The Resident Evil franchise is huge. It goes hand-in-hand with horror in games, and has done ever since the debut of the first title in 1996, back on the original Playstation. Resident Evil has been responsible for some of the all-time classics in horror like Resident Evil 3: Nemesis and Resident Evil 4, which completely reinvented the games as we knew them.
The newest title from Capcom‘s terrifying series is another contender to be an instant classic in the genre, as Village gets so many things right it is hard to keep count of them all.
(Some very mild spoilers may follow – read with care if you have not played the game yet!)
Resident Evil Village is the eighth main game of the series and directly follows the events of Resident Evil 7. Village puts players back in the shoes of Ethan Winters, some three years after going through hell in the Baker residence to save his wife Mia. After a very strong opening, you find yourself wandering in the dark, lost, confused, and perhaps worst of all – definitely not alone.
The titular village is the main hub of the game, and you’ll spend a lot of time here between the different key locations of the map. The opportunity to gather items and treasures spread throughout is at times a welcome respite from the intensity Village builds along the way. One could say the game has elements of an open-world title since you can freely explore the village along with its surroundings, once you have access to the nearby areas of course, but the limited scope of how far you can explore combined with the relatively small size of the location feel contrary to the statement of it being an open-world title.
That said, there is plenty to discover and loot if you scavenge far and wide into the different houses littering the settlement, so be sure to check every nook and cranny for potential life-saving supplies such as ammunition and crafting materials. These will prove invaluable as you progress through the campaign, so do not rush your course and plan ahead.
The level of detail in bringing the village to life is absolutely insane, as the barren town itself suffices to speak of its unfortunate demise. Ethan will soon realize the truth to this statement, as wandering room after room will not yield many friendly living beings in this gloomy, forsaken place. Encountering Lycans along your path will continue to confirm this suspicion, although a glimmer of hope will still remain that someone can actually help you in your cause.
Resident Evil Village‘s setting is beautifully haunting and terrifying, but it is its characters that really flesh out the eighth main installment of the franchise. Pretty much everyone has seen or heard about one of the main antagonists of the game, Lady Dimitrescu, as the promotion of the game focused on the (literally) larger than life owner of Castle Dimitrescu. She is definitely one of the most prominent characters in the game, and exploring her castle will send chills down your spine as you slowly unearth the mysteries that are hidden inside.
Lady Dimitrescu is only the first bite of a disgustingly delicious meal, however, as there are more characters who are just as interesting if not more than the giantess of the castle. These characters are crucially woven into Village’s plot one after the other, making for some of the most brilliant storytelling ever experienced in a horror title. The story will have you ever so hungry to learn more and uncover the secrets within, so much so that putting down the controller was more of a challenge than the hordes of Lycans coming my way.
One such character who is ever so intriguing but of whom we do not learn much is Duke, the vendor. Duke is one of the most cryptic characters in Village, if not the entire series. You find Duke very early on outside Castle Dimitrescu, and he will follow you – or you follow him apparently – throughout the different locations in the game, offering hints, sassy remarks and even some comical relief among the panic and tension of the game. He is an exceptionally enigmatic character, one who inadvertently steals the show at times, and yet by the end we still know pretty much nothing about who he is.
The other characters in the game are much less intent on offering anything to chuckle at, and more determined to make your life a living hell, even more so than the Baker House before. You will explore castles, graveyards, churches and even a factory on your way to solve the main quest behind the story of Village, and each of these locations is so well created that you will marvel at every minute detail in these places.
Left alone in these nightmarish environments, your map will be one of the biggest tools in your travels. Apart from showing all routes throughout the current level, the map is an excellent source of information. It neatly shows which areas you have been in and which not by coloured and black rooms. The explored areas are then divided into blue areas and red areas – blue for the ones where you have looted everything, and red for areas where you still have items to find.
Apart from loot, the map will also show key items with an exclamation mark. These locations are generally very important in some shape or form for continuing the game, so even if you feel you’re hitting a brick wall, the solution is never very far away. These solutions are sometimes not available at all times, so you will need to fulfill a certain criteria or get to a certain progression in order to be able to solve the exclamation mark.
Collectibles in the form of treasures abound in Resident Evil Village, both in terms of hidden artifacts as well as valuables. Killing an enemy boss will drop a crystallized version of that enemy, which Duke will be very happy to exchange money for. The rarer the target, the more money he will offer you to part with your belongings. I must admit, I felt awful exchanging the trophy of killing bosses for money, so I kept every single one of these crystallized remains. Obviously money is incredibly important to buy additional inventory space, more weapons and upgrades, meaning unless you find another source of income, parting ways with these treasures is necessary.
The hidden artifacts in Village are plentiful too, and these will be handily marked on your map by The Duke. These treasures can vary from a valuable piece of jewellery to an entire weapon to add to your collection, and from my experience pretty much all of them are worth getting, especially the weapons. One must not stress enough that these treasures all come with their own risks and rewards, so once again tread carefully when treasure hunting.
