REVIEW: ‘A Plague Tale: Innocence’ (PC)

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A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action/adventure stealth game set in 14th century France, during the destruction wrought by the black plague. Developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive, you play as Amicia de Rune, a young woman from a wealthy family. Her younger brother, Hugo, has remained in quasi-quarantine for the past 5 years due to a mysterious illness. Their mother has kept Hugo hidden away from the world, and even Amicia, as she worked to treat Hugo’s illness.

Before a cure could be created, Amicia and Hugo’s world is turned upside down with the sudden invasion of their home by soldiers from the Inquisition. Between the armed, dangerous men trying to kidnap Hugo and the threat of contracting the plague from ravenous rats, Amicia and Hugo must escape from their childhood home and leave behind everything they’ve ever known. Alone and orphaned, the two siblings evade trained warriors out to kill Amicia and capture Hugo, and escape from mobs of strange, red-eyed rats that devour everything in their path. Along the way, the siblings meet new friends who will help them on their journey as they search for a new home.

Amicia’s main weapon and tool is a slingshot. As you progress through the game, you can upgrade Amicia’s slingshot by collecting various crafting materials and by using a workbench. Amicia picks up other skills along the way, such as the ability to use alchemy. The sling can be used to distract enemies, and, eventually, to kill them.

Upgrading your sling or alchemy, and cooking up alchemical recipes, require a lot of materials which you’ll find by exploring the world around you. As such, there’s a flavor of item management to this game but it’s not extensive. The other characters you meet along the way can also be used to help you along your journey. They can aid you in completing puzzles and help with distracting and killing enemies.

A Plague Tale requires the player to be stealthy. There is some action, but the game, more often than not, requires the player to sneak around human enemies, distract them, or take them out as silently and inconspicuously as possible. At the beginning of the game, evading enemies by distracting them is your only option. However, as the game progresses and Amicia learns new skills, killing becomes easier and often the only option.

Although primarily a stealth game, there are some instances where you are forced to outright fight enemies. These instances are few but it’s important to note that the action mechanics change. In most scenarios, the human enemies run faster than Amicia, and if they get too close, A Plague Tale throws you into an instant death cutscene. However, in the areas where the game requires you to fight, you can dodge out of the way of attacks instead of dying instantaneously.

The fact that the mechanics weren’t consistent between the human enemies was a bit irritating. It was annoying to be able to dodge during boss battles but not be able to dodge attacks from the relatively insignificant minions you encounter. Even so, the possibility of instant death did up the stakes. The high stakes definitely require the player to think things through before acting.

The rats are another enemy altogether that requires a very different strategy. The rats are held at bay by light, whether natural or human-made. So, by manipulating light, you can maneuver the rats out of your way to progress through the chapter. The rats are a constant irritation and hindrance but are by no means scarier than the humans you’ll encounter.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Different enemies require different means of dispatching them. This means that killing enemies can be a puzzle in and of itself. Although there are plenty of unique and fun puzzles you have to overcome in this game, they’re not very challenging. Given that some players may want a greater challenge, there’s also no real difficulty setting for this game. The only difficulty setting available is the option for you to turn off your HUD. Personally, I found the ease of the game relaxing, and it allowed me to appreciate other aspects of the game more, but you shouldn’t go into A Plague Tale expecting any huge challenge.

The graphics are beautiful and there has been a lot more thought put into them than what most people may realize. The designers took their inspiration from classical paintings, such as those created by Claude Lorrain. By emulating the shades and colors used in these paintings, the designers manage to emulate a sense of oneirism and romanticism associated with classical art.

The voice acting is amazing and the personalities of the main characters shine through the acting. However, the plot left me wanting more. There are a lot of mechanics and puzzles between the player and the progression of the story. So, although it takes, on average, 12-15 hours to complete this game, I don’t feel there was as much story as I expected or wanted.

On top of this, the game ended with a lot of questions being unanswered. Although there has been some hint that there may be another game, it seems cheap to use a sequel to answer questions integral to the first game. Despite this negative criticism, this really was a wonderful game. The trials Amicia and Hugo are put through are gruesome and the world around them is unrelenting and cruel. Despite this, despite the death surrounding them, Amicia and Hugo become closer, and together they throw off their innocence and childhood in order to survive.

Throughout A Plague Tale, Amicia has to face reality and do horrible things; she is constantly faced with the question of how much is she willing to lose to keep Hugo safe. Just how far will they go to survive? It’s a beautiful, poetic game filled with human monsters who are willing to commit unspeakable atrocities. But, at its core, it’s about the bond formed between two siblings.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is available now on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.


A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • 8/10
    Rating - 8/10
8/10

TL;DR

Throughout A Plague Tale, Amicia has to face reality and do horrible things; she is constantly faced with the question of how much is she willing to lose to keep Hugo safe. Just how far will they go to survive? It’s a beautiful, poetic game filled with human monsters who are willing to commit unspeakable atrocities. But, at its core, it’s about the bond formed between two siblings.