If you’re looking for a serious review of Resident Evil: Village, you can find ours here.
This is the story of one terrified woman and her desire to be crushed by an ancient and skilled
people fermenter vintner. Should you be prepared for stepping-related spoilers, then come, child. Let us begin.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Resident Evil: Village
First and foremost, allow me to state that I myself am a coward; at least when it comes to the horror genre. Even the slightest, spookiest ambiance will have me in a state of utter distress. Jump scares turn into blood-curdling screams that make it sound as though I’m actually being murdered in our city apartment. So when friends have asked me over the years if I’ve played any of the Resident Evil series, my answer has always been no. I truly didn’t think I had it in me to finish any of the games, despite the allure of exploration and puzzles reminiscent of the old school point and click adventure games I love.
Then… Lady Dimitrescu was revealed to the public.
A flawless vampiress standing 9’ 6” tall. Mother to three beautiful daughters that were never taught to wipe their mouths after eating spaghetti and who occasionally turn into a writhing swarm of flies. She is my one shining beacon of hope in a genre I have been unable to play despite my love for science fiction and adventure. Myself and many others suddenly wanted to try the ‘tall vampire lady game’ that… also happened to be the newest title in a beloved survival horror franchise praised by many for its intriguing lore and tense survival elements.
I can only imagine Capcom had no idea just what their 2020 announcement would awaken in gamers worldwide, but the internet frenzy surrounding Lady Dimitrescu’s reveal went on to illustrate one very important truth: whether or not players are fans of scary games themselves, many of them are fans of intimidating women that can step on them, and, as a result, they’re willing to branch out into genres they’d typically avoid to experience just that.
It turns out that I am one of those people. My desire for stepping might be the only power in this world strong enough to counter my aversion to scaring, so I decided to do an experiment for the greater good of my fellow thirsty internet comrades. If I could become the sacrificial lamb, offering myself up to Lady Dimitrescu’s razor sharp claws, then I could help others determine if they would find the game worth playing through themselves.
Still, I needed some way to measure the experience in a tangible manner. Thus it was that the idea of the scare to step ratio was born. I booted up the game, called in some reinforcements for emotional support, and began tallying the amount of step to scare energy I was experiencing in my first full playthrough of a Resident Evil title. If a moment made me waggle my eyebrows or utter cartoon worthy whistles, it got a step point, if it made me jump, scream, or hide under a blanket, it got a scare point.
Castle Dimitrescu: The Promised Land of Step
I was truly hoping we could skip all the spooky nonsense and get straight to the stepping, but as it turns out, there’s some gameplay to get through before you ever see Lady Dimistrescu or her daughters; who you’re clearly going to adopt and not freeze to death.
The game opens with Ethan and his wife Mia talking about their uncomfortably tense marriage before putting their baby, Rose, to bed. Other than the absolutely staggering amount of wine the couple possess in their home, there was little to note about the deceptively quiet introduction to the game. Neither steps nor scares happened, though I did have some thoughts on Mia’s attitude that I loudly voiced. Wandering about their house, taking in nods to the series and small bits of lore, I found myself lulled into a sense of safety while simultaneously experiencing a deep and abiding dread of what was to come. I clutched that baby like there was no tomorrow, because, as I said to those I was playing with, “They won’t attack me with a zombie if I just never put her down.”
Overall, ‘fatherhood simulator’ was a pretty chill experience, but everything that happened following my choice to put baby Rose down (see, I was right), was far less chill. The next hour or so saw me shot at, dumped out of a van, walking through a forest full of crow corpses, guided into the most horrifying shack in existence and smashed through a floor into a corpse cellar. Just, you know, a cellar full of corpses. Oh, and one very hungry werewolf.
I’d like to take this moment to point out two important things from my early journey in Resident Evil: Village. Firstly, the bulk of this initial trek into the village proper wracked up more scare tallies than I care to admit. That shack alone took me about 30 minutes and added at least a solid five scare strikes to the counter that were anything but graceful. Secondly, if you’re a fan of supernatural thirst, I hate to tell you, but the werewolves in this game are not hot. This second point is of particular note, because when it comes to balancing step and scare energy early on in the game, all you’re going to be getting is a tutorial, the world’s jump-scariest, eeriest, bloodiest shantytown, and a bunch of less than alluring Lycanthropes.
Throughout it all, I held on to the promise of Castle Dimitrescu in the distance. If I could only make it there, I could finally be united with my future wife, the woman that would use me as her stepstool and who I would thank for doing so.
Within the Halls of Castle Dimitrescu
For all my screaming and jokes regarding it, I actually found myself enjoying my exploration of the village. Intriguing gates with strange symbols caught my eye, the Eastern European design elements were a lovely touch when they weren’t soaked in blood, and interactive elements I could tell would be relevant later promised intriguing discoveries yet to be made. All the while, the dark fairytale themes that the opening animation had established continued to add that touch of fantasy I needed to keep me going, though there were several moments I had to stop to wipe off my sweaty palms or pass the controller to my partner when I was convinced some unattractive wolfman was going to pop up and try for a terrifying smooch.
All of it was worth it the moment I crossed into Castle Dimitrescu’s hallowed halls.
