Resident Evil 7 revitalized the long-running survival horror franchise at a critical moment. After its detour through action territory stripped away too many horror elements, resulting in a confused 2012 release, a daring shift towards a first-person perspective and refreshed focus on the scary bits brought it back on track. Resident Evil Village follows a similar thread, although does come with a bit of a shift in scenery.
Instead of an isolated home deep in Dulvey, Louisiana, Ethan is off to an unnamed Romanian village for another haunting trek through an inhospitable place filled with ghouls, vampires, and a disproportionately small amount of hope. Here are the top 10 things you need to know about Resident Evil Village before you buy.
Resident Evil Village uses 7’s DNA as a foundation, expanding upon it in a handful of ways but without breaking too much out of its mold. The first-person perspective stays, putting you right next to the monsters that assail Ethan and making the entire experience more personal. The gunplay feels familiar but is also punchier and a tad quicker. Some of the habits that we’ve picked up when playing 7, like tippy-toeing our way around every other corner, are still lifesavers when someone brandishing a blade waits on the other side.
Puzzles also return, although without being too intrusive or frustrating. You’ll still find some goofy elements, like tables enabling Benny Hillesque chases that may not sit well with horror purists. But the latest entry in the series is fully aware of its legacy, playing to the strengths of its slower-paced gameplay.
While Resident Evil Village is, without a doubt, its own game, developer Capcom has made sure to add a bit of Resident Evil 4 to the mix, acknowledging the fan appreciation it garnered. Ethan arriving at the village harkens back to Leon’s first uneasy steps through Los Illuminados territory. Old castles ruled over by nobility whose height acts as a distinctive characteristic watch over both locations.
There’s also a trader that sells items, upgrades guns, and takes off your hands any valuables you don't need. He also follows you around, setting up shop in convenient spots throughout the areas you visit. There’s also a small degree of inventory Tetris you’ll have to worry about – although not too much. On top of that, you’ll find a few other throwbacks here and there, including some during the game’s boss fights.
Lady Dimitrescu & Her Daughters
Look, we all saw this one coming. Lady Alcina Dimitrescu is bound to go down in Resident Evil history as the only character to set the internet ablaze after just a few seconds of revealed footage. Her stylish attire, innate seductiveness, and dominant presence make it hard to look away, even when she exhibits her penchant for drinking blood and sticking long metal claws into her enemies.
But beyond having her own striking take on the concept of a femme fatale, she is a constant presence throughout her family’s castle. Step on her toes and she’ll hound you throughout those lavish halls, akin to a sexier, considerably more eloquent Mr.X, who also took a class on finesse instead of reading one too many Hulk comics. Her daughters complement her, showing less restraint in their bloodthirst and keeping you deadly company as you explore the castle. It’s almost enough to forget the mispronounced name, which should not have a silent “u” at the end.
Don't Overlook Everyone Else
Character design is one of Resident Evil Village’s strong suits and that becomes evident from early on. The lowliest sickle-wielding ghoul gets your adrenaline rushing even when you’re stocked up on ammo and have mastered the approximate rhythm of their attacks. It’s equally hard to forget the piercing gaze and sharp teeth of the agile lycans – always eager to get a bite out of you – or the Soldat embodying twisted experiments that see men unwillingly fused with metal.
But it’s considerably harder to ignore the game’s main baddies, which range from charismatic to disturbing and outright disgusting. Each of them has their own twisted personality and goals which Ethan gets a good taste of during his latest misadventure. Mechanically, the game’s opponents might be hit or miss, but their screams, snarls, and the attention to detail given to their appearance ensure that every fight makes you wonder how Ethan hasn’t lost his mind just yet.
Locations To Explore
Despite its title, Resident Evil Village is much more generous in terms of location variety than its predecessor in the main series. The village itself is a decrepit hub of sorts, serving as a central location that leads to the domains of Mother Miranda’s acolytes. At the same time, it has its own tale to tell and secrets to unlock. As GameWatcher’s resident Transylvanian vampire, I also appreciated the rather subtle inclusion of decorations, traditional costumes, and architectural elements that you’d find in the rural areas of Romania.
