The Dimitrescu castle dungeons are dimly lit and Rose steps forward with a rusty key in her hand. Behind the door comes the voice of a young woman, begging Rose to run. But she stands firm, slipping the key inside the lock, her face a picture of shock as the girl inside stumbles forward and turns. His face is the same as Rose’s, and within the confines of the castle they are trapped in the collective consciousness of the megafungus and the horrors Rose has yet to fully see.
Shadows of Rose takes place some 15 years after the events of Resident Evil Villagewhich is a series first to see how far it goes into the future, unlike previous games or DLC which took place around the same time as a game’s initial release window.
While Rose was instrumental in Town as a major plot device – we spent most of the game as her father, Ethan, searching for the various pieces of his literally dismembered body – she is now the protagonist of this relatively short DLC. Shadows of Rose is grounded in the idea that you understand her tumultuous upbringing as a teenager and BOW (a series acronym for Bio-Organic Weapon), much like in the vein of Sherry Birkin and Jake Muller from Resident Evil. Overall, the new content does a pretty good job of painting Rose’s insecurities that stem from her otherworldly powers and ridicule from others as a major point of contention in her life.
The one thing Rose wants, more than anything else, is to sever her connection to the megafungus and become a “normal” teenager. After learning of a magic crystal that apparently has some sort of cleansing effect on the festering mold in her body, she communes with a sample of the megafungus (which Ethan and Chris battled at the end of Town) found at Wolf Hound Squad headquarters (which is presumably still affiliated with the BSAA, but this is never clearly explained, much like many things in Resident Evil). This immerses Rose in the memories of those who died near the massive fungal hive mind, and she is transported to a strange cerebral replica of Castle Dimitrescu, which her father knew so intimately while alive. In classic Resident Evil fashion, she must collect three masks in order to obtain the crystal and avoid falling into the hands of a twisted version of the Duke (the merchant of Town) who sent emaciated creatures to capture her.
Capcom does a decent job of setting up this transition through the use of liminal space and masses of thick, dark red mud to block your path, forcing you down past hallways or entirely new rooms that don’t were not available in Town. This includes an extended look at a library, more of Lady Dimitrescu’s personal chambers, and a more intimate look at the dungeons hidden deep beneath the bowels of the castle ramparts. The pieces connect in strange, dreamlike ways – they’re familiar, but not entirely familiar.
Rose immediately finds herself in a precarious situation, locked in the consciousness of the megamycete and fighting for her life. With the help of her “guardian angel” Michael, who communicates with her via floating golden letters, Rose is tasked with discovering the whereabouts of the Purifier Crystal as she fights through gangs of long, lanky, and homogeneous compounds composed of ashen-colored mold. . Unfortunately, their design isn’t compelling enough to be scary, nor is the hammer-wielding monstrosity that appears later in the DLC as a pursuer. Rather, it’s the Rose look-alikes scattered throughout the castle, and the resulting psychological terror for the protagonist, that fuels Shadows of Roseit’s the voltage. Their faces are distorted and twisted into something like a Junji Ito illustration, bare teeth and gums against swirling contortions of milky skin.
But Shadows of Rose doesn’t offer much beyond that initial scare. There is no greatest comment guideline. In fact, Rose suffers the same fate as her father, Ethan, in the narrative department; she’s a mere plot vehicle, as opposed to a character with a greater sense of her own agency, even compared to unique Resident Evil characters like Carlos Oliveira or Billy Coen. Just as Ethan was defined by his relationship with his wife and daughter, Rose is also defined solely by her role as a daughter. For all the series missteps with characterization, there are a few highlights (Moira Burton in Revelations 2 in particular) and it is a pity that this is not the case here.
As for the gameplay? It’s pretty stock and standard. You can use Rose’s mold powers to temporarily stop enemies and solve environmental puzzles, but you also wield a gun to pelt enemies with bullets. The puzzles themselves are fairly straightforward and all too often require Rose to purify a mold-like flower that has invaded a room.
The third-person mode, however, feels important, mostly due to how well Rose controls by comparison. While the third-person perspective in Town is largely a neat addition (which I found to be a nice throwback to the more modernized versions found in the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes), it is an integral part of Shadows of Rosethe mecanic. The clearing mechanic is key to progression, and aiming Rose’s arm at one of those Corruption Pustules while being chased by enemies helps create a greater sense of tension, as enemies can be just out of seen. Aim assist absolutely doesn’t work as intended in third person mode, making the game much more difficult when enabled – in too many cases it caused me to overcompensate when turning to face a monster, and I had to readjust quickly.
Anyway, third person mode is another way to play Townone of the best games of 2021, and one that I imagine hardcore fans will more than likely embrace – even if Capcom still prevents seeing Ethan’s face.
Shadows of Rose isn’t spectacular DLC, and it doesn’t necessarily do or say anything significant. It feels like a B-grade horror movie, which is out of place for Resident Evil, though its occasionally serious tone can get tiresome, especially after two full games in the Winters family’s decidedly sinister saga. Those invested in their narrative will find something to chew on, and the addition of third-person perspective makes returning to the base game an exciting possibility. But that does nothing to advance the narrative. Much like Rose herself, it feels less like a stepping stone into the franchise – a slight nudge towards more plot points that will potentially remain unresolved for years to come.
Resident Evil Village Winters Expansion will be released on October 28 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Capcom. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, although Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased through affiliate links. You can find additional information on Polygon’s ethics policy here.