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Film director in training, somehow

Video essay channel: https://www.youtube.com/@cretinworkshop
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Favorite Games

Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2
Silent Hill 2
Silent Hill 2
Half-Life: Alyx
Half-Life: Alyx
Resident Evil
Resident Evil
Mega Man X
Mega Man X

186

Total Games Played

007

Played in 2024

189

Games Backloggd


Recently Played See More

Harlequin Fair: Harbour Dawn
Harlequin Fair: Harbour Dawn

Mar 18

Brogue
Brogue

Mar 11

Resident Evil Village
Resident Evil Village

Feb 26

Metroid II: Return of Samus
Metroid II: Return of Samus

Feb 06

Metroid
Metroid

Jan 26

Recently Reviewed See More

This review contains spoilers

It's difficult to start a review of these modern Resident Evil games without taking a moment to mention the impact that Resident Evil 7: Biohazard had on not just the franchise, but the genre as a whole. While survival horror had never truly gone away, it was essentially dead in the AAA space, and RE7 had proven an excellent example of what a high-budget, modern survival horror experience could be. While not all of these newer RE games have entirely hit the mark, the series is certainly back in full force. For around four years, Capcom largely focused on remaking older titles rather than pushing the franchise forward, so Resident Evil Village finally continues the story of Ethan Winters while bringing back the first-person perspective that made RE7 unique for the franchise.

This, to an extent, is why Village feels so strange as a sequel to RE7. RE7 and Resident Evil 2's remake had pushed for classic survival horror game design in a modern context, something that Resident Evil 3's remake would push against yet largely fall in line with. Village opts to eschew this entirely in favor of action-horror gameplay drenched in survival horror window dressing. I've never strictly had a preference between these two gameplay styles (although I generally find the survival titles far better), but considering the historical context behind the game Village is following up on, this move is an odd one. Despite that, I would say Village's game design is largely well executed. Copy-pasting RE7's gameplay into much larger levels would lead to disaster, which is why Capcom has rather tastefully upgraded the combat system to favor more intensive situations with more enemies at once. Your weapons, even the more powerful ones, all feel appropriately rinky-dink and you never entirely feel safe behind the trigger. Even so, shooting feels just good enough to make the moment-to-moment gameplay still rather fun even if it's not exactly silky smooth by design. The enemies in this game, particularly the Lycans, are demanding and require the player to learn and adapt quickly, leading to some surprising early game difficulty. I played on hardcore, and not only are Lycans tanky, but they bob and weave throughout the environment actively dodging your crosshair and this makes fighting them both tricky and tense. Mastery of timing, blocking, and pushing away at the right time is essential to success here and this difficulty is very welcome after RE3make's hardcore mode was a breeze. The game follows a semi-open-world structure where the player can return to the titular village after completing each major area, and while I do find this aspect somewhat underbaked, it is nice to be able to come back and explore newer areas after acquiring new items. This open-ended structure means that exploring your environment is just as crucial as ever, as you'll need to find treasure, lei, and even hunt for food to purchase supplies, weapon attachments, and stat upgrades. Despite the genre change, Village is still chock full of classic-style puzzles and they're generally fine. Some are fairly clever, such as the statue puzzle in Castle Dimitrescu, whereas many are a little too simple. I wasn't particularly stumped by any of these, but some of them did stick out to me as being more interesting than others. RE puzzles are not exactly known for being Silent Hill mind-benders, but I would like a few more "a-ha!" moments than I got here especially compared to RE7's generally more interesting puzzles.

It seems, then, that Village's main flaw is its lack of consistency. Developed partly during the COVID-19 pandemic, I get the sense (but don't have much proof) that the game was kneecapped by this. The game is split primarily into four different areas led by different members of the cult of Mother Miranda - Lady Dimitrescu, Salvatore Moreau, Donna Beneviento, and Karl Heisenberg. Capcom tries a lot of different things in these levels, but unfortunately, they are far from equal. Castle Dimitrescu is by far the best part - the gothic horror setting and deeply cold winter vibes help it stand out while also providing an experience that feels like classic Resident Evil. The exploration, puzzle solving, and backtracking deeply echo the survival horror roots of the franchise, and despite the action-oriented gameplay stands out to me as perhaps one of the highlights of the entire franchise. Unfortunately, this is also the peak of Village, and from there, it's downhill to varying degrees. Moreau's area is ultimately fine for what it is, but far too on-rails with very little in the way of interesting gimmicks outside of a pretty interesting puzzle involving levers and platforms that only shows up once. It's criminally short and never truly gets to experiment with the promise of a water-based setting, though thankfully he has the best boss fight in the game - a stressful hide-and-seek around a small arena that ends up tense and exciting. House Beneviento was my least favorite part of the game, a severe drop in quality that I found to be boring and cheap. While I understand to some extent why people have found it so memorable - the house itself is rendered beautifully and the infamous baby has a terrifying design - it's largely a non-threatening level with very little in the way of any real tension or stakes. Heisenberg's Factory is when the game picks up for me again, providing tense combat scenarios against formidable enemies and an oil-crusted, steamy atmosphere. The game certainly has excellent peaks, and at its worst, it dips its toes into mediocrity, but it's never downright bad. It's a game that tries to do many things but due to possible development troubles, doesn't manage to entirely hit the mark in terms of consistency. For what it's worth, the variety the game tries to pull off is certainly admirable.

