Rise of the Tomb Raider, one of the best games of last year, was a world filled with possibilities. Set (mostly) in the snowbound Siberian mountains, Lara Croft continued her journey in becoming the true raider of tombs in a tale that involved getting to know some of the natives in a small village overrun by Trinity, a shadowy operation that sought out unlimited power for insidious reasons. In her downtime, Ms. Croft was given the opportunity to perform optional tasks to help bring peace and stability to the land via fetch quests.
Baba Yaga: The Temple of the Witch, the first DLC to have narrative beats, once again, has Lara helping out a native, but this time, she’ll enter new area: the Wicked Vale. A mere two months after the release of Rise of the Tomb Raider, Crystal Dynamics is giving fans a three-hour mini-campaign that introduces new characters, that new area to explore, and a few acid trips for our favorite explorer.
Important Note: If you purchased the season pass, all you need to do is go to the marketplace to download. That pass was $29.99, but if you only want to play the new DLC, it’ll cost $9.99 separately. Once that is done, open your Baba Yaga 'gift' from the main menu, load up your recent save, and head to the new red icon in the Soviet Installation.
Once there, Lara meets Nadia hiding in a locker. Turns out Trinity seeks information about a witch, and how she's connected to Nadia’s grandfather. Lara will head east of the Vale to seek out this fabled being, whom legends told has wreaked havoc on the villagers for years. Does she really have supernatural abilities?
Lara’s first moment in the Wicked Vale proves to be trippy. First skeletons seem to come to life, then she’s transported back to her father’s study the night he took his own life. Visually, there’s a powerful haze that permeates the screen as red and green objects pulsate. Then it appears, a large wooden shack with legs that roam a forest—Baba Yaga’s moving castle.
Like any DLC worth playing, Temple of the Witch offers not just a new setting, but also a new kind of obstacle for players; in this case, a drug-induced state. While the length is somewhat short for the price, any fan of the last two Tomb Raider outings will want to play this unique jaunt. Plus, there's a new outfit, the new ‘Dreamstinger’ bow, and a bunch of collectibles.
Lara and Nadia make a good team. As Lara navigates a frozen gate that must be traversed or makes her way down a psychedelic forest, Nadia keeps her grounded via their two-way radios, giving the journey a sense of urgency.
The only real downside is that early on, players are tasked with leaving the new area, only to return to the Russian Installation yet again for a tedious fetch quest hunting down deer and plants. There is a reason for Lara to do this storywise, but it’s clearly just a way to lengthen the DLC's time.
Overall, Rise of the Tomb Raider‘s first real DLC is quite a trip. The final confrontation with the Baba Yaga takes place in a large vertical spire that’s harder to complete than many of the main campaign's boss stages. As expected, players will need to shoot, jump, climb, all of it, with only seconds to consider the best approach. It’s an exhilarating finale that’s made even better in the smaller moments that highlight how Lara Croft continues to grow as a character. Bring on the next DLC!