The vast majority of step energy tallies were wracked up during this segment of the game. From the lavish rooms to the deadly women chasing me around in an utterly thrilling game of hide and seek, I suddenly found myself having an entirely new experience in gaming. I’ve been on epic quests. I’ve journeyed with allies and friends to overcome insurmountable foes. I’ve solved puzzles and put my wit to the test. Yet, never before have I found running for my life in a dimly lit castle to be so very terrifying and so very thirst-inducing all at once. Being called a manthing while listening to the sound of Lady Dimitrescu’s heels growing louder and louder was everything I could have hoped for.
Just about every detail of Lady Dimitrescu and her daughters in their cutscenes are perfection. The way the Lady stoops down to walk through doorframes made me giggle delightedly. Her dialogue while hanging you up by you own impaled hands gave me shivers (part of that was because of how graphic it was, the other part was because that woman can get it). The wineglass she left behind with lip prints on it allowed me to indirectly kiss her by taking a sip of my own, though that might have just been an investigatory action of my own imaginings. I peeped through her bedroom window in a totally not creepy manner and contemplated confessing my feelings to her. I was even able to crawl through a constricted opening towards her feet, placing me in a prime stepping position- a real highlight of the entire game for me.
This portion of the game was not without its scares, however. While the dungeon segment held great potential to provide a titillating backdrop, unfortunately it did turn out to be full of murderous vampire slaves that made me yell various obscenities (and not in a fun way). I was also less than charmed by the bloody wine sewers you’re forced to slosh through in a subsequent section, or how your entire hand gets chopped off and then stuck back on (a sequence which earned 2 or more scares all by itself). However, the gorgeous interiors, hidden lore, reprieves for puzzles, and all around excitement of sneaking through an estate that is utterly unfamiliar to you and incredibly fraught with danger all came together to create an experience I won’t soon forget.
Farewell to the Promised Land
After all the hype surrounding Lady Dimitrescu, I was surprised and somewhat disappointed to find that Castle Dimitrescu is only the first of four major levels in the game. These levels are broken up with various jaunts through the village and one less-than-sexy castle full of mangy werewolves led, surprisingly, by a huge man I could only envision as being Harry Potter’s Hagrid if he had rabies.
Following this first section, Andrew, who did our review of the game, was kind enough to offer me the escape of taking over the reigns and playing the rest of the story himself for me to watch. This turned out to be the truly ideal option for cowardly but thirsty gamers everywhere. Personally I would highly recommend it if you’re bad with horror titles, particularly in regards to the nightmare fueled dollhouse fetus level that is the games second area. This section would’ve been a quick deal breaker for me if left to my own devices.
Each area offers a unique take on the concept of Eastern European inspired folk horror, and while looking up pictures of House Beneviento for this review immediately filled me with the absolute opposite of step energy, I have to admit that even that zone took some interesting risks. The final boss battle in the dollhouse was a brilliant subversion of traditional combat and built effectively off the awful experience of being trapped in a uncanny house with hundreds of lifeless doll eyes watching you. In turn, the following reservoir area started in a manner that was both very gross and very underwhelming, but quickly developed into a rollicking action-filled dash that had me yelling with excitement rather than terror.
In the interim jaunts through the village, opening locked gates and drawing buckets up from wells gave me a satisfying sense of progression, though I would have loved to unlock some meatier bonus lore about the region or characters while doing so. I was also excited to see a new variant of werewolf along the way: the Varcolac. My mind swirled with the possibilities of a Van Helsing (2004) level hot werewolf at long last, a gift to help lessen the sting of having been forced to kill my tall vampire wife. From a distance, they showed far more promise in the general lupine build, but I am sad to report that the Varcolac is utterly ruined as a secondary supernatural romance option largely thanks to its horrifying muppet face.
The Final Tally
Ultimately, the final step to scare tally was as follows:
The vast majority of steps were earned during the Dimitrescu portion of the early game, but a surprising amount ended up being added for notable step adjacent villains Karl Heisenberg and Mother Miranda. I am a big fan of the way Karl calls you ‘Papa’ and I likewise greatly enjoyed Miranda’s step-on-me angel of death vibe.
The vast majority of scares were… frankly pretty constant. I did find that as I grew more accustomed to the pacing and style of enemies in different levels, I was less scared pantsless at any given moment and instead able to anticipate when and how frequently we would run into trouble. The most purely horror oriented of all the levels is definitely House Beneviento, so for those who are worried about making it through on the power of thirst alone, be sure to prepare yourself for that second area.
After the dollhouse, the remaining levels take a definite turn for adventure, which worked for me in the case of the Creature from the Black Lagoon inspired region, but felt less engaging during the Heisenberg’s Factory portion. I found myself almost wishing they’d swapped the placement of the Factory and Castle Dimitrescu levels to really build momentum towards the finale and keep Lady Dimitrescu more heavily in the game up until her demise.
There will undoubtedly be other terrified gamers like me that may not feel the risk is worth the reward. If you’re only in it for Lady Dimitrescu, I might advise simply watching her cutscenes or stopping after her portion of the game. Yet, if you find yourself drawn in by the narrative and cheering on Ethan ‘dumb as bricks but with a heart of gold’ Winters, then you might come out of this game glad to have played it. I certainly did. I’ve even been talking with Andrew about playing through some of the other Resident Evil games (to the best of my abilities) and I actually think I’m looking forward to it.
We can only hope that more magnificent, towering women continue to find their way into gaming. In the meantime, I’ll be over here worshipping the characters we’ve already been blessed with and hoping a Lady Dimitrescu themed DLC will be coming in the future to give me even more powerful stepping energy in the Resident Evil franchise.
Images courtesy of Capcom.