GAME REVIEW: A Plague Tale: Innocence
It's a setup we haven't come across in gaming before, which is somewhat of a rarity these days. So with the scene set in a plague infested medieval-era France, we step into the shoes of a young french heroine, Amicia. So please sit back and take in our thoughts on the latest title from Asobo Studios.
A Plague Tale: Innocence itself has a heavy lean on its story, more specifically a dark and mystery driven narrative which is intertwined with the character relationship between Amicia and her brother Hugo. Hugo himself is suffering from an unknown illness, but is also the main source of an attack on the family estate, as a violent group (the Inquisition) are attempting to capture the small child.
After a daring escape, you're treated to your first real experience of the outer world of France, in full swing of death, illness and madness. Not only is this the initial view of the other side of the estate walls, but a true real taste of gameplay. With your main character usually dragging a small ill and unable child along-side her, there's no feeling of power behind Amicia, leaving you with the real core of the title, stealth. Coming across human enemies, you rely on hiding in long grass, throwing rocks as distractions and doing your best to avoid any detection. However you do have some slight combat ability, pinging off a headshot with a rock to those without helmets and having a stealth takedown at a later point down the line. But the real enjoyment comes from the distracting and sliding through the terrain. But the other side of the tension comes from the diseased swarms of rats covering the land. These horrid squealing creatures writhe through the floor and create a disgusting but very effective look. But all is not lost, lighting torches, carrying lanterns or even using the lights of moving guards to sneak past both at the same time.
There is a good amount of freedom for moving past threats, with various tactics or options to choose from. The overall gameplay is very linear however. But being very story driven, this isn't an issue at all. You're paced at a good rate, with things becoming larger threats, puzzles becoming more difficult to understand and resolve and moments when things go wrong become panicked states much quicker. And things will go wrong a lot. This isn't a game that you'll breeze through on your first time and when you mess up, get caught or swarmed, it's no fade to black and quick restart. You are forced to watch this young lady receive the wrong end of a sword, something that is quite brutal.
Brutality is present from the entire span of the game, in story, gameplay and definitely in the visuals. Plague Tale is one hell of a visual drop, even though everything around you is horrid. Admittedly, the game kicks off with lovely forestry and sunshine, but the true beauty and hard work lies in the detail of the horror. Bodies piling on sides of roads, flames licking walls as light sourcing, causing flickers in pools of blood. I mentioned it earlier, but the swarms of rats have a somewhat grotesque elegance to them as well.
I did find myself losing a bit of pace towards the end of my run, with many puzzles seemingly not having a clear answer and almost forcing me to try over and over to proceed, but it didn't detract the over-arching experience. With a hefty length of story (if memory recalls, 17 chapters), this isn't a one-nighter. Not only due to the length of the game, but there will be points where you may have to pull yourself away and go find some cute online pictures to rest your brain.
A Plague Tale: Innocence has seemingly come from nowhere this year, from a studio and publisher who aren't always grabbing headlines, but the product they have created deserves to. A jaw-dropping new experience for anyone who enjoys tense thrillers and stealth based story driven titles. We continue to see a re-birth of single-player experiences - 8.5/10.