Resident Evil Village is out now, and unsurprisingly, the newest entry in Capcom’s beloved survival horror franchise has been enjoying great critical and commercial success. As a celebration of the series’ 25th anniversary, Village not only feels like a greatest hits horror theme park ride that pulls in the best elements from throughout the series’ history, but also as something that is wholly unique and much more ambitious than most Resident Evil games to date. Before the game’s launch, we reached out to its development team to get some insight into some of those elements of the experience, and ended up learning quite a bit in the process. You can read our interview with producer Tsuyoshi Kanda below.
NOTE: This interview was conducted prior to the game’s launch.
"The development team as a whole always tries to approach every new installment with a blank slate so that we’re able to exercise our creative juices. Once we’re able to weed out and revise our list of ideas, that’s when we start figuring out how it all fits together, not only in the Resident Evil universe, but with other more granular things like gameplay mechanics and game balance."
Fans have obviously noticed the Umbrella logo being featured quite prominently a few times in the game’s trailers, and it’s been said a few times that Resident Evil Village serves as a culmination of the series’ 25-year history. With all of that in mind, how heavily can players expect the game’s story to tie into plot elements and arcs from previous entries?
I don’t want to delve too much into the story itself, since I don’t want to spoil the game for those who haven’t played it. However, what I can say is that we are very conscious of the fact that the world of Resident Evil has existed for over two decades at this point, and that it’s important to keep things consistent and coherent from one title to another. However, we also don’t want it to impede our creativity. The development team as a whole always tries to approach every new installment with a blank slate so that we’re able to exercise our creative juices. Once we’re able to weed out and revise our list of ideas, that’s when we start figuring out how it all fits together, not only in the Resident Evil universe, but with other more granular things like gameplay mechanics and game balance.
There are so many ways that Resident Evil Village is taking cues from RE4, which is great to see, since RE4 is one of the best instalments in the series- but at what point in the game’s development did the team decide to use it as inspiration for Resident Evil Village? Was it always the plan from the get go, or was it something that came about organically during development?
The initial development of Resident Evil Village actually began months before the release of Resident Evil 7 biohazard. We were hesitant on defining a clear direction without seeing how the 7th main installment was received, but one of the concepts that we had was expanding upon the mansion setting in a more literal sense. We wanted to expand upon many different aspects introduced in RE7, such as the characters, story, environments, and enemies. As such, we literally expanded the mansion environment into a village setting. Since Resident Evil 4 was also set in a rural village, it was only natural that we drew a lot of inspiration from it when setting out on developing Resident Evil Village.
What was behind the decision to stick with a first person perspective? Given the popularity of the RE2 and 3 remakes, was there ever a conversation during development to have an over-the-shoulder perspective for RE Village?
Considering we had started development before the launch of Resident Evil 7 biohazard, there was definitely a fair amount of apprehension on how the change in camera perspective would be received by the fans. Even though RE7 was a strong homage to the first installment of the franchise and a genuine goal to tap into the roots of survival horror, it introduced a lot of new elements to the franchise as well. We had also introduced a brand new character, Ethan Winters, but rather than pushing him to the forefront, he acted more as a player avatar as well.
Fortunately, RE7 was met with a strong amount of positive reception, and it served not only as a huge sigh of relief, but also helped build the direction for Resident Evil Village. It was at that point that we decided to keep the next installment in a first person perspective, continuing the viewpoint and storyline of Ethan Winters.
"Since Resident Evil 4 was also set in a rural village, it was only natural that we drew a lot of inspiration from it when setting out on developing Resident Evil Village."
Can you talk to us about the guarding mechanic works in Resident Evil Village? At first glance, it seems similar to how players could guard against attacks in Resident Evil 7, but it seems like it’s going to be a much more important mechanic this time around. Is that the case?
The base guarding mechanic works the same way as before, but if you press it again right after guarding, you can kick an enemy away. One of the goals in Resident Evil Village was to offer the player more variety both in terms of the types of enemies that Ethan encounters as well as how they can engage enemies and the arsenal of weaponry at his disposal. The enemies in Resident Evil Village have varying ways of attacking, so players will need to adjust their strategies too. We wanted players to have a sense of freedom in being able to choose if and how they want to engage enemies, and which weapon suits their playstyle best. While some players may choose to play things safe and snipe enemies from afar, some more daring players may want to get up close and personal with a shotgun. We figured that the kick mechanic to create space between Ethan and his attackers would be a good mechanic for these types of players, especially on higher difficulties, even if it’s just to create space and buy time to figure out their next move.
Level design has always been a crucial pillar of the Resident Evil franchise, and it’s an area where Village seems particularly fascinating. It’s looking like the game is going to be much more expansive and vertical than other instalments, but apart from that, will Village also have the layered, inter-connected level design that series fans are used to?
The environments are more open in the world of Resident Evil Village compared to the claustrophobic and compact environments of its predecessor. However, players can still find the same philosophies of game design intact, where they may come across areas that aren’t immediately accessible. The satisfaction of picking up a new item and remembering where to utilize it is very much still there. With a more expansive environment, we also wanted to reward players struck with wanderlust, so we also designed the environments to reward those who go off the beaten path and explore a bit.
Resident Evil is always trying to strike a balance between action and horror. Resident Evil 7 leaned heavily in the latter’s favour, but Village seems to have more action-focused elements as well. What sort of a balance does it strike between the two?
Resident Evil 7 biohazard very much reflected a genuine effort to go back to our roots and create a title that evoked the level of fear offered by the first installment of the franchise. The positive reception we received after it launched was incredibly validating and the development team as a whole was both relieved and very happy.
At the same time, we also heard some fans say that the game was too scary. We want Resident Evil to be accessible to as many people as possible, so Resident Evil Village did take on a more action-oriented approach. That’s not to say that the level of fear isn’t there though. Fans of horror can rest assured that the peaks in horror are still there, if not even more terrifying than its predecessor.
"We want Resident Evil to be accessible to as many people as possible, so Resident Evil Village did take on a more action-oriented approach."
It might be a bit too early to ask about this, but do you have any post-launch plans for Resident Evil Village? Especially with the Mercenaries now confirmed to be in the game, the game seems particularly rife for post-launch support.
We have made no announcements about post-launch content. However, anyone who purchases Resident Evil Village gets free access to the online multiplayer experience Resident Evil Re:Verse, which will go live in Summer 2021.