A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action-adventure stealth game from Asobo Studios. It’s the story of Amicia and Hugo and they travel through 13th Century France trying to avoid the horrors of The Black Death and the evil Inquisition.
It’s a lovely day to be walking in the forest with your father and your dog. The sun is shining and the light streams through the leaves of the trees while you practice your sling skills under the guidance of your father. You play as Amicia De Rune and your dog picks up a scent of a wild boar drinking water from a stream. A boar sure would make a tasty meal for you and the family, so under the watchful eye of your father, you try to take him down with your sling. Unfortunately, the boar gets away and your dog chases him. Out of your sight, the dog is attacked by something and right before your eyes are dragged underground by some evil.
Amicia makes her way home to tell mother, however, as they are chatting by the window the Inquisiton bursts through the gates and takes father prisoner. They’re looking for Hugo, Amicia’s little brother, and they’ll kill to get him. Mother warns you to hide while the soldiers start searching through your home and here we meet Hugo. He’s a sickly little boy almost unknown to his older sister, but under these dangerous circumstances, they’re going to have to get to trust each other quickly. A Plague Tale: Innocence starts with a bang as Amicia and Hugo have to sneak out of the house and through the gardens past the guards of the Inquisition. It’s a great start and you know you’re going to be in for a good time.
The game is set in 13th Century France and the Black Death is everywhere. This manifests in the form of rat swarms and these are generally very impressive. They take on a life own they own, writhing and biting their way towards you like a ferocious wave of death. The environments are one of the most impressive things about the game. First of all, it’s a beautiful game with detailed environments. There’s no shortage of horrors to be seen as The Back Plague rips through society leaving piles of dead bodies and waves of rats about the place. Those left who are living lead poor, violent lives offering up the danger to Amicia and Hugo. The game has a bleak and dark feel to it through its forests, empty towns and Inquisition sites. The game blends real-world history with minor fantasy elements well.
Rather than an open-world adventure your mostly kept on rails by the narrative being nudged towards the next story point by other characters in the game. The story is the main star of the game with the relationship between Amicia and Hugo taking centre stage. They don’t know each other that well as Hugo was very sick when he was young. However, as you progress through the game the sibling gets to know each other and their relationship is an interesting one. Amicia is given a lot of responsibility early on in her life, as she’s just a child herself, but she has to grow up fast and learn to protect Hugo in a world filled with death.
Stealth gameplay is a big focus in the game as you have to make your way through areas with Hugo. As you make your way through areas you have to clear a path for fragile Hugo, who isn’t capable of looking after himself as he suffers from a strange illness. Like other stealth games of the same genre, you work in partnership with Hugo as he can slip through cracks and small spaces to open doors. Your job is to keep him safe at all costs by holding his hand, keeping him as far away from the horrors of the time and lifting him up over walls where necessary. It’s important to keep out of the eye of the enemy as if you get spotted you get killed pretty quickly. One false move and Amicia and Hugo are done for. Complimenting the stealth mechanics is Amicia’s sling. She can shoot small stones from her sling with effective results. Amicia can also throw stones as they sling is often too loud and can give away your position. As you progress through the game you can level up the sling and move into crafting more advanced weapons and items.
A Plague Tale: Innocence isn’t a difficult game and this is one of the biggest drawbacks of the game. More often that not you are presented with the solution without much effort and as you progress through the game is seems to get easier rather than harder. The visual effects are impressive the first time, but as you progress you’re less impressed as a player and the ‘puzzles’ can get laborious.
One of the main features of A Plague Tale: Innocence is the rats. These are used on a lot of the marketing material and if you’ve heard about the game then you’ve probably seen those rats. They truely are impressive on first sight, but as you see them more and more they can get a little annoying. They certainly look worse than they are. The rats don’t like light and you can repel the disgusting mass with torches and later in the game, Amicia learns more effective alchemy skills. An interesting gameplay mechanic later in the game is the ability to ‘control’ the swarms of rodents by distracting them and leading them into the path of enemies leading to a grizzly end for your foes. As Amicia and Hugo progress more alchemy skills open up offering a small variation in the gameplay. However, puzzle solutions present themselves quickly – often hinted at by the convenient location of an item. The puzzle mechanics and stealth maybe simple, however, the complementary story drives you forward with well acted and scripted dialogue scenes. As you move throughout France you meet other children in similar situations as Amicia and Hugo, helping them out as they go.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a great story of brother and sister trying to survive in a harsh world. The game looks fantastic, however, the game is fairly straight forward. It feels like an old school game brought into 2019 with modern technology. The narrative is engaging with some heartfelt moment. One of the most enjoyable things about the game was I’d hardly heard of this game before it came out – it was a nice surprise. Much like Amicia holds Hugo’s hand throughout the game, it often feels like the game is holding your hand throughout the world – not letting you get too far away or stay into too much danger. The environment’s bark is a lot worse than it’s a bite. I would recommend playing this game if you like single player narrative-driven stories.
Developer: Asobo Studio
Platforms: PC, Xbox One and PS4
Release date: May 14th 2019, 2019