I have to admit, despite the rather questionable value proposition so far, most of the downloadable content for Rise of the Tomb Raider is at least trying to do something different, something off the beaten path. The last narrative focused DLC, titled Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, drew elements from traditional Slavic folklore; something you might not expect to see in your typical triple-A, blockbuster game.
For better or for worse, the final piece of DLC follows the same path as the Baba Yaga DLC, by dropping you in a new side story with the same mechanics intact. Cold Darkness Awakened whisks Lara away to a new section of the wild Siberian landscape, specifically to a run down Cold War era research station. Due to a botched science experiment by a Soviet scientist, a horrible affliction has spread among the nearby Trinity soldiers (for those who need a reminder, these make up the bulk of the enemies from the main story). Rather than outright incapacitating them, however, the disease has turned them into feral and bloodthirsty savages.
Essentially, we are talking about zombies. Not the kind you might find on the latest episode of The Walking Dead, but more akin to the type popularized by Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us. These infected are less the slow, shuffling type, and tend to dart right towards their prey, going from standing relatively still to a full out sprint in no time at all. Much like the infected from The Last of Us, their vision is quite poor, and instead they rely on nearby sounds to seek out their prey.
For the sake of plot contrivances, the spreading infection only affects males, so Lara is more than able (and willing) to venture into the research facility in order to shutdown whatever is producing the infection. Due to the infected’s heightened hearing and their reduced vision, Cold Darkness Awakened embraces a stealthy approach to gameplay.
While you do have access to more traditional firepower, your supplies and ammo are quite limited, and considering the inherent riskiness with using guns, you’ll most likely be sticking to your bow and arrow in order to keep the noise down. Some enemies are well shielded and armored, so up-close stealth kills are also required every now and then.
One of the more interesting and standout moments from Cold Darkness Awakened is the series of environmental puzzles towards the end. The game eschews traditional tombs for more logic based puzzles here, as Nadia (from the Baba Yaga DLC) relays instructions for you to shut down the chemical production. The puzzles take the form of branching questions; for example, if the gas cylinder lights are on, pull the blue lever, if not, pull the yellow lever. At their core, these puzzles are very simple in nature, but the act of scouring the environment to find the correct machinery to interact with has its own rewards.
Unfortunately, much like the previous DLC, there is little here to justify the purchase of Cold Darkness Awakened. Aside from the environmental logic puzzles, most of what the DLC has to offer is nothing new, and the high production values from the main story don’t transfer over here (voice acting is a little pared back, and there aren’t any cutscenes to fawn over). And then there’s the price. While I’m usually not interested in discussions trying to justify a game’s length for the price you pay, it’s hard to ignore the fact that Cold Darkness Awakened costs around $10, but can be completed in a mere 30 to 60 minutes.
Much like the Baba Yaga DLC, I would only recommend Cold Darkness Awakened to the most diehard of Rise of the Tomb Raider fans. The gameplay here is perfectly serviceable, but other than a few interesting puzzles, there’s not much here to justify yet another excursion with Lara and company.
This review is based off the PC version of the game, which we were provided with for review.
Cold Darkness Awakened has one or two noteworthy moments, but its very short run time doesn't justify its existence.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: Cold Darkness Awakened Review