Resident Evil and side modes are like peanut butter and jelly. Ever since the Sega Saturn port of the original game, Capcom has found ways to keep you glued to the largely single-player games long after you've finished the campaigns. Resident Evil 3 introduced The Mercenaries back in 1999, which would get revamped in Resident Evil 4 into the form we know today. After being absent from the franchise for nearly a decade, it makes a return in Village with a somewhat different, level-based format as opposed to one continuous map with a time limit. Unfortunately, I find this level structure to not be as conducive to the pick-up-and-play nature that I personally want out of these sidemodes, feeling more like a commitment than something I can pick up for a few rounds and drop. Village has a large enemy roster which works very well for this type of mode, and in terms of combat, I find it quite satisfying to tear through enemies in ways that I would be unable to in the campaign. It's just that the level-based structure feels like it cuts the fun short. I'm all for Capcom experimenting with the Mercenaries format, but this I find to be a detriment. There's also not much variety to begin with - half of the levels are just harder versions of other levels and there's only one playable character, meaning that there's less to keep you playing after you've run it through once. It's also far more scripted than previous Mercs modes, with enemies appearing in the exact same ways no matter how much you replay. It's a decent enough time and I can't lie, I did have fun with it, but it does not have the staying power of any of the previous versions of Mercenaries. It's worth one playthrough, but that's about it.

I don't come to Capcom games in general for their writing. I usually find their scripts sloppy and or underbaked (obviously, this depends on the writer, there are well-written Capcom games), but RE7 was a large exception for me. While imperfect, I found it to be a captivating story with memorable characters, and I was excited to see the story of protagonist Ethan Winters continue. Unfortunately, I found Village falls into the same trappings I mentioned earlier. The scenario requires too much suspension of disbelief to be effective, and the moment Mother Miranda enters the picture is when a solid foundation crumbles beneath your feet. So many silly questions are raised by the narrative that are never answered - why didn't Chris just wait to kill Miranda when Ethan wasn't home? If he was going to do that anyway, why didn't he tell Ethan afterward? The latter is even addressed directly as a stupid idea later in the game, but that doesn't make it not, well, stupid. Miranda herself just isn't a particularly interesting or threatening antagonist either. While there is potential to her backstory, it feels like it's dumped on you in the last thirty minutes of the game. I'd argue that far too much of the game's narrative is withheld until the final act, which by then is too late to form any real connection to. The way in which the game prefers shock twists instead of developing growing intrigue and suspense over time frustrated me, especially after RE7 was able to do it so effectively. This means that genuinely interesting plot points - such as Ethan having been a mold creature from near the very beginning of RE7 - don't have the power, introspection, or development to feel impactful. Add on entirely unnecessary world setting retcons, such as Oswell Spencer getting the idea of the Umbrella Corporation from Miranda decades ago, and you have a game that insists upon its own importance while being no less stupid than, say, Resident Evil 5. There are positives though, and Capcom has succeeded fairly heavily in one department: character writing. Dimitrescu, Moreau, Beneviento, and Heisenberg became iconic parts of Resident Evil mythos almost instantly and people are still talking about them three years later. They're all characterized incredibly well, and the actors who perform them do an excellent job within their roles. Dimitrescu, despite her online status, is actually quite intimidating, Heisenberg is always a laugh with his faux-tough-guy personality reflecting that of an adolescent, and I felt more pity for Moreau and Beneviento than I expected. They steal the show, and rightfully so, and deserve to be remembered as fondly as they are. I just wish they were in a game that was more willing to explore its narrative beyond what it can "surprise" you with.

