Asobo Studio is the same team behind games such as Disney Rush and Disneyland Adventures so it may come as a surprise to see that their newest game is far more dark and grim than those family friendly titles. A Plague Tale: Innocence is set in 1348 during the late Middle Ages in a French countryside and tells the tale of a girl and her younger brother going on the run from pursuers and a rat plague. This is a game that caught my attention when it was announced at E3 2017 due to the art style of the game, the story, and the hordes of rats. Since it was a different kind of game for the studio I wondered if it would live up to my expectations but thankfully Asobo nailed the execution.
Amicia De Rune is the teenage girl in the game and her younger brother is named Hugo. These are the two characters you’ll be playing as in this tale. They hail from the De Rune family who isn’t without their problems in these dark times. Hugo suffers from a mysterious blood disease and lives in confinement in his room because of it. His sister barely even knows him since he has been closed off from her his whole life. Things get much worse for the family though as the French Inquisition shows up at their door in search of Hugo. Things go badly very quickly and Amicia and Hugo are forced to go on the run in order to survive. A Plague Tale does a wonderful job developing these two siblings over the course of the game and making you care about them. Amicia changes a lot from the start of the game as she is forced to in order to deal with this world. Hugo brings some lightness to the world with his amazement with outside things. This is a boy who has been closed off all his life so getting to react to him experiencing things in the outside world was a joy. This was a very emotional game to me full of great moments throughout. It really does a great job of building the relationship between this brother and sister who are finally getting to know each other. Furthermore, as this brother and sister venture along in the story they will run into other children who share similar fates as the siblings and who will join up and aid them in their cause. They have special abilities too like being able to pick locked doors and knock down obstacles in your path.
Story heavy games can live and die on their pacing and thankfully A Plague Tale is paced really well. You have your quiet moments with the characters but then you have puzzle sections, stealth sections, and combat sections. The game took me around 13 hours to finish my first time and it remained relatively strong throughout. Some of the portions at the end of the game weren’t quite as strong but they don’t ruin the experience at all. Your run time could vary depending on how much you choose to explore for the three sets of collectibles the game has. Each of these tell a little bit more of the story of this world so they are worth picking up. Should you miss any you can easily jump back into parts of the game and they tell you how many you are missing from each part. Keep in mind while I did say explore this is a pretty linear game but the collectibles are well hidden in these areas.
When you come to areas with enemies the game really leaves it up to you to decide whether you want to be stealthy and sneak past your enemies or just stun them using the slingshot Amicia has. If you knock enemy helmets off their heads then the slingshot can be used to deliver kill shots to them. Potions can be made that will give you other ways to dispatch your foes. Making these will require you to find various things in the environments. The slingshot can also be upgraded at workbenches throughout the game. Hugo also has some abilities that can be used to aid you but I don’t want to speak too much on that. At times you encounter challenging boss fights that will require you to figure out how to take them down using what Amicia and Hugo have. The puzzle sections in the game though are a bit on the weaker side with all of them being pretty easy to solve. It wouldn’t have hurt to have some puzzles in the game that required more thought but at least you won’t get stuck on any of them for too long a time.
If you’ve seen any of this game then you’ve probably heard about the rats. They are one of the focal points of the title but Asobo doesn’t overuse them which is key. They, like the rest of the game are well paced as if they had used them too much they would’ve come across as gimmicky. When you first run into these massive hordes of rats it’s hard not to both marvel in amazement and be terrified at the same time. Light is your friend in holding these things off from consuming you so you’ll need to use lanterns, fires etc in order to survive them. However you can also use this to your advantage as if you take out an enemy soldiers light source then the rats will turn on him and take him out for you. Seeing your enemies get devoured by these vermin is very unsettling but also satisfying. Environments can be very gruesome in this game as you’ll encounter battlefields full of nothing but dead bodies that have been eaten alive. Death animations for the two sibling are also horrifying should you fail at sections. It’s a very disturbing game but that is also what makes it that much more commendable.
Coming from a smaller team you may not expect to be wowed by the visuals but that isn’t the case here at all. In fact this is one of the most impressive games this year from a visual standpoint with some truly awe inspiring images. Part of this is because Asobo used a technology known as Megascans to help with the visuals. This was something used in The Vanishing of Ethan Carter as well and involves using real world objects that are photographed at all angles and then they basically get scanned into the game. This is why things like rocks, foliage, buildings and more look so impressive. But it isn’t just the visuals that are impressive but the lighting, fog, fire sources, and character animations as well. The only visual area that needs some work is in the characters lip syncing as they talk but that’s a minor complaint in what is otherwise a very impressive visual package. Also because this game looks so darn good it made me sad that there isn’t a photo mode included. Hopefully maybe a post launch patch can add one eh Asobo?
Audio is great from pretty much every standpoint as well. The orchestral soundtrack in this game is excellent and always perfectly matches what is going on whether it be tense sequences or more quieter ones. Voice acting is very well done in this game too with both Amicia and Hugo delivering great performances. For those interested in the trophy/achievement list there are 36 in total with the overall list being pretty simple given that this is a linear story based game. You’ll get them all for beating the game, finding all the collectibles and upgrading your gear. Some of them can be missed as they require you to do certain things in the game but you can easily go back and clean up what you miss.
We all know there are times where we see games announced that we get excited for but then are let down when the final product doesn’t live up to our expectations. That is why I’m so happy that Asobo Studio managed to not only deliver but exceed my expectations for A Plague Tale: Innocence. The gripping mature storytelling, atmosphere, beautiful and horrifying environments, and the bond between Amicia and Hugo make A Plague Tale one of the best games of 2019 and simply should not be missed.
*A Plague Tale: Innocence is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Reviewed on a PS4 Pro. Review copy provided by the publisher for this review.
A Plague Tale: Innocence$49.99
- Highly engaging narrative that kept me interested from start to finish
- Fantastic Visuals that are Both Beautiful and Horrifying
- Great voice acting and soundtrack further enhances the experience
- Doee a good job of letting you handle encounters in different ways
- Puzzles could've been more challenging
- Wish it had a Photo Mode