I’m just going to go for it… as it stands… A Plague Tale: Innocence is my personal GOTY so far. I knew this when I played the game, start to finish, in one sitting. I sat at my computer for over 13 and a half hours as the real world continued around me. I had no sense of time. Rage 2 was sitting next to me, crying, but I couldn’t hear it. A Plague Tale devoured my entire world.
Available on: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows
Reviewed on: Steam
Release Date: 14th May 2019
You follow the sibling characters: Amicia and Hugo. The juxtaposition between how innocent and delicate their relationship is, versus the cruel world that surrounds them, gives you overwhelming emotions. Being a big sister myself, I could completely relate to Amicia and the guardian role that is forced upon her. Their relationship cannot be compared to Kratos and Atreus, Ico and Yorda or even Joel and Ellie… it’s completely unique. Amicia barely knows Hugo as their mother has kept him hidden from the world. Therefore, when their need for survival forms a bond, it creates something exceptional. You will experience first-hand a relationship that is initially built on misunderstanding and jealousy, transcend into a touching bond that saves the day! I cried many times during the 16 Chapters and I became extremely attached to both siblings.
Furthermore, the characters you meet along the way are special with their own skills and story to add to yours. You start off alone but end up with a new family, although there are unfortunately losses along the way. Even NPC’s in the world will interact with you as you walk past them, making the world really come to life. You are even able to interact with animals e.g. petting your dog, Lion and stroking a horse. Your surroundings can also be interacted with, by praying in a church for example. To make an exaggerated tale feel so real is such a talent… my challenge for all of you is to try and take a break during your playthrough… you won’t be able to. The world is so immersive that you’ll forget where you are in real life. The only character design flaw I noticed was that sometimes the eyelashes would disconnect from Amicia’s face, showing them to be floating.
The world around you is mesmerising. The detail that has gone into every corner of the environments is astounding. You can tell that the love of the developers oozes out of every pixel.
You travel through villages, fields, war-torn battlefields, rat-infested tombs and winter landscapes which always maintain the same high standard of detail from start to finish. The world will provoke certain feelings and emotions within you. The gore of carcasses that have been ravaged by rats looks so real that you’ll be turning up your nose as you walk past them. The sun coming through the fields will give you hope that the siblings will survive through this sadness. The entire game will put you through an emotional rollercoaster through the environments alone before you even get to the story. Oliver Ponsonnet, the art director of A Plague Tale, states “We took heavy inspiration from classical paintings” and you can see this clearly.
Amicia’s biggest ally is her slingshot. Luckily, it’s easy to use and considering gameplay can be quite fast at times, this is a blessing. You use this slingshot to fight enemies, interact with the environment when completing puzzles and use different ammo types to help with stealth situations. The emphasis throughout the game on alchemy makes the slingshot even more interesting. Characters can combine materials together from the world to give you alchemist ammunitions that broadens the slingshot’s use. From there you can craft these ammunitions yourself by collecting resources from around the world. The crafting mechanic is very simple and can be done whilst in the thick of the action by using a weapon wheel type method. I would have appreciated maybe a hotkey system to equip ammo that I use the most to a specific button/key. I did not see this function, that does not mean it doesn’t exist, but if it doesn’t, this would be great.
You will find workbenches in abundance around the world where you can upgrade your slingshot or even how much ammo you can carry. You must do upgrading at a workbench, but you can craft whenever you want. Time even slows slightly when you are crafting ammo so that you have time before an enemy can hit you. You’d think that the gameplay, as it is stealthy, would be slow. That’s not the case. Enemies will still run at you when you’re spotted and there are still mini-boss battles and a main boss at the end. You will also find yourself running from enemies through the streets as you try to escape.
There are collectibles scattered around the world in the form of curiosities, gifts, and flowers for Hugo. This encourages you to explore the world around you fully as they are easily missed but rewarding. If you open your menu it tells you some history of the item and Amicia will also comment on what you have found. The interaction feels so real. Hugo’s fascination with flowers is so pure. He will place the flower in Amicia’s hair to protect her and it’s such a touching addition.
You will explore the world as Amicia and Hugo but will also play as both siblings independently. I absolutely adored this mechanic because it gave a great perspective of the story. Amicia has simple commands of ‘follow’ and ‘stay’ that can be used at any time and it’s up to the player to decide when each command is appropriate. Be warned that Hugo is only 5 years old and will cry if you leave him too far behind thus bringing unwanted attention your way.
There are several puzzles throughout the game which are challenging but completely doable when you use the right approach and all resources are given to you. There are hints that will pop up on the screen if you take a particularly long time, which does help. However, most of the time you do not need these and there is an overwhelming sense of achievement when you can work out how to progress safely. The puzzles remind me of old school Lara Croft in their size and complexity so, if you’re a fan of that kind of gameplay, you will love A Plague Tale.
The enemies in the world are incredibly interesting. You are plunged into a world where England has shown up at France’s gates and the plague has spread like wildfire. With this comes the Inquisition. They represent fear and believe that what they do, however evil and brutal, is for the greater good. A Plague Tale is somewhat dominated by faith and religion and the lengths people will go to in order to fuel their own personal beliefs. There are different degrees of the Inquisition from normal soldiers to tanks who wear extremely heavy armour. However, the world around you will help you defeat every kind of Inquisition soldier or you can merely use the power of stealth to evade them. Your other foes will consist of Alchemists who want to get their mitts on Hugo, and the rats which swarm the streets looking for food… and yes… YOU are that food. When I say ‘swarm’, I mean SWARM! Feeling overwhelmed is half the tense fun of A Plague Tale.
The music fits the atmosphere perfectly and will never fail to put you on edge when rats are swarming you or a corpse, and keep you calm when you are walking in the sunshine.
It’s incredible how emotive the music is and you can only imagine… combined with the environment and story, it’s a real tear-jerker.
The setting of this story has been so interesting to me and I haven’t played anything like it. If you love history and the middle ages then this is for you! Although you see a lot of history poured into this world, there are parts that read as an exaggerated tale. Which is exactly how the team describes their own game. However, it is still enveloped in realism and you will be hooked the whole way through.