What you can typically expect from Capcom games, however, is a strong visual presentation. Village is no exception, and on a graphical level, it is unsurprisingly the best the franchise has ever looked up to this point. Pushing the RE Engine to it's absolute limits, Village absolutely screams "9th generation". Although I was impressed with the level of detail that RE2make was able to accomplish, Village pushes it to the next level. It's mindblowing how much microdetail Capcom has been able to achieve in this game. Everything looks near photorealistic, from the richly furnished hallways of Castle Dimitrescu, to the scattered and wrecked ruins of what was once a peaceful rural village, to the grand scale and steam of the underground factory. It's all densely detailed to excessive degrees. Asset fidelity is off the charts in this game, even smaller objects look far better than a lot of its contemporaries. The environments you explore are greatly varied and touch on all different genres of horror - the gothic horror of the Castle, the old monster movie flaire of the reservoir, the haunted house of House Beneviento, and the body-horror technohell of the factory. The monster designs in this game are generally stellar, taking from European mythology and their respective genres in ways that are interesting and refreshing. Top it all off with an excellent animated storybook sequence used as a narrative bookend and Village has some of the most stellar art direction the series has ever seen. It helps that the animation work in this game is utterly superb. Everything is fluid and natural, especially the lycans, whose bobbing and weaving throughout the environment looks unbelievably natural in how they respond to environmental turbulence. Characters are highly emotive, expressive, and realistic, and while there were a few moments in the prior RE Engine games where I could point out a few moments of unconvincing facial animation, I could find none such here. The devil's in the details here, and the frost on Dimitrescu's castle windows, the volumetric light beaming through Ethan's ruined home, and the snow visibly crunching under your feet are certainly devilish. If you've read my more recent RE reviews, you'll probably guess that I'm about to complain about the ray tracing again. Once again, it does generally improve the game's visual presentation; global illumination lights spaces far more realistically, with light bouncing around small spaces and generally just being more convincing. Ambient occlusion looks quite great, although it's sort of easy to disrupt it by repeatedly blocking in front of it, which isn't a huge deal but something I noticed. The ray traced reflections themselves however are once again below-par however. While they are still far better than screen-space reflections, they are quite low-resolution even at high settings, which is a bigger issue than previous games when this game features far more bodies of water than before, turning all liquid into pixellated mess. It's something that I hope Capcom eventually fixes with their RT implementation, because it means the game doesn't look quite as good as it should.

Performance for these modern RE games has been fairly variant, with some games running better than others but with consistent inconsistency being a regular issue. Village is another one of those strange ones - while the game does feature high-fidelity upscaling, it's once again an older version of FSR that butchers image quality, so it's not particularly helpful. Regardless, at (mostly) maximum settings in native 1440p, large stretches of the game run from around 100-130 FPS, and if the game mostly ran like this, I'd be pretty happy. Yet, there are still key, often baffling areas where performance drops low, oddly enough often in small rooms without a whole lot going on. My guess is that the global illumination is more concentrated in these rooms, and therefore more demanding? I dunno, once again the performance issues these games suffer with ray tracing enabled (or, at least, I think that's the issue) is fairly unacceptable to me and something I wish they'd fix in an update, but I know they likely won't.

Resident Evil Village was scored by the ever dependable Shusaku Uchiyama in collaboration with Nao Sato and a handful of other musicians. Uchiyama has always produced strong soundtracks for this franchise and Village isn't much different. Focusing on the franchise's recent trend of prioritizing realistic ambience above all else, Village is largely successful in conveying a smothering, choking atmosphere through its music. Rippling currents, undulating drones, anxious strings, and the occasional eerie vocalizations, it's all fits the snow-drenched, European atmosphere of the game quite effectively. Elements of in-universe sounds are used, such as wind chimes on "A Moment's Respite I", the game's initial save room theme, or the sounds of rattling bottles on "The Duke's Emporium". Action themes lean more into the generic, with Psycho strings, thundering pianos, and pounding percussion, though there are still memorable themes, such as "Acid Rain", Moreau's boss theme, whose uneasy notes and discordant rythyms properly convey the monster's painful writhing. Topping it off with Brian D'Oliveira's "Yearning for Dark Shadows", a delightfully gothic childhood nursey rhyme of a song with a strong vocal performance and beautiful strings, perfectly fitting the game's gestalt fairy tale themes. Is Village's score that memorable? Not necessarily; it isn't instantly memorable like say, RE2 or RE4, but it gets the job done with style and grace, even if it could stand to be more adventurous. My only complaint is that the volume is mixed pretty quietly in-game, even at maximum with the other sliders turned down.

