If you were looking for a good reason to return to Resident Evil Village, the Winters’ Expansion is it.
Rather than focusing on offering players just one new morsel of Resident Evil Village content, Winters’ Expansion hits with a triple whammy. Firstly, there’s the fact that the main game can now be played with an over-the-shoulder third person camera – great for those who want a more classic Resident Evil feel. Then there’s the addition of new Mercenaries content, including two new maps and three new characters, rounding things out rather nicely. And lastly, there’s Shadows of Rose, a whole new mini-campaign in which you get to take control of Ethan’s daughter.
Shadows of Rose is perhaps the most alluring thing that’s on offer here, fleshing out a character we only really got introduced to in the ending of the main game. It puts players in control of 16 year-old Rose, finding life hard due to the strange powers that she possesses. And so, when an opportunity is presented to her to rid herself of her supernatural abilities she jumps at it. But are the horrors she then has to endure worth the price? That’s up to you to find out.
Much of Shadows of Rose takes place in environments you’ll already be familiar with. Thankfully, however, changes to the gameplay keep it compelling nonetheless. As Rose, you’re not much of a fighter, and so it’s best to avoid enemies where possible. Chances are you’ll really want to as well, as the nasties you’re up against here really are horrifying. They lie somewhere between zombies and the Molded, emerging from gooey patches before shambling towards you, eliciting awful noises. If they get too close they seemingly appear to try and steal your skin, with a creepy effect that is genuinely unsettling.
Combat is sometimes forced upon you in Shadows of Rose, however, and your chances of survival are enhanced by a supernatural power that you develop over the campaign. First you gain the ability to rapidly decay flower-like cores, eradicating the otherwise unpassable pools of goop and sinewy structures they’re attached to. But soon after, your powers can be turned on your opponents – not to kill them, but to at least slow them down for a valuable seconds.
What’s surprising about Shadows of Rose is that after a pretty action-packed first-half, it then switches things up. In a new location, your weapons are taken away from you, and things get much, much creepier. With more of a focus on stealth and puzzles, this is Resident Evil at its scariest. And it’s brilliant – though perhaps not if you’re genuinely terrified of dolls and mannequins. What follows after that is for you to discover, though you can bet that Shadows of Rose ends with a thrilling encounter. It’s just a shame that once you hit its credits, you realise it doesn’t solve a mystery you were likely hoping it would.
Still, Shadows of Rose is definitely worth playing if you’re a Resident Evil fan, and nearly makes the Winters’ Expansion decent value for money in itself. It’ll take around three or so hours to complete the first time around, but thanks to multiple difficulty levels and challenges to complete, you’re likely to return. And then there’s the fact that, like the main campaign with the Winter’s Expansion in your possession, you can play it from either a first-person or third-person viewpoint.
Whether the option to play Resident Evil Village in third-person should be locked behind a paywall is debateable, but there’s one thing for sure: it sure makes it feel more like a traditional Resident Evil game. With the camera pulled back, Resident Evil Village might lose some degree of immersion for some, but for others, like us, it actually makes it a more tense affair. We fail to fear for our own lives when an enemy attacks the screen in first-person, but when we can see our character being attacked in third-person, we fear for them. In any case, it’s another way to play, and options are always good.
Just be aware that Mercenaries mode can’t be played in third-person, if that’s something you were wishing for. But the mode is undoubtedly improved by the addition of new characters and stages. Well, providing you can access them. Of the three characters included in the Winters’ Expansion, only everybody’s favourite boulder-punching asshole Chris Redfield is available from the outset. Unless you’re skilled enough to unlock Lady Demitrescu and Karl Heisenberg, then, they’ll be out of your grasp. The same goes for the two stages, too.
These new characters and stages make it worth putting more time and energy into Mercenaries though. A genuine effort has been made to make each character feel unique in play, and it works. For that reason you’re likely to want to go hands-on with them all, just to see which one you gel with the most. The new stages also provide a welcome new challenge and a change of scenery for those who have already spent considerable time with the mode. Throw in a wealth of new unlockables, and Mercenaries mode has been given new life.
For those who enjoyed Resident Evil Village and want to spend more time with it, perhaps also getting a hint as to where the series is heading next, the Winters’ Expansion should be considered a must-have. Shadows of Rose offers an enjoyable shot of true horror, Additional Orders invigorates Mercenaries mode with new life, and third-person mode gives players another way to experience two campaigns. For the modest asking price, why wouldn’t you want to make your copy of Resident Evil Village feel definitive?