Temple of the Witch can best be described as a side story of sorts that takes place at the same time and in the same region as the original Rise of the Tomb Raider. You can complete the story at almost any point in the game, and the events themselves have no real bearing on the main story. There’s no development on the twists and conspiracies involving Trinity introduced towards the end of the main game proper. Just a neat little adventure inspired by Slavic mythology and folklore in similar vein to any “monster of the week” episode of shows like X-Files (how relevant!). There is some exploration of Lara dealing with her father’s death to, but it’s ultimately quite superficial.Temple of the Witch follows Lara as she investigates the presence of the Baba Yaga, a witch rumored to live in the mountains in a house that is sitting on top of giant bird legs. It’s a bit of a goofy sounding story but it’s a real life one – told to children as a kind of twisted fairytale of sorts. Of course, it’s not necessarily real, but investigating this subject matter in the realm of Tomb Raider gives artistic license for the team to go off the deep end with the supernatural surrealism of it all. The story is somewhat predictable, though, and while the journey is compelling, the destination unfortunately is a bit underwhelming.Temple of the Witch is relatively small in terms of scope but it does a great job at packing some striking artistic direction into the package. Folding seamlessly, and initiated from the Soviet Installation hub world, you’ll visit a few locations attached to the “Voice of God” challenge tomb. These locations are visually arresting – seeing makeshift scarecrows erected to “warn” the locals of the Baba Yaga is such a creepy sight when you first come across them. Without giving away too much – the “supernatural” themed segments are similarly visually bold – employing oversaturated colours and chromatic distortion to hammer home that what Lara is seeing might be a hallucination or might be something not of this world.The voice work is still en pointe, with Camilla Luddington bringing Lara to life in similar fashion to previous games – emotive but sometimes way too breathy. The actress who brings life to Baba Yaga is also to be commended, she manages to really instill terror into the role. The villager Lara helps out who eventually leads her on this path, however, is a pretty phoned in performance. If you’ve played Life Is Strange, and you know how Chloe speaks, imagine that for a “Russian” nomad. It’s weirdly out of place.
Despite these minor shortcomings, Temple of the Witch has had a lot of love and care poured into it from a presentation standpoint and is one of the strongest visual presentations in Rise of the Tomb Raider’s already impressive look.Temple of the Witch adheres to a standard I’m sure many can sympathise with – if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. You’ll do the usual that you’ve come to expect from Rise of the Tomb Raider. Gather ingredients, craft some new gear and solve some puzzles. There’s a mystery to be solved here too, and while it might play out like a Scooby Doo episode it’s still an interesting and intriguing storyline to play through. Sure, you might guess it, but I’d be lying if I didn’t change my ideas of what would happen as time went by.
There is a puzzle or two to solve, and fortunately they’re as well-crafted as those encountered in the main game, although slightly smaller in scope and scale. Despite this, the most glaring omission from Temple of the Witch is another challenge tomb to trawl through. Given how much feedback Crystal Dynamics would’ve received since the time Rise of the Tomb Raider launched, it’s a bit disappointing to not see them take the opportunity to hone their craft and build a solid challenge tomb for this package.Temple of the Witch is more or less what you loved about Rise of The Tomb Raider but in miniature, which is for sure going to lead to some contention as to whether the whole affair is worth it or not. Weighing in at roughly $14AU (or as part of the $40AU Season Pass) and taking between two to three hours to complete, some might not see the initial worth in investing in Temple of the Witch. But it’s not a thought that ever crossed our mind during our play but of course your mileage may vary – though those who loved the main game will find trouble hating Temple of the Witch.