The second expansion to Rise of the Tomb Raider, following Endurance Mode, has launched today and it sends us on another adventure, where Lara investigates talk of a malevolent witch straight out of Russian folktales. Lara's journey begins upon returning to the Soviet Installation base in Siberia, where her radio intercepts chatter from Trinity mercenaries in 'Bravo Team' as they attempt to track down a villager from the Geothermal Valley. It is then that Lara meets Nadia, a young woman whose grandfather has set out on a mission to kill Baba Yaga in an attempt to avenge his wife's murder at the hands of the witch. Lara pledges to help Nadia find her grandfather and kill the wicked witch once and for all.
Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch adds a unique experience to Rise of the Tomb Raider as it delivers eerie, disturbing imagery to the table--something fans have been asking for since the changes made to the 2013 reboot, with the 'Ascension' concept art and alpha development footage, where Lara would have initially squared off with demons and other malevolent entities. The expansion was advertised to add three hours of brand new gameplay and I can tell you right off the bat that that is simply not true. In the time it took me to finish Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch, I'd explored the entirety of the new hidden vale, found all of the new secrets and documents and not even an hour had passed before I reached the finale, with the total completion time clocking in at just over an hour.
I'm not really disappointed with the expansion--I found it to be utterly enjoyable and rather well done--but I'm rather perturbed by the overall misappropriation of the content. I don't want to start accusing false advertisement, but I'd like to see a playthrough that actually takes three hours or more to complete it, that doesn't involve moving at a snail's pace for the hell of it and needlessly backtracking. It does contain a tricky puzzle at the midway point that took me about ten or fifteen minutes to actually figure out and accomplish, which was one part interesting and one part frustrating, so you can shave a few minutes off of my overall completion time, if you'd like.
Baba Yaga: Temple of the Witch certainly isn't as lackluster as a lot of game expansions or story add-ons these days, but it does leave a lot to be desired with an anticlimactic ending and a rather...blatant plot twist. It does add a unique twist and really inspires thought and conversation throughout, leaving players wondering if Baba Yaga really exists. It dives into Lara's fears and highlights that Lara is still haunted by a traumatic childhood event and does so in a really fascinating way. It could have easily been a longer experience, further diving into the myth of Baba Yaga, exploring the history and folklore...basically tastefully dragging it out to allow for more content. I feel as though it should have been spread generously and was instead just plopped into the game without much thinking involved. It is also a little ironic if it is played after already completing Rise of the Tomb Raider; Lara's skepticism about a myth come true is terribly ironic coming from the woman who witnessed an immortal soul of a long dead queen on the island of Yamatai and more recently, uncovering the secret to immortality in the very location that the Baba Yaga experience takes place.
Overall, I did enjoy the experience and since I already had the season pass, it wasn't really money wasted. Without the season pass, the expansion is priced at USD$10 and believe me when I tell you to wait for an Xbox Store sale. Unless the short length doesn't bother you, then go for it; you get a pretty cool outfit and weapon upon completion if that means anything to you. Personally, as much as I love Tomb Raider, it doesn't really inspire much hope for the next expansion, Cold Darkness Awakened, and I have definitely reconsidered my stance on season passes altogether. I usually never get them unless it's for a game I know I'll love, like Tomb Raider, The Witcher, Fallout, etc. but going forward, I most likely will never purchase another season pass until long after the content has been released, so that I may properly analyze it to determine whether or not it's actually worth the money. It's sad to say that about a franchise I love so much, but the gaming industry is depreciating at a rapid pace and Tomb Raider has fallen victim.