For those who have not played through the Baba Yaga story, read no further. There are spoilers text and visual.
Make sure you click on the pictures; all but the first one clicks to a larger image. You also may wish to read a historical piece I wrote about Baba Yaga, before the DLC came out.
This is a level that will keep you on your toes. It has everything. Lara has to explore the Soviet hub and in it, you shall find pink beams directing her to her objectives in the mission. You shall see these pink beams when you push survival mode in the same way you see gold highlighting her surroundings along with blue beams indicating camps etc. Usually, there is a pink circle with a skull over the head of a woman which is the way Baba Yaga is depicted throughout the game.
Lara is to find Nadia. Finding this woman is her first objective. Nadia is the granddaughter of a man trapped in the Wicked Vale where many believe the witch Baba Yaga resides. It is thought that she put a spell on everyone that enters her domain and they are never seen again. Terrible things are done to them. Her world is a hallucinogenic world
where anything seems possible even seeing the dead alive.
Lara finds this out the hard way when she enters the Vale unprepared and sees and hears her dead father.
There are a series of images from her past goading her further into the nightmarish terrain that shifts and twists the further she goes. Lara’s mind becomes clouded with images, of monsters that explode into bloody masses when shot. Everything becomes distorted. Lara’s strong will fights for her sanity with each unstable step. The trees in this hostile forest of nightmares blur as does the path she struggles to find. Her father is always steps ahead of her, so close she could reach out and touch him. However, just when she feels she will finally catch up to him, he vanishes to appear further down the elusive pathway. This is a pathway that takes her to the door of the past to sound cliché. It is the door to the manor
and when she opens it, she finds her father in front of his desk in his study, wearing an animal skull on his head.
It is walking towards Lara with blazing window eyes and thick, rumbling steps like a dinosaur. Lara finds herself in an expanse that has high rock walls and the hut complete with witch high on one side. She and her decrepit wolf minions attack Lara, who cannot discern what they are, and tries hard to shoot them. After an exploding bloodbath the witch and hut are gone, but not until it forces Lara off the edge and into the water far below. After escaping the water, and expelling it as if vomiting, Lara is left to go back to Nadia, because, before she can go after Baba Yaga and re-enter this awful place, she must gather the ingredients to make an antidote. It is believed that the flowers that grow everywhere in the vale are the core of the hallucinations. The antidote combats its effects.
There is a horror element running through the central storyline of this extra, however, the folktale it is based on is terrifying. The retelling through the story is different, but they left enough from the original tale to dig into and then twisted it into a reality based story. Yet not completely explained, but that is not necessary for the plot to be effective. In other words, it really works and has glorious graphics and puzzle play as well. Getting to that part.
A Tricky Timed Puzzle!
One of the best parts of Tomb Raider is the puzzles, and timed ones are especially fun. There was this interesting platform lifting one I will run through. After Lara fights the hallucinogenic wolves. Seen here:
they are really normal wolves but under the toxic gas of the local flora, Lara hallucinates they look as they do in the screenshot. Creepy things. She climbs up a rock wall and finds this giant puzzle to solve.
In the first screenshot, she has to shoot a rope arrow to that rolled rope above and attach the other end to the wheel she is standing by. Then she commences cranking it until it pulls the two platforms seen ahead into the correct position. To stop the platforms from changing position, you must shoot another rope arrow while standing by a nearby post wrapped in more rope that Lara can attach the other end. Once secured you are ready to jump onto the platforms
and get to the next crank. The object is to get onto the two platforms and jump to the far platform on the right where another crank is located. Sounds like fun right? You can see the other platform to the far right of the mechanism that is where you are going next.
notice the platform Lara is now raising up across from where she is standing. It goes up and when she releases the crank, it comes down in about 12 seconds. That is how long you have to jump across the two previously raised platforms and over the stairs across the roof and onto the descending platform you just raised all to jump from it, hit the wall that has a white painted swatch on it, and jump to grab the edge of the roof. Phew, you made it!
Once up there on the rooftop, you are greeted by Nadia who is working with you to retrieve her grandfather. But she does not go in to fight the witch. Lara is on her own for that bit.
You can see their ride coming in that looks like the witches bird-legged hut. Here is a better view.
When they get off at their new location, Nadia sees her grandfather.
Lara takes the last flask of antidote that you would have gathered the ingredients to make earlier. Although, when she arrives in the witches territory again she falls and drops it all to find it shattered. Of all the dumb luck, huh? However, this is Lara we are talking about, so she will pull more than a rabbit out of her hat. The next step for her to survive this ordeal is to fight! She must fight hard to win the adversaries of the witch that ambush her every step. Not only does she have to fight the monstrous wolves in this level, but she must fight these monstrous minions of the witch. Here are a few of them.
Like the witch, Baba Yaga, they too wear skulls on their heads. Of course, they are directly in fashion for here is their leader.
In the folktale she travels the forest in a mortar and sweeps her trail away with a birch broom. There is no broom here, but she sure is an ugly, scary thing. I actually like the portrayal. It is effective and lends itself to the old Slavic re-creation bringing it to life well. Here is a closeup of her horror buggy
she disappeared in bloody smoke because she was being fired at. You cannot kill her by shooting her. No, the inventive team at Crystal came up with something far more interesting. You really have to work for this one, but it is fun and worth it. First off you need to shoot her ride with a rope arrow and when you do it stand by the post that is wrapped in more rope yet again.
The rope is attached to a post out of view, but you get the picture. Then you must stop Baba Yaga from cutting the rope, so you have to keep shooting her when she pops up.
She will drift over the fire pot that has a lid waiting to be opened and shoot a fireball in the air.
Now she’s on fire but still a threat.
You must repeat this procedure on different levels where you will find other fire pots with levers to pull to engulf the witch in the fire.
There is a sequence that resembles Underworld towards the end. It is the part from Underworld where Natla is trying to start the evil machine up again, and Lara has to jump from one floating platform to the next. There are several floating platform levels to get to in order to put a stop to Natla’s plan, and in the Baba Yaga game, these platforms reminded me of that part of Underworld.
In this screenshot, Lara is jumping to a floating platform, and there are others all floating in a circle. However, Lara’s trouble now are along the edge of the building, for she must navigate the ledges by jumping from the platform and fighting the fierce foe that is waiting for her. Finally, after defeating the witch and her minions, Lara learns who she is. She is Nadia’s grandmother. The mask is removed.
Lara leaves knowing the mystery was solved, yet she feels that they may never be able to lead normal lives again. Time will tell about that. Maybe in another story. They remain for a while, and Lara goes off on her own again.
MY BABA YAGA GALLERY
These screenshots are mostly of the artwork in this level after I beat it. There were so many beautiful photo opportunities I could not resist. Some of these shots are from my phone others are not.