The dungeons of Castle Dimitrescu are dimly lit, and Rose steps forward with a rusted key in hand. Behind the door comes the voice of a young woman, begging Rose to run. But she stands firm, sliding the key inside of the lock, her face a picture of shock as the girl inside stumbles forward and spins around. Her face is the same as Rose’s, and within the confines of the castle, they are trapped inside the collective consciousness of the Megamycete and the horrors Rose has yet to fully behold.
Shadows of Rose is set some 15 years after the events of Resident Evil Village, which is a series first for how far it lurches forward into the future, unlike previous games or DLC that roughly took place around the same time as a game’s initial window of release.
While Rose played a seminal role in Village as a major plot device — we spent most of the game as her father, Ethan, searching for the various pieces of her literally dismembered body — she now stands as the protagonist of this relatively short DLC. Shadows of Rose is predicated on the idea that you understand her tumultuous upbringing as a teenage girl and BOW (a series acronym for Bio-Organic Weapon), much like in the vein of Resident Evil’s Sherry Birkin and Jake Muller. All in all, the new content does a good enough job of painting Rose’s insecurities that stem from her otherworldly powers, and the ridicule of others as a major point of contention in her life.
The one thing Rose wants, more than anything else, is to sever her connection with the Megamycete and become a “normal’’ teenage girl. After learning about a magical crystal that apparently has some kind of purifying effect on the mold festering within her body, she communes with a sample of the Megamycete (which Ethan and Chris fought at the end of Village) found at the Wolf Hound Squad headquarters (which is presumably still affiliated with the BSAA, but that is never clearly explained, much like a lot of things in Resident Evil). This plunges Rose into the memories of those that have died in close proximity to the massive, fungal hivemind, and she’s transported to an eerie, cerebral replica of Castle Dimitrescu, which her father knew so intimately when he was alive. In classic Resident Evil fashion, she must recover three masks in order to obtain the crystal and evade falling into the hands of a twisted version of the Duke (the merchant from Village) that has sent emaciated creatures to capture her.
Capcom does a decent job of setting this transition up through the use of liminal space, and masses of thick, dark red sludge to bar your path, forcing you down anterior hallways or entirely new rooms that weren’t available in Village. This includes an extended look at a library, more of Lady Dimitrescu’s personal chambers, and a more intimate look at the dungeons hidden deep beneath the bowels of the castle ramparts. Rooms connect in odd, dreamlike ways — they’re familiar, but not entirely familiar.
Rose immediately finds herself in a precarious situation, locked within the consciousness of the Megamycete and fighting for her life. With the help of her “guardian angel” Michael, who communicates with her via floating golden letters, Rose is set to task uncovering the whereabouts of the purifying crystal as she fights through swaths of long, gangly, homogenous enemies composed of ash-colored mold. Unfortunately, their design isn’t compelling enough to be frightening, nor is the hammer-wielding monstrosity that appears further in the DLC as a pursuer. Rather, it’s the doppelgangers of Rose scattered across the castle, and the resulting psychological terror of the protagonist, that fuels Shadows of Rose’s tension. Their faces are contorted and twisted into something resembling a Junji Ito illustration, naked teeth and gums set against swirling contortions of milky skin.
But Shadows of Rose doesn’t offer much outside of this initial fear. There isn’t any throughline of greater commentary. In fact, Rose suffers the same fate as her father, Ethan, in the narrative department; she’s a mere plot vehicle, as opposed to a character with a greater sense of her own agency, even when compared to one-off Resident Evil characters like Carlos Oliveira or Billy Coen. Much like Ethan was defined by his relation to his wife and daughter, so too is Rose solely defined by her role as a daughter. For all of the series’ missteps with characterization, there are some standouts (Moira Burton in Revelations 2 in particular) and it’s a shame that’s not the case here.
As for the gameplay? It’s fairly stock and standard. You can use Rose’s mold powers to temporarily halt enemies and solve environmental puzzles, but you’re also wielding a firearm to pepper enemies with bullets. The puzzles themselves are fairly uninvolved, and all too often require Rose to purify a mold-like flower that has taken over a room.
The third-person mode, however, feels significant, mostly because of how Rose controls by comparison. Whereas the third-person perspective in Village is largely a neat addition (which I found to be a nice throwback to the more modernized versions found in the Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil 3 remakes), it’s integral to Shadows of Rose’s mechanics. The cleansing mechanic is vital to progression, and aiming Rose’s arm toward any of these pustules of corruption while being chased down by enemies helps create a greater feeling of tension, since enemies may be just out of view. Aim assist absolutely doesn’t work as intended in third-person mode, which makes the game significantly more difficult when it’s turned on — in too many cases, it made me overcompensate when turning to face a monster, and I had to quickly readjust.
Regardless, third-person mode is another way to play Village, one of 2021’s best games, and one that I imagine die-hard fans will more than likely embrace — even if Capcom still makes it impossible to see Ethan’s face.
Shadows of Rose isn’t a spectacular DLC, and it doesn’t necessarily do or say anything meaningful. It feels like a B-tier horror film, which isn’t out of place for Resident Evil, though its sometimes self-serious tone can become tiring, especially after two whole games in the decidedly grim saga of the Winters family. Those invested in their narrative will find something to chew on, and the addition of the third-person perspective makes returning to the base game an exciting possibility. But it doesn’t do anything to further the narrative. Much like Rose herself, it feels less like a stepping stone in the franchise — a gentle nudge toward more plot points that will potentially remain unresolved for years to come.
Resident Evil Village Winters’ Expansion will be released on Oct. 28 on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Capcom. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.