Striking a balance between familiarity and change is what drives Resident Evil: Village Shadows of Rose. Set 16 years after the events of the Resident Evil: Village base game, this slice of DLC concludes the Winters' storyline (that debuted in 2017's Resident Evil 7) by letting us fill the shoes of Ethan Winters' daughter Rose. In doing so, we return to a handful of familiar locations that are just different enough to feel fresh and new. We face familiar enemies, but, as a weaker and slower protagonist, battles pose new challenges – where managing resources is often as important as shooting your way to safety. In combat, Rose can handle pistols, shotguns and pipe bombs, but also has superpowers that are explicitly tied to the DLC's overarching narrative. And we do all of this in third-person perspective, breaking from RE7 and RE8's standard first-person view, which adds a different sense of size and scale to each map.
Resident Evil: Village Shadows of Rose is also, at times, absolutely terrifying. And that fact alone is testament to how well this three-and-a-half hour-long expansion manages to balance familiarity and change.
Coming up Roses
As was teased at the end of the Resident Evil: Village base game, Rose Winters is now 16 years old and is fed up with being different. In a bid to rid herself of the mutant superpowers that have seen her bullied and made other by just about everyone in her life, she enters the consciousness of the Megamycete – the fungal root of the ancient organism that turns ordinary people into shambling zombie types – where she must pursue the memories of the humans it has consumed over centuries. Doing so should lead her to a crystal that'll help her separate herself from her powers, and so locating said crystals quickly becomes priority number one. Like many of Resident Evil's fantastical narrative threads over the years, thinking too hard on the logistics of it all isn't necessary because, conveniently, the first stop on Rose's Inception-esque deep dive into the subconscious is Castle Dimitrescu.
Unlike the home of Lady Dimitrescu as it appears in the Resident Evil: Village base game, however, this world is different – darker, infested with zombie-like-spawning mold, and with a new layout in place that opens previously inaccessible areas and vice versa. Again, playing into that familiarity vs change dichotomy, there is in turn a real otherworldly feel to this new interpretation of the castle – something that we're otherwise more used to in the likes of Silent Hill – that requires anyone with a handle on the original layout to take stock and replan many well-trodden routes.
This is especially true with combat in mind. Rose is a 16-year-old and is therefore naturally weaker than Ethan. Her sprint is more of a fast jog, and the fact that there are far fewer resources scattered around than in the base game means you're constantly required to adopt a more defensive approach. Once unlocked, Rose's supernatural abilities primarily allow her to clear areas of deadly sludge to reach blocked pathways and doors, but in combat they also let her counter enemies with a burst of staggering energy. Choosing when to shoot, when to stagger, when to hide, and, crucially, when to run is a vital part of survival – a choice roulette that only becomes more important the deeper you delve into Shadows of Rose's twisted landscapes.
In Castle Dimitrescu, a classic Resident Evil puzzle set-piece sees Rose scouring the crumbling stronghold in search of three decorative masks that'll ultimately land her the power-deactivating crystals she seeks. Returning as a baddie this time around, The Duke – Resident Evil: Village's unusual but generally quite friendly shopkeeper – has taken an immediate disliking to you, however, and sends an invincible mold-consumed, hammer-wielding monstrosity after you at every chance he gets. As a countermeasure, a mysterious and unseen character named Michael begins chatting to you by way of magical messages that offer guidance, and, occasionally, health tonics and ammunition.
A fitting end
Again, it's all very Resident Evil wherein asking too many questions of the hows and whys is pretty futile. In practice, though, it's great fun and that's really all that matters. Rose's adventure is a fitting way to wind up the Winters' storyline, with enough twists and turns en route to its conclusion to keep even the most devoted lore-lovers' heads spinning. Castle Dimitrescu is but one of a few central locations visited in Shadows of Rose, and while I won't spoil what unfolds in the remainder here, some of the level designs, enemies, and battles are among the most unsettling and best-executed in any Resident Evil game to date.
The switch to a third-person perspective here may have been considered a strange decision – given Resident Evil 7 and Village both operated via first-person as standard – however with the Resident Evil 2 remake having revitalized the over-the-shoulder view for the series, the move is seamless. By not taking itself too seriously – a trait Resident Evil 7 embraced fully – Shadows of Rose is able to mess with survival horror game conventions with chilling results. And by nailing the sweet spot between familiar and change, Shadows of Rose caps off what's been a great run of form for the Resident Evil series over the last several years.
The Resident Evil: Village Winters' Expansion is due on October 28, 2022 for PS5, Xbox Series X and S, PC, PS4, and Xbox One. As well as the Shadows of Rose DLC, the purchase includes a third-person mode for Resident Evil: Village base game, and The Mercenaries Additional Orders.
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