Castle Dimitrescu was one of the many highlights of Resident Evil Village, so it makes sense that Capcom are returning to it in the game's upcoming DLC adventure, Shadows Of Rose. Set 16 years after the events of Village, this story expansion centres on Rose, the daughter of Village protagonist Ethan Winters, as she comes to terms with her emerging mold powers. She was just a teeny, tiny baby when her dad was fighting off the very tall vampire lady in the base game, but now she's all grown up and wants to be rid of the supernatural spore abilities that have been plaguing her family ever since the events of Resident Evil 7.
It's not yet clear what role Lady D's castle has to play in Rose's journey, but man, it sure is nice to be back roaming its ornate hallways again. Or rather it would be, if it weren't for all the ashen mold men stalking its corridors, and its rather gross (but strangely hypnotic) rivers of undulating strawberry jam gore that have been plastered all over the walls, floor and ceiling. Ach, now it's on my shoes. Great. And the gate's locked behind me. Fantastic. I knew coming back here would be a bad idea…
Technically, I don't think this is the actual Castle Dimitrescu you were rocking about in Village; rather, it seems to be a version of it that exists inside the wider consciousness of that evil weaponised mold… creature, organism, thing. Goodness knows. Visually, though, it's exactly the same castle you remember, with all its fancy pants décor and Lady D's oversized vampire dresses still hanging up in her copious wardrobe collection. Lady D, of course, was nowhere to be seen during my hands on demo, but a masked version of the also extremely large Duke, known here as the Marquis, definitely was, and he's out to get poor Rose if it's the last thing he does.
Having been dropped into the expansion a little ways into the main story, I can't tell you why the masked Marquis has such big beef with Rose, or why either of them are hanging out in Lady D's castle in the first place. It may have something to do with that other Rose running around that we glimpsed in that very first teaser trailer for it (see below). A case of mistaken identity, perhaps? Or maybe it's the mold just playing one big deadly mind trick on everyone. We'll have to wait until it comes out properly on October 28th before we can know for sure.
Needless to say, there are just as many nasty things waiting to gloop out of the ceiling for Rose as there were for her dad in this version of Castle D, and man alive, this is some potent nightmare fuel, all right. From afar, they're not too bad – yer classic grey shamblers who lurch and lunge at you to grasp your tiny shoulders. Only these molders aren't sinking their teeth into your neck this time round. Rather, they're sucking your face into a terrifying tentacle vortex so they can absorb your flesh into their jammy entrails. It's kinda horrifying, and not something you want to happen often.
Indeed, these grabs take quite the toll on Rose's health, so you'll only be able to survive a couple of them before she's dragged down into the gunge for good. Luckily, Rose can fight back using her own moldy powers to counter and push them away so she can get a few more shots in. I only had a pistol in my preview build (although I did spy a shotgun locked away in a cabinet), but the gunplay feels more or less identical to the original Village.
The key difference is that I was playing Shadows Of Rose in third-person – another new addition for the Winters' Expansion pack. This over the shoulder perspective can be applied to the base game as well, no doubt making a marked difference to its default first-person viewpoint. Here, though, it felt very much akin to the Resident Evil 2 and 3 Remakes, creating tighter, more intimate camera angles when you're staring down the barrel of your gun, and jacking up the tension when you're trying to manoeuvre tank-style out of harm's way. The castle setting might be the familiar, but this change in control scheme is just enough to make its polished floors and corridors feel fresh and dangerous again, especially when those aforementioned jam rivers are now taking you on a different path through the mansion and can slurp out enemies when you least expect it.
The main goal of my demo was to find a strange crystal, which was handily locked away inside a cage by the Marquis in the castle's main hall. To open it, I had to find three metal masks and place them on the marble statues surrounding it. A classic Resident Evil item puzzle, in other words - and I saw plenty more intricate lock puzzles slapped across other doors and display cases that will no doubt play a role in Rose's journey later on.
Before that, though, a strange invisible force seemed to be guiding Rose outside to the central courtyard, leaving messages in the furniture for her to follow. Rose is able to converse with these entity and have short conversations with it, acting as both as handy objective guide and, occasionally, a refuel station if it senses you're low on ammo or could do with another green herb. Of course, this being Resident Evil, you can almost guarantee there's more to this spirit than meets the eye here, but for now it seemed friendly, and was a welcome, if silent, companion on our tour through the castle.
As with the original Village, the path you take through Castle D is pretty linear to start off with, with plenty of locked doors, barricaded entrances and those globs of "gross lumpy things" (Rose's words, not mine) blocking your path. Eventually, though, Rose gains more powers to help clear the way and open it up again. The first is a kind of focus blast that lets her destroy 'mold cores' – big purple and red flower type things that seem to be growing in all sorts of nooks and crannies around the castle. Sometimes they're obvious, but others will need you to follow throbbing red tendrils in order to locate them. Aim your mold laser mind powers at these cores and the gunge pouring out of them will turn harden and disintegrate into ash, leaving the floor beneath good as new. Eradicating these cores not only created new pathways through the castle, but many also held additional items within, such as ammo, health or crafting items. Resources felt scarce in my preview build, so you'll want to seek out these extra jam caches whenever you see one – especially since there didn't seem to be any limit on how often or long Rose could focus for.
The second power I came across, though, definitely did have a limit on it, represented by three small bloom puffs sprouting out of some white veins in the bottom right corner of the screen. This power let Rose control the flow of time, slowing down enemy movements so she can either slip past them or land some more precise headshots, for example. I can bet you this one will result some very frantic munching of white sage plants (the item you need to restore these puffballs) during boss battles and the like, and while I did see a boss-style character during my demo, my build sadly came to an end before I got the chance to really put this slow mo power through its paces.
Still, while my demo build was only fairly short, the combination of Rose's spore powers, the third-person perspective and the remixed route all added up to make this feel substantially different to my first encounter with Castle D back in the base game. I'm intrigued to find out more about the deal with the Marquis, and whether Rose will learn to love her moldy spore blood by the time the end credits hit, or whether she'll pull a Jill Valentine and end up going full on evil and get set up as next Resident Evil game's main villain. I certainly wouldn't want to be on the other side of her slow mo mold blasts, that's for sure. In any case, we won't have to wait long to find out, as Shadows Of Rose (and the rest of the Winters' Expansion pack) is arriving on Steam on October 28th next month for £16/€20/$20. It will also be included as part of the Resident Evil Village Gold Edition.