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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Major plot and action spoilers for the Baba Yaga DLC in Rise of the Tomb Raider

Butch:

Got her! And it wasn’t that hard. I was, of course, one little cauldron away from winning, thus keeping up my streak of giving up with five minutes to go. Then I toodled around her place (nice that those were just platforms and all) finding stuff until I got so lost I couldn’t leave, and then I reloaded and left, and now I’m back at the copper mill.

Not bad story. I mean, here we are: a family torn apart by secrets and misunderstandings….they’ll get through because they’re survivors, but the wounds will never heal. Good set up of themes. And, when she finds baba yaga’s “weapon,” a scythe dressed up as a witches broom, she says “Everything she did was to further the myth.” Why do I have a feeling that that theme will recur with Lord Croft/Konstantin/etc.?

Now here’s the thing: that’s a set up. For that to work, it pretty much had to happen when it happened: about 24% of the way through the story (I can be that specific now!). But I THINK it was DLC. It seemed a side thing, and, oddly, the list of trophies for it (you can learn a lot from trophies) is separate from the list of trophies for the “main game” (as are Croft Manor, Endurance and Blood ties, which are DLC). Also, I just played the hell out of it, and my percentage didn’t move nary a point (cuz I use all three save slots. What? I panic about saves). DLC is usually played AFTER one finishes the main game, and, while I have not yet finished the main game, I’m not so sure this would have worked elsewhere, especially not tacked on at the end, or after the end. So yeah, good on it for putting it where it was supposed to be, but still. Another odd decision this game has made.

All the same: nice little side bit, some good stuff there, WAY too long on the boss fight, glad it’s over.

And also, I had a weird bug: Nadia’s mouth didn’t move when she was talking the whole last bit. From the gondola bit on, she talked, mouth didn’t move. Was weird. Hope it doesn’t happen with anyone else.

Feminina:

It’s all about the cauldrons.

And yeah, huge surprise twist revelation that the witch was the grandmother (Lara MUST not have shared any of those documents she found with Nadia), and a rather touching moment of her clawed witch hands clasping the hands of her long-lost husband…they’re together again, but the remnants of their long, painful time apart are still there and still potentially dangerous.

I kind of liked that you had to do that last bit while hallucinating, in that it made it a bit more interesting, and then allowed for a kind of cool adjustment of perspective when you come back later and see that it’s all just spinning platforms. And those doors that you couldn’t go through originally because they were oozing black smoke (with faint, creepy eyes in them! nice touch), but then are just doorways when you’re not wacked out on spores: that was a sort of interesting “the barrier was in your mind” thing. Imagination is powerful.

Pretty good, solid material for DLC. I’m glad we got to do it integrated with the main story. It feels appropriate for this point in the game.

Sometimes waiting a year is a good strategy! And by strategy I of course mean our detailed long-range plan to purchase the PS4 instead of the X-Box specifically so that we could play RotTR a year after its release when additional content would be available at no extra charge. We think ahead.

Butch:

All the cauldrons…..I don’t want to have to do that again.

No, she must not have shared her info with Nadia…but did you catch that Nadia says to Lara “You knew all along…didn’t you?” Which isn’t REALLY an eye roll. There’s a pretty good possibility that the “secrets” that Lara is chasing are pretty damn obvious to everyone but her, if she would put aside the fact she’s kinda nuts. I can certainly see Lara asking someone, late in this game, “You knew all along…didn’t you?” I just hope we, as players, don’t see the “obvious” 35 hours before Lara does……

The doors being blocked by your own mind was a good trick. At first I was annoyed, thinking it was cheap, but it also fit in the metaphor. Imagination IS powerful. How much of the prophet’s followers, Konstantin’s followers, just being driven by imagination, like Baba Yaga’s? How much is LARA being driven by imagination? How much of all of this delusion is brought on ourselves?

It also gives some metaphorical oomph to Lara’s note that “Everything she did was to further the myth.” Yes, there’s imagination. But Baba went out of her way to cultivate an environment where people would imagine what SHE WANTED them to imagine. Lara, and presumably those that came before, didn’t just stumble on a place and let their own imaginations come up with whatever. They were given a framework on which to come up with a very specific delusion. One wonders how much the prophet, and Konstantin, and Lord Croft did the same.

This bit does seem appropriate for where it was. And there’s no doubt the game sure wanted us to do it there. Plopping that pink icon on the map as soon as we got back with Jacob, making it in the middle of the damn area where you pretty much couldn’t miss it.

Feminina:

So many cauldrons.

And yes, there’s a lot of material for thought there, with the delusions, the setting people up to believe certain things, and also the question of motivation and how it relates to belief. Why did people follow the prophet (desire for salvation?), why did people keep coming into the Vale and facing the witch (desire for money/power?), why does Lara believe so strongly in the thing she’s pursuing (a need to validate her father?).

Different things incline us to believe or disbelieve certain things, as Lara (and the witch, in her planning) says when she talks about how the workers sent into the Vale were all Russian, and familiar from childhood with this specific legend.

There’s also the interesting question of things that people work to make other people believe (the witch, possibly the prophet, potentially the entire Soviet ideology and/or political systems in general if we want to read it that way), and things that people more or less choose to believe because they get something they need from it (the comfort of religion, the satisfaction of vengeance, the clarification of one’s family worth or whatever Lara’s belief in her father provides her–though as you say, there may also turn out to be an element of someone working to make her believe in this case).

