It opens strong as you explore the village via a dark forest full of things just out of sight. Something terrible has happened, with body parts and blood scattered like gory narrative confetti. This ‘what the hell is going on?’ stage is great, as the world does most of the talking and it’s a beautiful place to explore. Even the most mundane bits of table crap and floor detritus in the village are incredibly crafted – I spent far too long just looking at clutter. ‘Monsters? Yeah, there’s a bunch out there somewhere but just look at this dirty table with a rusty pot on it.’ The level of detail is never less than impressive – Castle Dimitrescu alternates between the fading finery of its halls, and crumbling dank cellars and dungeons. I don’t think I passed a single shelf in the game without looking it over.
It’s these opening sections that feel the most well crafted and balanced. The monsters in the castle besides Dimitrescu and her daughters are the ghoulish female Moroaică (Dimitrescu eats men and enslaves women apparently). They’re creepy, lumbering, and slow – the threat mainly coming from your own mistakes. The ability to guard against attacks and follow up with a kick to push back enemies adds an interesting dimension to combat and means it’s not just about deciding between shooting and backing off. The Lady of the house and her children, when they appear, are more of a set piece adding brief, intense, structured encounters to vary the mix.