With many horror games sticking to jump scares or gore-filled terror, Resident Evil Village is a reminder that weird can still be frightening.
One of Resident Evil Village‘s most notable praises from critics is that the game manages to blend together different horror themes. This leads to an extraordinarily strange adventure that isn’t afraid to embrace some of its genre’s odd tropes. After all, it isn’t every day that modern horror games feature giant vampire women, Dracula-inspired castles and human-fish hybrids.
The main way that Village plays with the stranger sides of horror is through the designs of its characters. Yet, the game doesn’t let that get in the way of creating some truly terrifying experiences for its players. Horror can be weird while still being scary, and that point is on display in Resident Evil Village. Like other survival-horror games, Village traps players in a desperate, unknown scenario that they must unravel to survive.
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Right out of the gate, players are attacked by a pack of classic monsters: lycans. Seeing these creatures in a contemporary horror game is certainly rare and it’s usually not meant to scare the player. However, it’s undeniable that movie monsters like werewolves, lycans and vampires are simply part of horror’s history. Village isn’t afraid to recognize that genre lineage nor is it afraid to re-imagine key aspects as well.
The internet’s favorite vampire, Lady Dimitrescu, has a castle clearly inspired by gothic horror, and the character herself is clearly based on Dracula-like vampires. She has an extravagant personality that masks a cold and ruthless killer underneath. Castle Dimitrescu is meant to hearken back to Resident Evil‘s roots, with the main character hiding from an unstoppable hunter in a grand chateau. Also, this sequence of the game serves as Resident Evil‘s chance to reinvent vampires, giving Lady Dimitrescu a unique and striking appearance.
Some of Resident Evil Village‘s areas draw upon Lovecraft-styled psychological horror, while others lean into the action-horror of games like Resident Evil 5. This combination of genres has made the game feel somewhat disjointed to critics, though others have praised the wildly different tones and enemies that a melting pot of horror brings. This eccentric design extends to more than just classic tropes however, as some of the character concepts in this game are their own unique kind of weirdness.
Donna Beneviento is one of the three main antagonists in the game. Without getting into spoilers, she mainly communicates through her puppet, Angie. Originally a doll-maker, Donna Beneviento seems much more like a Bloodborne villain than what’s been seen in older Resident Evil titles. Still, she fits right into the game’s overall gothic and occult horror focus. The concept and Donna’s design make the character unnervingly creepy.
This choice to lean more into abstract or creative designs for characters works so well in a horror game. Making the world around the player feel disconnected from their expectations, even slightly, can throw them off balance and unnerve them. Resident Evil has always managed to create a terrifying atmosphere that keeps players on edge during gameplay. Village does this as well, though it does it by blending the unnatural with the unexpected.
Village has garnered tons of comparisons to Resident Evil 4, mainly due to the game’s similar focus on horde battles and the gothic atmosphere. Another way in which these two games are similar is with how they both use Resident Evil‘s horror setting to play with unique concepts and moments. For example, the shopkeepers in both games are absurd and unnerving caricatures that have a habit of showing up where the player least expects them.
These absurd undertones don’t detract from the horror though. Certain parts of Village can feel less scary compared to others, however this is more due to how the title is constantly shifting genres. More horror games should turn to the bizarre, as it can lead to memorable designs and moments that stick out from almost anything else that players experience.
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