Before long, we arrived at an open point that looks out over the village, with the atmospheric Castle Dimitrescu in the background. The snowy path had served as an introduction to the village, and as the view unfolded before me, I was reminded of the moment you exit the cave in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and gaze at Hyrule from the Grand Plateau for the first time. Reaching the village felt like an instant classic video game moment I would not soon forget.
Welcome to a (Resident Evil) Village of Horror
Navigating through the village feels just as seamless as getting there. Resident Evil Village is not an open world, but its maze-like design is seamlessly connected. You can walk all the way to Castle Dimitrescu without any loading screens along the way, although traditional Resident Evil puzzles prevent it from being a smooth journey the first time you try to get there.Once I started exploring some of the village’s houses, I was impressed by the level of detail Capcom has put in the environments on both the PS4 Pro and the PS5 versions that we got to play. Especially on the PS5, the detailed texture on objects contribute to an additional layer of reality. A rain-soaked cardboard box, broken plates, vegetables dropped on the floor, soup that looks absolutely disgusting, torn couches and cushions. The houses are full of life that has recently been extinguished.Not long after that, now equipped with a knife and handgun, I was caught up in an exhilarating action scene. While Village is a direct sequel to Resident Evil 7, its mechanics borrow a lot of ideas from Resident Evil 4. You can throw enemies off balance by shooting them in the leg, which gives you the chance to finish them off with your knife. You can also block attacks, and if you get the timing right, Ethan will kick the enemy away after blocking.
I was not able to flawlessly execute these moves right off the bat. As the creatures called lycans (which are roughly equivalent to the zombies in previous games) charged at me at full speed, and dodged my attacks with quick movements to the side, I took a beating. When I handed the controller to IGN Japan’s FPS expert Hiroshi, he immediately opened up some distance and skillfully landed some headshots. Providing a wide array of attack options, Village can be played with different strategies depending on the player.
My strategy, for example, was running for my life. There were too many lycans, and with limited ammo, going after each one of them didn’t seem like a wise decision. I somehow made it into a house and blocked the entrance by throwing a shelf in front of the door – another mechanic Village borrows from Resident Evil 4. It felt like a smart move.
Resident Evil Village: Ethan Clothing Gallery
Of course, the next moment a lycan pried open the door, and proceeded to throw me to the floor. Being bitten by a lycan from a first-person angle was quite a sight to behold, but now was not the time to be impressed. I had to get out of there. After creating some distance, it was time to try out the new crafting system by mixing Herbs with Chem Fluid to make some much needed First-Aid Med to heal my wounds. If crafting is not your thing, don’t worry, though, as it’s not much more complex than mixing different Herbs was in previous entries, although you need to keep in mind that you won’t be able to heal with Herbs alone.
As Ethan splashed the healing liquid on his hands, I suddenly realized that just moments ago I had been impressed by how quietly the game had started out, and now I was already shooting, cutting, and running like my life depended on it. Like a true horror game, Village really seems to know how to shift between silence and action, and it does it so seamlessly you never know what to expect next.
Once the lycans finally left me alone, it was time to search for clues about Rosemary, Ethan’s daughter, who has been abducted to this village. From here, the gameplay became more puzzle-centric. From fitting disc-like key items called Crests into a wall to obtaining lockpicks, Village’s early puzzles feel like any classic Resident Evil game.However, what makes the puzzles in this section more interesting is that you’ll have to interact with the villagers in order to solve them. Ethan earns respect from the villagers by helping out a girl and her injured father. This allows him into a house you couldn’t enter before, which will eventually lead to the next item needed to advance.
The village is dotted with small secrets. Look up and you might find a bird cage to shoot down. Keep an eye out for shining diamonds hidden on sculptures and on walls that you can obtain to sell, and inspect every corner of the village to find all the goat collectables, which are reminiscent of Mr. Raccoon from other titles in the series. There were plenty of directions I could head in, and if I hadn’t been advised by the Capcom staff to head towards Castle Dimitrescu, I could have happily spent more of my play time exploring the village.
Lady Dimitrescu Is Watching You
After some interesting (read: horrific) detours, I finally made it inside the castle. With the Internet’s favorite 9’6” (290 cm) Lady Dimitrescu and her three bloodthirsty daughters as the main threat, my time at the castle was guaranteed to be full of blood and pain. Ethan is brutally tortured by the four dominant women in a cutscene the moment he enters the castle, which makes the premise of a relatively weak man hunted by much stronger women more than clear. The sight of Lady Dimitrescu leaning in to slurp hungrily on Ethan’s bleeding wrist was as frightening as it was breathtaking to watch.
The castle’s interior is designed like an intricate maze, and Ethan somehow has to find his way through. But wherever you go, Lady Dimitrescu or one of her daughters is always nearby, patrolling the premises in real time. Lady Dimitrescu lets out an elegant laugh whenever she notices Ethan, and seeing her slowly walk towards you leaves a lasting impression. Her towering height isn’t just a visual thing either, as you actually have to consider her long reach when evading attacks, and if you’re backed into a corner, her size makes it difficult to find a way out. There’s also a section in which you have to find a way to open a door while Lady Dimitrescu is trying to get her claws into your skin. The player needs to lure her out of the way in order to safely advance, which plays out like a traditional cat-and-mouse-game. I love how Capcom has found ways to make Lady Dimitrescu’s height so much more than just a visual spectacle.
