Scare Compare: ‘The Evil Within’ Franchise
“A unified consciousness for all mankind. “
That is the goal of Mobius, a shadowy organization attempting to create a simulated world by connecting the consciousness of multiple persons, willing or otherwise. From STEM’s inception, it has had one major downfall: it requires a Core. The Core is a centralized mind, primarily responsible for shaping the world inside of STEM. In the original Evil Within game, the system’s core, Ruvik, was a mentally unstable and sadistic psychopath with an eye for revenge. As such, the world of STEM under his direction was a nightmare hellscape.
In order to avoid past mistakes, Mobius’s recruitment process this time around was much more selective. The solution: the core must be innocent. The candidate: Lily Castellanos, daughter of former detective Sebastian Castellanos, our protagonist. In order to acquire Lily, Mobius staged her death by burning down the home of Sebastian and his wife Myra. After Myra began to suspect that her daughter was still alive, she mysteriously vanished in her pursuit. When Sebastian is contacted by former partner in the force and undercover Mobius agent Juli Kidman, he learns that Lily is not only still alive, but that Mobius is using her in their efforts to re-launch STEM. In order to save her, he must venture inside STEM once again, find her, and get her out. Because the only way out, is in.
The Evil Within 2 is a third person, open world survival horror game. You, as Sebastian, must venture into the STEM simulation known as “Union”, a once idyllic and peaceful world, now crumbling to ruin and overrun by mutated townsfolk known as “The Lost”. Much like the original game, the foes you encounter along the way range from these former Union citizens, to bigger, badder foes such as “The Guardian,” a chainsaw-toting, multi-headed beast, or “Obscura,” a spliced-together collection of limbs and camera equipment created by the bloodthirsty photographer Stefano. Bigger battles include taking on Stefano himself after finding out he is holding Lily hostage in order to syphon off her Core powers.
The game’s open world environment gives the player much more ground to explore, more enemies to encounter, and more locations to scout for resources. The story is still linear, but this new model allows for side-quests and safe rooms that can be revisited whenever the player chooses. In these safe rooms, players can regain health by drinking coffee, which is another greatly appreciated new addition. Safe rooms also contain mirrors, which, much like in the first game, can be used to traverse to a place called “Sebastian’s room,” where he can access case files, upgrade skills, save the game, and craft supplies.
Crafting is also a new feature. As ammo drops are extremely rare, collecting specialized components in the environment allows the player to craft ammo such as bullets and crossbow bolts. Collecting machine parts allows the player to upgrade these weapons. Crafting can be done at a workbench or in the heat of battle, though field-crafting will cost more components. Collecting plants allows the player to create healing items such as syringes and first aid kits, which are arguably your most valuable resources
Another core feature of the game is combat. In The Evil Within, you were continually reminded (usually in the load screen after dying) that fleeing rather than fighting is always an option, though I never felt this was truly the case. Avoiding enemies is far less feasible when there’s nowhere to run to or hide. In this sequel, the option to flee is really only off the table a handful of times. Conflict is usually a personal risk/benefit analysis, the risk being loss of ammo, which is extremely scarce during non-mandatory fight sequences. Unloading a clip into a few ‘Lost’ in the open environment may be a costly mistake when there could be something far worse around any corner.
The benefit of engaging in combat, however, may be worth some risk. In this game, all defeated enemies drop something, whether it’s crafting components, or, more often, green gel. Just like in the original, this gel is used for upgrading Sebastian’s skills and abilities. Upgrades include improvements to sprinting duration, total health, effectiveness of healing items, and weapon aiming. Fleeing combat may ensure that you leave with your ammo stash intact, but the tradeoff is that Sebastian himself may be ill equipped to take on his next foe.
The original Evil Within is one of my all-time favorite games. I’ve been looking forward to this sequel not only since it’s E3 announcement, but for the past three years. That said, as much as I enjoyed this game, I wish it had been a bit more like its predecessor rather than its DLC’s “The Assignment,” and “The Consequence,” which I was not entirely fond of. This game also felt shorter than the original. My total play time was around 20 hours on Survival (medium) difficulty, which includes all side-missions. This is potentially due to the fact that I tended to avoid combat in order to conserve ammo, or perhaps the increased frequency of cut-scenes.
This game is definitely more story-heavy than its predecessor, which I can see being frustrating for someone who hasn’t played the original. For me, being heavily invested in Sebastian’s story, I found the pay-off incredibly rewarding, despite the admittedly cheesy, and, at times, god-awful dialogue. I did miss the old tough and grizzled Sebastian from the first game, though the softer, more family-oriented Sebastian we get in this game is not beyond the realm of believability given the circumstances.
Despite being a sequel, this game can certainly stand on its own, though returning players will be treated to a few nostalgic throwbacks in the form of familiar faces, tried and true weapons, and the comforting tune of Clair de Lune signaling safety. Overall, The Evil Within 2 is a more toned-down and complete-feeling story. As a returning player, I had some frustrations with how much the game seemed to hold my hand at points, but new players may benefit from the increased accessibility. It doesn’t beat you into submission quite as heavily as the first game. This is a highly formidable sequel, and one I intend to revisit time and time again.