Good story. Sometimes-annoying timing challenges and arguably too many cauldrons (though I actually didn’t mind that so much since they were spaced out between rounds of exploration and fighting ghostly attackers), but some good material.

Plus, I mean, Baba Yaga is awesome, so just having her referenced is kind of cool.

Butch:

And the last cauldron had shit getting in the WAY of you shooting rope arrows. I just thought “For real? THIS is how we’re mixing it up?” Fuck it.

As for the whole “did easy make it easier,” I gotta say no, but I’m not sure that’s cuz it was easier. Bear with. Easy turns on “aim assist,” which snaps your crosshair where it should be if you get close. Now, that’s nice….if you’re used to it. But if you’re used to actually aiming, it does not help. Indeed, I kept pulling my aim to where it should be, only to have it go SNAP while I was mid aim, I reflexively KEPT aiming, which, since the SNAP got the aim perfect, made me aim AWAY from the target.

So I’m not sure if it was easier or if I just wasn’t used to the feature. Silly.

Belief…yes! Things are so targeted. We get that journal entry from Baba in which she explicitly says she’s choosing to become Baba Yaga because they’ve feared it their whole lives. She knows.

Though if we’re going with her father is the metaphorical Baba Yaga in the story, what do we make of the vision Lara has of her father? She sees him shoot himself, which we know she didn’t do in real life, as we saw her discover his body. Not only that, she sees him with a donkey head, an ass, as it were. Is this her starting to doubt? To start seeing the real “face behind the mask?” That was an odd scene.

And you make a good point about all this being intentionally set in Soviet Russia, or the ruins thereof. We’re learning Russian from weird propaganda murals and learning Greek from….well…murals as well. Are they also propaganda? Probably. Propaganda never changes.

It is a cool way to play with the idea of playing a game in the ruins of something old. Usually, the old ruins in games are really old. El Dorado. Shambala. Etc. Having this set in the ruins of a civilization we all remember is a neat twist. The Soviet Union is extinct, but recently, and their murals, their motivations, are the same as the old, ancient ones.

Very good story. Kind of annoying it was marred by cauldrons and timing. And a good way to frame the themes of the main story, which can be hard to do when there’s so much magpie going on.

And I do like when games cross over to real myth: having Baba Yaga was cool.

Feminina:

Yeah! The last one was harder to hit with your arrows, and it was harder to shoot at her to keep her from cutting the rope.

OK, OK, this is how you mix it up, fine. Somebody was really in love with those cauldrons.

“You know, maybe for the final challenge we could put in a different kind of–”

“NO.”

Butch:

I would’ve gone insane.

Feminina:

It’s true, in a way it was a mercy that at least the thing you had to do was consistent. If you had to solve a puzzle to figure out a completely new way to shoot cauldron-fire at her on every level, we would have hated everything.

At least she wasn’t a giant robot.

Butch:

She was not a giant robot. Indeed, she was a new kind of annoying. Usually, annoying boss fights are annoying because you keep dying and have to start over. See giant robot, reaper, vampire, Lazaravic, etc. Baba Yaga? I didn’t die once. Not once! Even before I turned it to easy! I turned it to easy JUST BECAUSE IT WAS ANNOYING, not because I couldn’t do it. Indeed, I reloaded a couple times because I fell in the water and didn’t want to run all the way back up. Is that failing? Falling and having to run back up? I don’t know. But it sure is strange to have controller throwing rage when you a) aren’t dying or b) aren’t stumped by a puzzle. I knew what I had to do, I COULD do it, but I was still pissed.

That’s new.

Feminina:

It WAS different. I didn’t die either…and I didn’t even find it all that annoying, possibly because I took a break after getting through the previous puzzle to get to the gondola, which I DID find began to be irritating. After a cooldown period, I came back to the witch fight refreshed and was only moderately frustrated.

Always rest before approaching witches, that’s what we’ve learned.

Butch:

That was probably it. But she did say “This ends NOW!” so I thought it would be quick. Nope.

Always rest. Unless they’re hot. Or especially if they’re hot?

Gotta ponder that.

Feminina:

Yeah, but it would have been equally annoying if she said “this ends NOW” and then you had two hours of fighting a giant robot and dying.

And way MORE annoying if she said “this ends NOW” every time you reloaded after dying. Oh, man, how I’ve grown to hate pre-battle statements in the past after listening to them 15 times in a row…

Butch:

Oh that’s the WORST. Show the cutscene once.

And, as I learned, it was kind of fight with the save points. If it had had no save points……shudder.

Feminina:

Save points in the middle of a long drawn out sequence are essential. That’s what terrified me about the previous puzzle. There was all this running and jumping and falling and trying again and then when I finally got to one part of the puzzle I would think “OK, save,” but I didn’t see the symbol! I was terrified to stop in case it made me start all over again, so I pushed on past where I would have normally because I HAD to make sure I finished and reached a save point.

I don’t know if there actually were save points and I just missed them, or if they didn’t think that puzzle would be as hard as it was, or if they just really wanted to mess with people, but that was the scary bit for me.

Actually fighting a witch on a full day’s rest…whatever, it’s cool.

As you noted, she is also a rare, non-hot witch…more like the Crones (when they weren’t being gratuitously hot) than like the usual attractive sorceresses. I recommend being well rested regardless.

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