Resident Evil Village PlayStation 5 Screenshots
Even when she’s not nearby, you will still be reminded of Lady Dimitrescu’s overwhelming presence through objects that can be found in the castle, ranging from her dress on a mannequin to a life-size portrait. Yes, Lady Dimitrescu is definitely watching you.
Before even thinking of finding a way to face Lady Dimitrescu, you’ll have to deal with her three daughters. While not as tall as the towering countess herself, her daughters are much more agile and elusive as they sometimes fade out of view, creating an entirely different fright. The daughters each act alone, and try to suck Ethan’s blood at every opportunity they get. But once you discover a particular weakness they all have in common, it’s time to strike back. Interestingly, while they do all share the same weakness, the varied situations in which you fight each daughter result in mini boss battles that all play out differently. This design philosophy reminded me of a Zelda dungeon that has the player solve different puzzles with the same item.
These mini boss fights play out entirely in real time. While I’ll have to remain vague to avoid spoilers, witnessing the end of each of the daughters is an impressively dynamic performance, especially the first time.Just like in the village, the puzzles in Castle Dimitrescu are about as classic Resi as they get. While these are definitely not revolutionary, I appreciate that even with realistic visuals and more cinematic presentation, Capcom stays true to the series’ old-school game roots. In the PS5 Maiden demo, finding a ring inside a wine glass, removing the ring’s eye-shaped stone and attaching that to a sculpture to open a door was willfully nonsensical. Castle Dimitrescu’s puzzles in the final game share that same absurd logic, and I’m happy for that. While I understand that some might consider this an old-fashioned approach, it’s great to see a triple-A title in 2021 that knows it’s a videogame.
Similar to Metroidvania games, gradually gaining access to new areas of the castle with each puzzle solved felt satisfying. While the castle felt like a maze at first, I was now learning how to orientate myself. For just one area in a bigger game, Castle Dimitrescu is surprisingly expansive, and getting lost always felt more fun than frustrating.
While not too difficult, the wide variety of puzzles in each area of the castle always kept me busy. From deciphering poems to shooting hidden targets, it never felt like I had to repeat the same thing. Some puzzles had me briefly stumped, but never long enough to get on my nerves, and ultimately finding the answer to advance to the next challenge was a rewarding experience.
Resident Evil Village PlayStation 5 Showcase Screenshots
Evading specific enemies while solving puzzles reminded me of the Baker family in Resident Evil 7. However, with Village’s much more over-the-top setting and literally larger-than-life characters, I never had the feeling that I was simply repeating that experience.
And besides, Castle Dimitrescu has more to offer than just Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters. Certain parts of this area, such as the underground wine cellar and the rooftops, have you fight against a large number of enemies, resulting in an action-packed experience that felt closer to Resident Evil 4 than 7. Quickly switching weapons, smashing boxes noisily to find items and trying different combat options all contributed to a welcome layer of varied action.
As I was fighting my way through the wine cellar, I started to get used to blocking and combining leg shots with knife attacks. The lycans felt less scary than before. However, once I ascended to the castle rooftops, I had to adapt my playstyle to the flying enemies that charged at me violently. I needed more ammo for my shotgun, and of course a sniper rifle wouldn’t hurt.Luckily, new weapons and upgrades are hidden in the castle, and weapon merchant Duke has his own room on the first floor (don’t ask me why!). Throughout your quest in Castle Dimitrescu, you’ll be coming back to Duke to buy ammo and upgrade your weapons again and again. This gameplay loop is again reminiscent of Resident Evil 4, but Duke’s flamboyant character design brings a totally different yet oddly familiar vibe.
Duke is a giant of a man who is always sitting. He looks creepily bizarre, yet somehow endearing at the same time. Whenever I came back to his room after being relentlessly hounded by Lady D and her daughters, seeing his jolly face brought a sense of relief.
After becoming an internet meme, Lady Dimitrescu has become Village’s main topic of conversation, but Duke shows that Village’s character design goes much further than just one memorable character. With Resident Evil 4’s weapon merchant being one of the most iconic NPCs in the series, Capcom could have easily gotten away with simply designing a similar character, but the team has clearly gone above and beyond.Back in 2005, Resident Evil 4 set a standard for the modern third-person shooter, and became a foundation for the series’ more action-oriented future. But for some fans, the quirky characters and action-packed gameplay was a step away from the survival horror experience they had come to love.
What makes Castle Dimitrescu so remarkable is that it manages, at least so far, to deliver Resident Evil 4’s action and Resident Evil 7’s dedication to survival horror in one package. One moment you are running helplessly from a giant mistress, the next moment you’re blasting away with your shotgun at a multitude of smaller enemies.We spent close to four hours inside Castle Dimitrescu after an hour in the village, which is only one chapter in a much larger game. If the rest is as diverse and robust as Castle Dimitrescu, Village has the potential to become a favorite for Resident Evil fans of all stripes.
Resident Evil Village is set to release on May 7. For those worried about the last-gen version, be sure to check out our PS4 Pro gameplay footage. If you can’t wait to get your blood drained by Lady Dimitrescu, don’t miss our feature on the towering villain, and also be sure to check out our reveal of the game’s map and Mother Miranda art. Look forward to more exclusive Resident Evil Village content throughout April as part of IGN First.
Esra Krabbe is an editor at IGN Japan. He’s happy his real life is not as ill-fated as Ethan’s.