Inventory management from Resident Evil 7 is back, with the grid system being the solution to adding more items to your backpack. This system is quite handy as you can create space where there isn’t by clearing some fragmentation in your inventory. However some items cannot be disposed of, which makes adding new items when the space is not there a bit of a chore. You need to go back to Duke, however far from your location he is, and buy more space, which in certain situations is not very appealing or even possible.
In terms of difficulty, Resident Evil Village offers the possibility of Casual, Standard, Hardcore and Village of Shadows, the last of which unlocks after beating the game in one of the previous settings. Standard difficulty is obviously the most recommended as it offers a relatively balanced playthrough, although at times it tends to be very easy. The earlier sections prove to be a challenge only because of how few upgrades your arsenal has had yet, as by the time you are fully equipped Ethan becomes a force to be reckoned with, as few enemies will prove to be a challenge apart from boss fights.
That said, ammunition is still as scarce as ever, so keeping good resource management is probably one of the most difficult skills in the game, and many times it makes the difference whether you live or die. Some locations however still prove to be a tough challenge even on Standard difficulty, and therefore the option of legging it is still very much a viable, if not preferred, one.
Boss fights in Resident Evil Village are some of the most satisfying pieces of action throughout the whole game, and each one has its own set of unique mechanics to learn and master in order to get the better of your enemy. Locations of these battles are all so different as well, as no one place will feel similar to the next one, maintaining a distinctive fight sequence for each and every big baddie you encounter.
From fighting inside an open field to a slimy, abandoned bog, you will struggle to find cover while you are being attacked. You can then launch your own counteroffensive once you figure out what needs to be done and come out on top. Countering a boss can be a little too straightforward at times, but it is still very rewarding to gain the upper hand and win the whole battle.
It would not be a Resident Evil game without its famed puzzle sections, and Village offers its fair share, and more. Some of these are pretty easy to get a grasp of, while others will have you taking your time to come up with the solution. They are very well designed to keep the pacing of the game steady, and offering a breather in a tense situation is never too bad in a horror game.
Apart from the puzzle sections inside the game itself, there are four labyrinth mazes spread throughout the various locations in the game. Upon completion, these gift the player a hefty reward; crystallized human remains. These four labyrinths take the shape of the four principal areas in the game, and each requires their personalized metal ball to navigate, meaning players will need to find both puzzle and ball to be able to attempt it. The labyrinth difficulty varies from castle to castle, scaling from quite easy to very tedious. The rewards of these castles can sell for great amounts from The Duke, so if you are short of cash, you know what you need to do.
Level design in Village is phenomenal, but its sound work is another huge accomplishment from Capcom to create a universe so absorbing yet so incredibly unnerving at each turn you take, that you will be torn whether to continue playing or pause and go cry in the corner. Everything has its own unique sound effects; the creepy creaking of a door closing shut will have you turning in fear in every room you enter. The sounds of the Lycans and other creatures of the dark hunting you will surely give you goosebumps, especially if they are the ones to locate you first.
The environment is full of these tiny sound effects which will not matter much on their own but combined with the level design and atmosphere can be enough to break down the psyche of players. The music is then another layer of intricacy laid atop horrifying fundamentals, creating a shiver in your spine whenever certain enemies are close. This is certainly the case with Lady Dimitrescu, as the music shifts from mildly spooky to genuinely nightmarish and terror-inducing whenever she is close by.
The only thing which perhaps could be said in terms of Resident Evil Village not getting right is how uneven its pacing is. The game starts off with an absolute bang, having you on the edge of your seat for pretty much the first three hours with few chances to stop and breathe. It then slows a little bit only to ramp up the terror sky high, only to then ease off for a remainder of the game which offers its peaks but does not, unfortunately, reach the levels of its staggeringly brilliant opening. Putting it bluntly, the game starts off amazing, and the remainder, while not soaring to the heights of the opening until the end, still remains incredible throughout.
It is strictly emphasized that the game is not a mundane one; on the contrary, it is a prime example of a next-generation experience, and probably the first horror game to deliver such an experience on new hardware. Playing on a PlayStation 5, one can experience the haptic feedback of the Dualsense in effect when the triggers become as hard as a rock when in very tense situations, emphasizing the already dramatic situation Ethan is in. Shotguns and snipers will be unbelievably hard to shoot, sometimes even making players switch to handguns for an easier experience.
In conclusion, Resident Evil Village was already set to take the horror gaming world by storm, and after release, it is very simple to understand why. The whole experience is a breath-taking ride from start to finish, and I cannot encourage anyone enough to try it. As a relatively horror-averse person I never expected to fall in love with a horror game in the way I fell for Village, which I hope explains pretty much how good the game is. If you like horror or have played Resident Evil 7, I heavily suggest picking the game up sometime in the near future to avoid spoilers, to live the experience to the full. It really is worth it.
For more information about this masterpiece, check out the official website HERE.
And for more gaming reviews, be sure to visit our section HERE.