for another excuse to jump back into Lara’s shoes, then you’ll probably gleam some enjoyment from it. Just remember that while it’s a well-crafted side story, it’s also painfully brief.
This review is based off the PC version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch is a great reason to return to Rise of the Tomb Raider, assuming you can look past its short playtime.