Capcom is rounding out its latest horror instalment by putting players in the shoes of Ethan Winters' daughter.
Resident Evil Village was an interesting game. On one hand, it gave us a collection of memorable characters who continue to intrigue today, with the gigantic Lady Dimitrescu at the forefront. But on the other hand, the game fell into some of the series' less favourable habits, by losing its survival horror elements and replacing them with outright action gameplay. It made for an experience that never really delivered on true terror for the player, which is sort of counteractive for a horror video game. Still, it wasn't a bad game, in fact it was a fun story to chew through.
Jump to the present and Capcom is ready to continue this adventure in the expansion, Shadows of Rose, which as the name implies, sees Village's protagonist Ethan Winters giving centre stage to his now grown-up daughter Rose. While I won't dish out many story beats to prevent spoilers, what I will say is that the expansion sees Rose looking for ways to remove her Mold-enabled powers, something which sees her facing demons of Ethan's past on the journey to do so.
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As has been made clear in prior trailers, this journey sees Rose heading back to a collection of locations in the Village. A chunk of the expansion takes place in Castle Dimitrescu, which trades the pursuing monster of the vampire lady for Mold-like zombies that Rose can use a couple of firearms and even her own powers to eliminate and overcome them. Similar to Village's gameplay, this Shadows of Rose expansion also feels more like an action game than a horror one, as you wander around each location discovering clues, solving environmental puzzles, and plugging the sluggish, and not at all threatening, attacking monsters full of bullet holes. Essentially, if you were hoping this content addition would have more horror elements than Village, you will be let down.
That's not to say that there aren't spooky moments. A particular section of the narrative takes us back to one of Village's freakier vistas, where we lose most of our tools to fight back against the Mold and have to resort to evasive manoeuvres. Needless to say, without a shotgun backing you up, everything becomes far more terrifying, especially when the monsters in this part are mannequins that channel Weeping Angels energy from Doctor Who. But the catch is that due to Shadows of Rose only being a relatively short addition to the story (you can probably get through it in a couple of hours, including exploration and completing any available side objectives to unlock extra tools), you never really spend too much time in one area before you are thrust into a boss fight, which have next to no horror elements to them either.
And touching on the exploration, this isn't particularly deep in itself. You will be pretty much going exactly where the game wants you to go all the time, there is very little reason, or opportunities for that matter, to wander off the beaten path. This puts a lot of strain on the story, and while I will say, Shadows of Rose is interesting like Village, it isn't the next big Resident Evil narrative in any sense.
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Fortunately, to keep things interesting, Capcom has added a few extra gameplay mechanics in this expansion. Namely Rose's Mold powers, which allow her to destroy glowing 'seed-like' bubbles to clear a specific area of the deadly Mold. Rose can also use this power to stun and temporarily disable the Mold zombies that attack her, although this has a cost, and Rose will need to consume a new herb variant to refill this ability. They're cool powers, but once again serve to bolster the action gameplay aesthetics, making the experience all the less frightening, because Rose never feels like a victim in this expansion.
And the lack of horror is only emphasised by the uninteresting villains that plague the expansion. As was shown in the Story Trailer, The Duke is back, not as a vendor this time (in fact there is no shop or currency to collect at all) but as an antagonist who wants to cause harm to Rose. However, he never comes across as a threat either, and more so as a face that Capcom has baked into the story for a nostalgic purpose more so than anything.
I will commend the decision of Capcom to bring back third-person gameplay, as it does allow the striking settings of Village to shine. There is the argument that by being further away from the enemies and the horror due to the over-the-shoulder perspective that you lose some of the gravity of scenes, especially in tight corridors where the first-person angle worked brilliantly to convey a claustrophobic feeling. But, if anything that's marginal and having more options to experience Resident Evil Village is always something that should be celebrated.
But generally speaking, it's clear that Shadows of Rose has fallen into the same trap as Village. Like the main game, this expansion is fun to play and has its highlights, but does it really feel like a Resident Evil game of old, does it excel in horror elements and instil fear into you? No, it really doesn't. This is an action extension to an action game, which for those who would like to see the series getting back to what made it iconic, is probably a bit of a let down.
6 / 10
Rose's Mold powers are cool. Third-person perspective is interesting. Narrative entertains.
Horror elements have been side-lined. Exploration is toned down. It's basically an action expansion.