It looks as if Resident Evil Village will follow in its predecessor’s footsteps by mixing up the Resident Evil formula again. RE7 brought the mainline series into a first-person perspective, hoping to recapture the survival horror roots of the series. The effort was largely successful, especially when played in VR, a feature that will be missing in Village. As a direct sequel to RE7, Village is keeping protagonist Ethan Winters and the first-person mechanics, but will make huge strides in an attempt to provide a more open game world for the player.
Typically, Resident Evil games are quite limited in their settings, especially the earlier entries. The maps are usually not very large and operate as a sort of maze, with many locked doors that guide the player along an intended path. Resident Evil 4 and others got away from this quite a bit, and RE5 and RE6 especially were criticized for moving the series toward the action shooter genre. RE7 impressed with its limited setting at the Baker plantation, bringing back the claustrophobia and puzzle-like nature of the buildings. Village will have to perform a balancing act with its open map and survival horror elements, and hopefully not stray too far from the tone set by RE7.
This is the exact dichotomy that developers Morimasa Sato and Tsuyoshi Kanda – Village‘s director and producer – discussed with IGN in an interview about Village being a direct sequel to RE7, but taking heavy inspiration from RE4. “If you give the player freedom in a wider area, it becomes easy to lose track of the next objective. On the other hand, if you guide the player too much, you lose that sense of freedom. We went through a lot of trial and error to get that balance right,” said Kanda.
The titular village in RE8 will be vitally important to the gameplay. As such, Sato and Kanda say the development team put a lot of effort into making the exploration worthwhile. “There are many houses you can completely ignore, but as we feel it’s important to reward the player’s eagerness to explore, there will always be something interesting to discover,” Sato told IGN. Combing through rooms for items isn’t new to Resident Evil, but the scope of an entire village being explorable is something the series hasn’t approached before.
Sato is confident that Capcom has succeeded in creating a sufficiently large game world with open environments in RE8, saying “if you want to experience everything, it’s really going to take you a long time.” This sounds great for players who want a more open-ended experience, but many Resident Evil fans might be worried that the wealth of explorable territory will lead to an abundance of resources.
The developers recognize this caveat, but claim the “broader experience” will help players who do not enjoy the consistent stressfulness of other RE games by offering “a change in pace, and [includes] elements that afford the player a feeling of safety.” The exact scope of open environments and Resident Evil Village‘s leniency on survival horror will have to be found out by the players when the game releases on May 7.