Just like the antagonists differ from each other visually, so do their domains, reflecting either their personality traits or heritage. The richly decorated, lavish interiors of Castle Dimitrescu are only worthy of the noblest blood. Moreau’s Reservoir, on the other hand, is the exact opposite: a submerged area that’s fallen into grave disrepair and looks like it could fall apart at any moment. Each location taps into a different nuance in terms of atmosphere. And, if its theme doesn’t remain stuck in your memory, one of its puzzles, monsters, or encounters surely will.
The Horror Experience
Resident Evil Village knows just when to dial up the horror and send your heart racing, blending these moments with ambiguously tense segments, and peaceful bits during which you can safely explore your surroundings. It strikes a balance that doesn’t exhaust, keeping you on your feet, but also encouraging exploring the map and discovering different pieces of treasure.
There’s not a lot of frustrating backtracking involved, either. We only went back to areas we had left behind upon obtaining an item that could grant access to doors we couldn’t otherwise unlock. The fact that enemies only rarely respawn in places you’ve cleared also plays into this admittedly lenient approach that lets you truly take in the atmosphere of each location.
The Weapons & Equipment
You get weapons rather early on in the game and they’ll be the main tools used against foes. But rather than risk a reload when you get swarmed or unknowingly backpedal into a wall, you shouldn’t forget about guarding. A press of the Space button prompts Ethan to bring his arms up, drastically reducing the damage he takes from most attacks. There’s no point in scratching your head about the physics behind fleshy man hands blocking sharp sickles and massive maces.
It’s a strong move in your arsenal that can also be used alongside your weak knife to conserve ammunition when fighting against lower tier opponents. It’s equally easy to forget about the mines and pipebombs sitting in your inventory but they’re deceptively good, especially against packs of enemies. Another reason to use them would be explosions, but that should be obvious enough.
Scan Your Surroundings
Resident Evil Village’s in-game map is quite helpful in letting you know which rooms still hold items by painting them red. It’s not always clear where those items might be and we spent a few good minutes looking for some of them before giving up, but makes it less likely that you’ll miss out on ammo, resources, and valuables.
The same doesn’t happen with certain outside areas, so you’ll want to pay extra attention there, even if you’re less likely to find anything. You never know when you’ll get an extra herb to cure Ethan’s wounds, a few sniper rifle bullets that help with thinning enemy numbers, or some much-needed crafting materials.
Crafting & Upgrades
Another element that Village borrows from Resident Evil 7 is crafting, which works in a similar fashion. As you gather different materials, you can combine them on the fly to add another healing item or ammo to your inventory. This is especially useful when you’re dealing with a new set of enemies or going through an area’s final stretch, leading up to a massive confrontation.
More notable, however, is the return of weapon upgrades, which add some extra punch, increase your magazine size, or reduce recoil. It’s a simple system, yet one that adds another incentive to scour every area in the game.
Horror, Action & Survival
Resident Evil Village has an array of tricks up its sleeve to terrify you, from the aforementioned character design, to story twists, and cutscenes. Ethan’s own shadow also got us on a few occasions, thanks to some really great lighting. At the same time, its survival elements felt a bit dialed down during our Standard difficulty playthrough. Exploring a fair share of the game’s areas, we only had ammo trouble on a few occasions.
The more involved encounters also provide you with additional bullets and explosives prior to or inside their arenas. It’s likely a conscious design choice and getting near to killing a boss only to run out of ammo wouldn’t have been all that great. But, as it stands, Ethan felt a little too well-equipped to deal with a situation for which he shouldn’t really be that prepared.
But even so, Resident Evil Village is yet another great entry in the long-running series, boasting some of the best character and location design we’ve seen from Capcom. It refines Resident Evil 7's approach to gameplay, by way of Resident Evil 4, making it a must-buy for fans of those two titles but also the series and its take on horror.