A Look At Tomb Raider's Upcoming Antagonist, Baba Yaga
Baba Yaga will be playing a major role in the upcoming Tomb Raider DLC, announced at The Game Awards 2015. Baba Yaga is a legendary figure that has fallen out of monster-loving favor as of late, but the crone from Slavic folklore has made plenty of appearances in games over the years, especially as we look back to the formative years of adventure games during the “Sierra days” and in pop-culture with sightings during the action-figure and toy days in Monster In My Pocket and others. Often presented as either a single supernatural witch or one of three sisters, Baba Yaga is often known for flying around inside a massive mortar and living in a hut in the deep forest, a strange hut that stands on chicken legs. Sometimes she eats kids. Baba Yaga is often portrayed as a villain, but can also take on the role of someone that helps the hero once certain requests are met.
Quest For Glory
Baba Yaga's first role in gaming is likely in the tabletop space where many monsters found their formative stages, in Dungeons & Dragons. Baba Yaga appeared in a 1984 D&D adventure, with a full-fledged adventures and campaigns featuring the character popping up later down the line. Baba Yaga is no stranger to the video game space; one of her most popular appearances is as one of the villains in Sierra’s Quest For Glory series (one of my personal favorites that still sort of holds up today). Yaga comes complete with her chicken hut and some serious curses – in true Baba Yaga fashion, not only must the player “defeat” the witch, but can also engage in completing tasks for her. Obviously the puzzle-solving route is an easy one to take with Baba Yaga’s weird hut, dark environments, and strange magic as opposed to an in-your-face shootout or sword-swinging finale. Baba Yaga had a handful of other appearances during the PC puzzle and adventure glory days, including some children’s puzzle games and even had a place in the title of 1991’s Once Upon a Time: Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga has made her way into more modern day fare as well, and can be seen in Castlevania: Lords of Shadow.
Baba Yaga as portrayed in Monster in my Pocket
What does any of this mean for Tomb Raider? Well, based on the trailer reveal from The Game Awards, we’re definitely dealing with a mischievous, villainous form of the famous witch. In previous games, players don’t often face off with Baba Yaga in a traditional “boss fight,” so I would imagine that will extend to this DLC, as it’s rather immersion-breaking to try to gun down a flying pot or a running chicken shack. The witchcraft elements are blatant in the trailer, going so far to include hallucinations or what could be a curse. Baba Yaga seems like a perfect antagonist to operate from the shadows as Lara attempts to pull everything together and avoid being turned into a frog, and hopefully we’ll be treated to an epic moment where Lara finds the signature chicken shack deep in a befallen forest.
Baba Yaga may not be as popular today as a “monster villain” like werewolves, zombies, or vampires, but she’s definitely an interesting and exciting pick for what looks like a real willingness to dive even more into the horror elements of the Tomb Raider reboot universe. I’m looking forward to facing off with the curious crone in 2016.