Those who do manage to get their hands on this small yet delectable portion of the game are in for a treat. The demo, called “The Maiden,” showcases a different side of Resident Evil Village. As Capcom producer Peter Fabiano explained, it has no combat and no way to protect yourself, not even blocking. In many ways, it can be likened to Resident Evil 7’s “Kitchen” VR demo, or its “Beginning Hour” segment.
It seems as though this narrative slice is taking cues from games like Outlast, the survival horror franchise from developer Red Barrels, and the like, where there’s plenty of exploration to do, but no real way to fight back. All this is somewhat refreshing ground for the Resident Evil series to explore, even though the actual game will feature plenty more combat.
The demo opens with the titular maiden stuck in a dark, moist cell with nothing but a stone wall, a plate of moldy bread and shackles behind her. The first objective is to find a way out, of course, and there are a few clever ways to go about searching the cell to do so.
There are some particularly grisly ways to pull it off involving copious amounts of blood and pulling a pair of pliers from the back of some unfortunate woman who apparently also thought it a good idea to mount an escape.
There are several crawlspaces to facilitate a clean exit at first, punctuated by a few disturbing sights, such as victims of hanging, pools of blood and enough agonizing steel devices to put Ripley's New York's Torture Chamber to shame. There's also a series of particularly stomach-churning masks, including one with what appear to be keys that swivel into a victim’s eye sockets. It's all very gruesome and horror buffs will enjoy every minute.
Eventually, the dungeon makes way to a massive, gorgeous mansion with lavish decor, plenty of golden furniture, busts, beautiful carpeting and fine china. It’s befitting of the lady of the house and her daughters. The insinuation is that players take on a “maiden” who’s been selected (read: kidnapped) and yanked into the dungeon below to help produce a special wine with a name that translates to, well, “maiden’s blood.” But there’s no grapes involved, and it’s assumed that the maiden is simply going to be drained of her blood if she doesn’t make a break for it.
The game doesn’t come out and say the three young women and (giant goth) mother Lady Alcina Dimitrescu are vampire witches or something of the sort, but they don’t seem too far off. Though most vampire lore doesn’t tell of the fiends transforming into swarms of insects a la D’Vorah from Mortal Kombat. They’re large and in charge and certainly imposing and while there isn’t that much of a taste of what they’re capable of beyond a few close encounters, it’s clear they’re going to be a pain when the full game launches.
The daughters swarm around the level in certain areas and will eventually sap the maiden’s health away if she stays too close to them for too long. Otherwise, they aren’t much of a threat and aren’t actively trying to keep the maiden from escaping, though due to the PS5’s 3D Audio, every single footstep is positively nerve-wracking. It’s clear the women are watching and could swoop in at any moment. Played with or without a headset, the sound design is impeccable. Though Capcom refers to this slice as a “visual demo,” it’s clearly very impressive in the sound department as well.
The majority of the demo is spent stumbling around the mansion exploring, taking in lore and quickly seeking a way out through a couple of shorter puzzles. There are some notes for flavor, and the picture painted here is bleak: the women don’t like the cold, and they threw some of the help into the dungeon for daring to open a window. That individual is likely the same one who helped the maiden enact a plan to escape.
Even though there’s a way to leave the ornate mansion, the maiden’s freedom isn’t really guaranteed. Her journey swiftly comes to an end as Alcina thrusts open the doors and greets her, commenting on the pair’s first meeting. She's also brandishing a set of some seriously sharp blades on her hand, a la Freddy Krueger (it’s probably quite obvious how this encounter ends).
The demo draws to a close shortly thereafter and it typically runs around 20 minutes for a single playthrough. With few traditional “secrets” as of yet, it’s a good current speedrun candidate for anyone who isn’t scared out of their wits by shadow women who transform into insect swarms rocking bloody mouths.
All joking aside, the first taste of Resident Evil Village is a phenomenal one. It’s short, but incredibly sweet, setting an intriguing tone for a type of horror the series hasn’t seen in some time. It should be satisfying to see what happens with the full game when it drops, but hopefully the maiden’s story continues long before May 7 rolls around.
Photo courtesy of Capcom