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- Resident Evil: Village
Resident Evil has never had many brainbuster puzzles. Sure, some require a bit of thinking (the chess plug puzzle in RE2 remake comes to mind), but nothing that requires more than simple logic and memorization to complete. However, recent main series entries, Resident Evil Village included, have regressed from even that, relegating each “puzzle” to simply grabbing an item and putting it in the right place or rotating something to fit in a slot correctly.
Why doesn’t Resident Evil Village have better puzzles?
Resident Evil 7, for all its survival horror goodness, lacked any puzzles outside of the birthday room. There were the shadow figures, but that just required the player to rotate an item and could be brute-forced relatively easily. However, I can get the game design limitations with RE7. Any puzzles had to fit into one of three environments (house, boat, salt mines), and at that point, the series was still at least trying to make a bit of sense.
With Resident Evil Village, all bets are off. Ethan faces down werewolves, vampires, gargoyles, cyborg soldiers, and mermen across a myriad of environments. The almost nonsensical plot of RE8 provides quite the spectacle, but there’s only one multi-step puzzle in the game involving four statues that players must rotate in Castle Dimitrescu, and it’s extremely easy to solve. The devs could have let their imaginations run wild with the puzzles in this game, but the ones we got felt half-hearted.
Some would call the House Beneviento section of the game a puzzle, but that’s not the case. Your entire time there is heavily choreographed, and there’s nothing to throw you off track. The music box puzzle requires you to match up scratches, the film order puzzle is spelled out for you in a nearby file, and everything else is just a matter of putting items in the right spot. Given how simple the conundrums she presents you with are, it’s as if Donna Beneviento wants you to win. The atmosphere obscures this during a first playthrough, but subsequent journeys through the Beneviento Estate became more irritating than horrifying.
In addition to being simple, puzzles in Resident Evil Village don’t have any variation. They don’t change based on what difficulty you’re playing on or with RNG. So, every playthrough is the exact same, every single time. Older Resident Evil titles have the same issue (save the original RE3) but make up for it by having excellent (for the most part) puzzle design. On the flip side, the most “puzzle-heavy” area in RE Village is House Beneviento, and it’s more memorable for a giant, syrupy fetus creature than anything.
If Capcom is going to up the ante on the action in the series (again), it needs to temper it with something cerebral. RE Village seems to signal that the series is backing away from survival horror, and the lack of puzzles is a big indicator that Capcom is about to make the same mistakes that it did before.
The first puzzle players encounter in the original Resident Evil 2 is located on the second floor of the west wing of the RPD. There, you have to push two statues into the correct position to obtain one of the red jewels. It’s a simple puzzle, but it’s one I’ll never forget because of how provocative it is. You don’t even need the red jewel at that point in the game, but the way it’s designed makes you want to solve it. It breaks up your frantic run from the first licker and the zombies on the first floor and relaxes the pacing just enough for you to catch your breath.
Capcom should endeavor to create more puzzles like the one above. Continually throwing the player into action numbs the horror elements of the game. Well-designed puzzles can break this up and create an atmosphere of mystery and suspense while also giving the player a disguised period of respite which leads back into exhilaration as the player discovers what secrets solving the puzzle revealed. Resident Evil Village lacks this crucial payoff that’s a hallmark of the series, and I sincerely hope the developers reexamine puzzle design and progression in future entries.