Resident Evil Village, for better or for worse, is one of the most unique Resident Evil games by far. Completely unlike anything else in the franchise, what it brings to the table is fresh, new, and generally interesting. The excellent atmosphere, great action horror gameplay, stellar graphics and art direction, memorable characters, and solid scoring ultimately make for a good, if flawed Resident Evil experiment. Unfortunately, lazy and sloppy scriptwriting, inconsistent level design and overly basic puzzles are noticeable and difficult to ignore. Still, it's a game that tries a lot of things, and while it doesn't always succeed, I'm glad to see Capcom further experiment with the series. Obviously highly recommended to RE fans, but generally recommended to fans of action horror games as well.



Harlequin Fair: Harbour Dawn is the unexpected, borderline shadow-dropped free expansion pack for Oleander Garden's Hexcraft: Harlequin Fair. More of a challenge mode than a proper expansion, Harbour Dawn nonetheless carries more tricks up its sleeve than you'd expect. The expansion is much harder, with NPCs being more aggressive, requiring more aggressive min-maxing of your armor and tarot cards to succeed. There are a few more tiny areas, mostly in cyberspace that add to the surrealism of the game, but for the most part, you are trekking through the same levels largely unchanged. For Harbour Dawn's purposes this is fine, and considering how it's free, far shorter, and has far simpler completion requirements, I don't take too much issue with it. It's more Harlequin Fair, but when that game was so unique, is that a bad thing? The only issue I take with the expansion is the new final boss, which I find to be annoyingly combat-focused in a way that doesn't work in a game that has fairly mediocre combat to begin with. I eventually beat her, but it wasn't very fun. Ultimately, a solid expansion pack for those who loved Harlequin Fair and wanted more of it, though expect a far harder experience.

Traditional roguelikes (or as real ones say, simply roguelikes) have been a massive blindspot for me. It's such a niche genre that even the most popular games, such as Caves of Qud and Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup, I've only ever heard in passing and I'm unsure if I've even seen screenshots of either game. Well, there's no better time than the present, and over the past month, I've essentially been treating Brian Walker's Brogue as one of those old desktop games you play while doing homework.

That's not to say Brogue is simplistic, however. In fact, Brogue is very difficult and repeatedly kicked my balls until they were a red, pulsating, bloody mass. I often came away from the game frustrated and angry, only to relaunch it a few minutes later. It's not that Brogue is necessarily unfair, it's not, but the randomly generated nature of its level design and enemy placement does mean that there's a certain degree of unpredictability that leads to some runs being more difficult than others. I only got to depth 13 on my best run and felt I had gotten my fill by then. What kept me playing, then? Frankly, I didn't expect the game design to be as nuanced as it is. Brogue is a veritable sandbox in which you are given key items and are forced to make decisions in enemy and puzzle encounters with them. It's sort of similar to a survival horror game in this regard (though I'd never argue it is one), especially with how making bad moment-to-moment decisions can get you killed quickly. Items are typically not identified when you acquire them, requiring either usage or duration of time to discover their true properties. This can lead to dangerous scenarios if you're not careful. Putting on a powerful suit of armor will bite you later if you find out it's cursed after prolonged use. A random potion could turn out to be a potion of incineration and burn you to a crisp within seconds. These moment-to-moment decisions make Brogue rather stressful and tense, which is not what I expected at all from a (relatively) modern PC game less than four megabytes large. The environments you traverse are varied and often dangerous: pits of lava, fields of flammable grass, and goblin encampments with psychic totems. This means that Brogue is quite varied and you probably won't be getting bored if you have any proclivity with the genre. It shouldn't have to be stated that this game is the perfect "play while you're doing something else all day", and that's not to disparage it, the entirely turn-based nature means you can put it down and pick it up at any point without even having to pause it. There's not much to comment on visually, but I will say that the game's ASCII visuals are more detailed and dare I say beautiful than I expected. Bodies of water cycle colors between tiles which gives off the impression of undulating tides. Enemy visibility is great and each is given an easily identifiable ASCII symbol and color. More effort than I expected in that department.

If many roguelikes are of a similar quality to Brogue, I definitely want to explore the genre more. With a genre largely populated by hobbyists and genre enthusiasts, there's almost certainly no shortage of them. Brogue is a great game to get into roguelikes with, but beware of its high difficulty.