Resident Evil is coming to Kickstarter soon. Although, I was gutted to have missed out on a pre-production copy of the game to preview for the Kickstarter launch – I got something that may have well been much better.
I got to play Resident Evil with Sherwin on Tabletopia. For those of you that haven’t heard of it Tabletopia lets you play boardgames within your browser. For two hours of unbridled gaming shenanigans we explored the demo mission. Please note a demo wouldn’t normally take this long, but I managed to exit the game completely at one point and we were chatting all sorts of stuff, except when we couldn’t! Coupled with the unique quirks of Tabletopia meant that at times there was some head-scratching as we tried to stand models up!
So, what is the big deal I hear you say? Well, with Resident Evil 2 I was impressed by how immersive the game became and how it drew you in. In Resident Evil it still does that and raises it by a factor of 10. We were playing the game, chatting about mechanics and how the game ends, his inspiration, etc. We looked at the threat deck that, when it runs out, it’s game over and we had about 25 cards left. Each person turns over a card at the end of their turn. So we had time and there wasn’t much of a rush.
Then we hit a few bumps in the road including having to resolve three of the threat deck cards at the same time. Fortunately, not much really came out of it but all of a sudden we were down to about 10 cards. Yes, we had played a few more turns and already had something similar, but not quite as bad. At this point, we were a quarter of the way across the board with a locked door between us and the exit. This was less than ideal, so what followed was a frenzied mass of slamming doors in zombies faces and the decision that running away would be the better form of valour.
This isn’t the first Steamforged game that uses this mechanic but in Resident Evil it’s harder to refresh that deck and carry on. Hint – you need a typewriter! Spoiler – there isn’t one in the demo of the game. What it does is essentially ramp up the tension in the game. I played some of the early Resident Evil games and loved the atmosphere. This board game version recreates a lot of that atmosphere. Reading these cards out loud and giving yourself a second or two to savour what they say really heightens this.
When you turn over a card and it says all clear, you don’t just breathe a sigh of relief and throw it on the discard pile! There is always some atmospheric text on them and they are great. You really start to feel as if you are there. Added to which you know there are some bad cards in that threat deck, so each time you turn the cards there is a palpable sense of anticipation, and relief when the green cards show up.
At one point Sherwin called me bloodthirsty, for wanting the red encounter cards. They came out and luckily they came out in a half-decent order and I was tooled up and ready with a shotgun. You know there is a Crimson Head on the other side of the door, so I chose to reload and wait for the next turn to open the door give him both barrels. I missed! Yes, after a game of epic dice rolling when I needed to make the biggest shot for the game I utterly spooned it. The worst thing was the Crimson head and other enemies on a linked tile move towards the sound. Straight into the space I that was standing in. You’d think it best to rack the shotgun slide and shoot again, because who can miss at such short range, right?
Well, the answer to that question is, ME. One point of damage and no knockback, so the Crimson Head gets to attack me. Luckily, my dice rolling returned with some nice dodges. At this point, I have burned through almost half my shotgun ammo which I needed for the boss, so I pull out the pistol and go for a nice triple tap, Hollywood style! That’s the way to get a job done, three hits and a dead Crimson.
Searching through the Mansion is now a lot harder as you don’t start with the whole map laid out. You have to open doors, which in turn reveal the next sections of each level. Not only does it reveal the next sections but the locations of loot, cutscenes, corpses and zombies. Don’t get too complacent though as each time you enter a room for the first time you draw from the encounter deck to see if there is anything else in the room. Again this ranges from nothing to more zombies. Although I didn’t see them, I am sure that there are worse cards in that deck than just a few mere zombies.
While it was great fun to play through, I don’t think Sherwin will invite me back. Being too blood-thirsty and all. I just wanted to see how the mechanics worked and to see if the series still had the “ramp it up to 12” and fun factor. The highlight for me was a card that came out of the encounter deck which basically said anytime you make a sound the zombies move closer to you. Luckily we had already been discussing tactics and what we were going to do next, but it still led to some fun mime games over zoom!
What was also briefly touched upon, but again being a demo of the game it wasn’t easy to see the short term benefits, is that the mansion is big. There are other things going on elsewhere in the mansion that you have little control over. One of these instances was touched on in a cutscene where you had to help another character complete a mission. If you fail he is dead and out of the game never to return (well, I hope!). Should you succeed however, he can help later on and is available as a player as well. It’s a nice little touch that eases the tension a little and gives you a glimpse of what is going on elsewhere in the huge mansion. It brings another layer of immersion to the game.
Love them or hate them there is no denying that Steamforged Games have taken the iconic Resident Evil series and done the game proud. So many times we see a film, book or computer game brought to the tabletop and it falls short or is just plain bad. I’d imagine all else you need is to have the soundtrack playing in the background and Resident Evil should feel like a complete the ambiance.