Rosemary's Dad

Monday 14 November 2022

Shadows of Rose was released recently, as a complementary content for Resident Evil: Village, which, upon ending, informed us that "the father's story is now done", presumably opening the path for the daughter, Rosemary, although whether she will indeed become the lead of one or more games in the future is quite unclear, just as unclear is her role and presence in her own DLC story. Rosemary Winters was introduced to us abruptly as a baby at the start of Village, and we also had the chance to see her as a teenager in the game's ending cutscene. In Shadows of Rose, we get to play as her in third person, while following her in an attempt to get rid of the powers that she had inherited from Ethan. To do so, she needs to mentally travel to another realm where she will have to face monsters of various kinds and finally come face to face with Miranda herself. 

Rosemary, as Lord Heisenberg informed Ethan in the main game, is supposed to be an extremely powerful kid, but what her powers are and what exactly they can do, is as vague as her father's in-game face. When, early in the DCL story, she realizes that she can actually freeze enemies, she gets shocked, which means that up to that point she was unable to do such a thing, which in turn inevitably makes you wonder where exactly her infamous powers did lie until then. In reality, they seem to be literally asleep for most part of the game, and as she is struggling to survive in the most hostile environments, she moreover needs about half a dozen amplifiers, plus the final boost from Ethan, to help her powers reach their full level. This basically means that, in her normal life, her so-called powers must have been rather limited and if she had never traveled to that realm, she would have never been able to develop them and no one, not even her, would have been able to know what she was capable of, something that almost cancels Heisenberg's earlier comment about her. To add insult to injury, she cannot run to save her life (literally). You would expect a slender and swift girl in her mid-teens to be running as fast as the wind but no, why would she? There are sequences where she is hunted by face-eating monsters or evil mannequins or hammer-yielding giants and she can do no more than drag her feet so painfully slowly that you may find yourself desperately looking for a fast-forward button on your controller or keyboard.

That said, the DLC suffers from both technical and fiction-related flaws. From the technical aspect, apart from the extremely slow movement that Rosemary has throughout the whole story (she is even slower than Lara Croft in The Angel of Darkness, and honestly I never thought this was even possible but as it turns out, it is), she is rather clumsly with guns - which may be partly natural since she is a civilian, but growing up under the custody of Chris Redfield with several agents in the training constantly around her, you would expect her to have learned a thing or two. To make things even worse, because she reaches the full level of her powers just before the final boss fight, this is exactly where you get to learn her new moves. It is such a waste of good gameplay options, since you get to use said new moves against the final boss only, minutes before the story reaches its conclusion.

Fiction-wise, the story has several plot holes, and in fact Shadows of Rose was not exactly a necessary addition. The fact that Ethan was the one to offer Rosemary the strongest boost, basically means that he was super powerful himself. Mind you, Miranda had ripped his heart off and he got caught in the grand explosion that he caused himself in the village, yet he was still able to manifest in Miranda's domain, just like she did, therefore he was nearly as powerful as Miranda was. This combined with the regenerative powers that he already had from the mold, made him super-humanly strong, practically nullifying his demise in the main game. Although the DLC is titled after Rosemary, it is actually Ethan who carries the strongest part, both metaphorically and literally, while Rosemary is way too weak until the finale, where her powers may look impressive, but the whole sequence feels more like a quick time event and less like an actual interactive boss fight.

It would have been much more intriguing if, in the main game, we had Ethan, still unaware of his own powers at the start, interacting with those weird amplifiers and gradually becoming stronger, finally understanding that he is not an ordinary human being anymore; and then in that scene where Eveline reveals to him the shocking truth about his death, he would come to realize that he was actually superhuman, rising over all evil in the village and defeating Miranda in a most impressive way. If this was how the story unraveled, there would be practically no need for Rosemary's extra story, which feels nearly unnecessary anyway since she ends up with her powers not only intact but also boosted up, therefore we are back at point zero. The only essential part of the story is her meeting with Ethan, which could have easily been the most interesting plot point of the DLC and would have made our struggle worthwhile but sadly it is void of all emotion because, guess what: again we are unable to see Ethan's face or watch his reactions in what could have been one of the most touching, heartbreaking and memorable scenes of the whole saga. During the most crucial instances, his face is blocked by Rosemary's arm or his own arm, then we get to see his back while he is talking to his daughter, a scene that could have stayed with us forever but instead all we get is a bland-feeling dialogue because we can't even see a hint of Ethan's expressions as he is looking at and speaking to Rosemary.

Other than all that, the DLC feels a lot like a superficial copy of The Evil Within 2 at times, what with Rosemary traveling inside her gray matter via the mutamycete and the evil mastermind wanting to take advantage of the girl's powers. Also if you have read Mexican Gothic, the whole idea of the fungus that is "recording" people's memories will feel familiar to you. Even so, there are some really good sequences in the story, like the painting puzzle in the Castle and the whole House section which is very atmospheric and creepy, although the first half with the diorama puzzles is definitely its best part. The second section, which is basically an extended stealth hide-and-seek, feels and looks very interesting when it comes to avoiding the floating dolls (an intense sequence accompanied by a discreet, creepily beautiful music) but trying to escape the giant Mia mannequins is so exhausting due to Rosemary's slow-motion running, that it ends up more annoying than scary. And I really could have done without Eveline's hysterics. I also loved the Duke's new look, although it is unclear why he is so mean towards Rosemary, while he had been so helpful with Ethan.
Overall, Shadows of Rose does have its own merit, but it feels more like an unnecessary chore in relation with the main game. And I am not very sure if I will be interested in playing a possible future Resident Evil with Rosemary Winters as the main protagonist, because as much as I generally like her, she is too weak and indifferent as a character of fiction and lacks too much background to hold a story on her own. I would be more keen on playing a game with Jake Muller or Sherry Birkin as leads, for instance, who are not only strongly connected to the saga's core, but they still are literally and directly the new blood of the Resident Evil series.
» My playthrough of "Shadows of Rose":


Mar Lox said...

Loved the wink at Rosemary's Baby! Great article.

hisbrokenbutterfly said...

@Mar Lox, thank you!