Hot on the heels of Love Your Backlog 2021, we have Maybe in March! :D It’s an event hosted by Kim of Later Levels wherein we pull out one of the games left languishing in our backlog for perhaps a little too long and take it for a spin.
Last year, I chose Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
I didn’t exactly love it, which was a shame. I’d really quite liked the original when it came out but it seems the sensibilities of games — and mine with them — had moved on a little too much since this came out and I struggled to even get through the very, very, very long tutorial. I occasionally wonder whether it was actually this or just how tired I was when I tried it though… Although that’s a test for another day, perhaps.
This time around, I picked The Evil Within 2 and not to spoil too much… I’ve quite enjoyed it! (Although I still haven’t finished it yet.)
The Evil Within 2 came out October 2017, developed by Tango Gameworks as their second ever title.1 Their studio head and founder — Shinji Mikami — was with Capcom since the late 80’s though. He was also responsible for the creation of the Resident Evil series of games.
So there is definitely a bit of a pedigree here!
I’m not overly familiar with the Resident Evil series of games. As in- I never played the originals. The first one I ever attempted to play was Resident Evil 5. And that was on PC where the control scheme was terrible. I didn’t try again until Resident Evil VII on a whim went it went on sale one day. And loved it. I’ve since picked up the remake of Resident Evil 2 but I haven’t yet finished it.
All of which to say, while I don’t have a tonne of experience with the RE works, I can see some of the influences.
Having said that, there are a LOT of different styles going on at different moments of the game. There is psychological thriller. Straight up monster-horror. Survival shooter. Stealth action. Open-world exploration.
What perhaps amazes me the most is how well these seemingly disparate elements all come together so well, woven together by the narrative of the game.
My only real complaint so far is one I recognise as being almost solely of my own making. That being that while in the open-world portions I wished the narrative elements would come a little more quickly. Of course, I’m thinking this while running from side-objective to side-objective. The main story is right there for me to go to — but I just haven’t quite broken free of the need to check out everything yet.
I will though. And ‘How Long to Beat’ tells me once I do the median time to complete the game main story is only about 13 hours so it doesn’t seem a game that will outstay its welcome.
The story is well over the top- but I’m finding it compelling even so. The game starts with reliving the tragic loss of your daughter in a house fire. Some years pass and perhaps understandably, Detective Sebastian Castellanos — your character, from both the original game and this one — has become something of a wreck.
Until a familiar face from the first game — someone who in the course of that game, you found out wasn’t quite who they claimed — turns up to break you from your stupor. With the news that your daughter isn’t actually dead after all. Rather she was abducted by Mobius — creators of STEM.
If you missed the first game, STEM is essentially a virtual world. Hosted by the core. A host brain.
The first game’s events largely happened because the first brain they tried to use as a ‘core’ was freaking insane.
Mobius learnt their lesson… well… *A* lesson. They did not learn the lesson that this was a bad idea and that they shouldn’t do it. No. They realised they needed a healthier host. In particular, they needed an innocent host.
Apparently Sebastian’s daughter fit the bill and so they took her.
For years it was all going swimmingly. Then the core brain — your daughter — withdrew from hosting the virtual world of ‘Union’ they had created. The longer this was the case, the more the world started falling apart. In some cases literally and in others through signs of corruption even amongst the other members of Union.
Mobius sent in a trained team, and lost contact with them too.
And it is only at this point they turn to you, reveal and the truth, and ask you to jump into STEM — again — this time into the world of Union to recover your daughter and find out why she withdrew as the core.
Too much beyond this point and we’ll get into spoilers for the game at large, but the hook was enough to get me going. The lore of the world as you head further in is fantastic too. Clearly some thought has gone into how everything fits together, particularly with the ‘back stage’ spaces created for the Mobius employees observing the connected inhabitants and for speeding around the world.
The corruption in this space and elsewhere… *shakes head in wonder*
It not only drives much of the horror in the game but tells the broader world-story too.
Oh yeah- there is also an actual game here.
As is the case with the survival horror genre, much of the tension comes in the form of scarcity of resources. On the moderate level of difficulty I chose for my play through, this balance feels right.
I can’t go firing my shots willy-nilly, engaging every enemy I come across. Stealth is important to thinning out the field. And now that I have some upgrades in that arena — particularly the ability to perform assassination moves from around corners! — this has become quite a satisfying way to play.
But after a while, you’ll start to feel the pinch of low ammunition and then it becomes decision time. You can craft more out in the field and continue your run at the cost of each craft taking twice the normal required materials or you can make a beeline for a workbench.
Workbenches are found in the various safehouses for the most part, which are spread far enough to make this an actual decision. Although you can sometimes find them elsewhere too, such as in a garage.
You want to restock before heading anywhere serious such as a journey through the backstage. *shudder*
The range of weapons is fantastic already too — the shotgun is incredibly satisfying even before giving it much in the way of upgrades. Of course- it also notifies every enemy in a 10-million mile radius of your general location. So sometimes you might want to go with the relatively quiet option of firing a steel bolt from a crossbow instead.
Steel bolts aren’t the only things launchable from the crossbow though. So far I’ve also unlocked smoke launcher bolts and shock bolts (which can also be used in some puzzle situations).
In general, it seems the enemies you don’t kill don’t respawn.
Something I very much appreciated.
However, on some story chapter transitions The Evil Within 2 chooses to make up for this kindness by placing new, worse enemies around the place.
I will admit- the first time this happened, it was with a bit of a groan. I almost wanted to put the game down at that point. But I carried on and found that I could still navigate the world space pretty well. The ramped-up threat forced playing better and learning new ways to tackle the enemies you might’ve only seen one or two of previously.
Essentially it adds another form of tension to the game and another sense of escalation.
I’m still relatively early into things, I think — but so far I’ve been convinced this is a title I want to finish. More than I can say for last year’s pick!
So we’ll see how it goes from here. :)