Resident Evil Village’s Design Is Stuck In The Past

Relatively early on in Resident Evil Village, you’ll find yourself playing through a scene from one of the trailers – you’re crouched outside Lady Dimitrescu’s window, watching her argue on the telephone with Mother Miranda. You have just killed her daughter, you’re ruining her plan, and she is apoplectic with you. As much as it’s fun to meme on the whole ‘step on me mommy’ thing – you’d definitely die, by the way – you absolutely do not want Lady Dimitrescu to see you. She could murder you in an instant, and right now, that’s her number one priority. So you crouch there, silently waiting for her to disappear, so you can continue exploring in the hopes of finding Rose. The only thing is, the moment she does disappear and you regain control, the first thing you’re going to do is smash a nearby breakable pot. Why wouldn’t you? There’s bullets in there, after all!

This is the biggest gripe I have with Resident Evil Village’s design. It’s incredibly dated, and not just in the ‘homage to Resi 4’ kind of way. It does things that video games used to do but for the most part have long stopped doing, because they’re stupid. Village tries to spin a real story for you. It has ridiculous twists and turns and amputated hands, but there’s a clear core narrative. Rose has been kidnapped, and the four lords each have a piece of her essence. You must get them back to save your daughter. The magically reattaching hand aside, the story makes a certain kind of sense within the context of ‘don’t overthink it’ – but the level design makes no sense at all.

It’s not just this one broken pot, although considering the tension in the scene and the fear that Lady Dimitrescu may return to slay you, it is the most egregious. Even without how daft it is to unnecessarily make a noise while you’re trying to remain hidden, why are there bullets inside this pot in the first place? Why are there occasionally small bags of money in there instead? It breaks the immersion in the worst possible way.

I understand that this is a video game – and a survival horror one at that – so it needs to pepper resources around the map. It needs to make sure you strike the balance between not being overpowered and not being helpless. It wants to make every shot count, but also wants to let you have enough shots to make the difference, and that means you’ll need to find bullets throughout the game. That’s difficult in a 15th Century castle, but when they’re in drawers or boxes in the basement, it’s a lot easier to accept. Likewise, when you find new guns in village huts or tucked away in the attic, it makes perfect sense that a gun could conceivably be hidden here. Shotgun pelts in the priceless vase though? Nah, I’m afraid you’ve lost me.

It’s not just this one thing, although that would probably be enough considering how many vases there are in Castle Dimitrescu and the fact you spend the majority of the section being stalked by her. The whole design of the game’s quests and progression succumbs to all the daft video game tropes most triple-A titles have long since left behind. Yellow tape on objects that can be broken or interacted with is a bit on the nose, but it’s not like Village is the only game to do this. But unfortunately, rather than this yellow tape being the exception, it’s the rule. Everything in Resident Evil Village is designed in a linear, dated fashion, rather than using the game’s wider context to inform Ethan’s actions or the game’s progression.

Here’s another example from Castle Dimitrescu. At one point, Ethan comes across a bottle of virgin blood. For reasons known only to himself, he decides to pick the bottle up and lug it around with him. A few times throughout the game, I found myself unable to buy or pick up a new weapon due to lack of storage space, but clearly Ethan has room in his back pocket for this bottle of blood.

Of course, this being a video game, it turns out that the bottle of blood is key to solving one of the puzzles, so Ethan is a big brain gamer for picking it up. But what possible purpose did the bottle serve before that? In the narrative, Ethan was yet to encounter this puzzle, and so had no way of knowing that the virgin blood was the solution. When he grabs keys off hooks, I’m on board. It makes sense that if you’re trapped in a weird location, you’d want to grab a key in case it ever came in handy. But why is he thinking “oh, virgin blood, maybe there’s a strange contraption upstairs that requires a bottle of virgin blood for it to work…”?

There’s also a few times when you fight mini bosses, only for a previously locked door to open immediately once they have been defeated. There’s not even a key on the body – an easy way around that issue that feels somewhat realistic. It’s just ‘boss plus death equals door opens’. It might seem like I’m asking for a lot, wanting a game with zombies and vampires and werewolves to be realistic – but that’s not really what I’m asking for. The fact that stabbing Lady Dimitrescu with a ceremonial knife makes her turn into an inside out demon dragon with a weird, tentacled, banshee rider atop and inside it is par for the course. I’m not complaining about the talking puppets or the horrific skin babies. Moreau turns into a massive fish monster? Sure, of course he does. No issues there. Games like Resident Evil are allowed to break reality with the big things – we expect them to. But that’s no excuse for letting the small stuff slide. The yellow tape on the moveable bookshelf I can just about grin and bear. But the virgin blood bottle? Nah, sorry.

Source: Read Full Article