There’s nothing quite as gratifying as going into a game completely blind, expectation-free and being blown away. Full disclosure, I had not seen a single screenshot or video of A Plague Tale: Innocence before requesting to cover it. I knew it was a single player game from a developer I hadn’t heard of…and obviously it involved the plague, but that’s it. By the end of Amicia and her brother Hugo’s journey, I was left highly impressed and more importantly, wanting more. If you want to read ThisGenGaming’s official review of the game, click here. This article is meant to provide a second opinion to those who might be on the fence.
Our story begins with Amicia, her father and their lovable dog Lion walking in the woods. Things begin lighthearted but soon take a dark turn, unfortunately as our tale progresses things become more and more bleak. After the events lead you back to your castle home we are introduced to Hugo. The relationship between Amicia and Hugo is non-existent, as he is kept confined to his room under the watchful eye of his mother, an alchemist. Hugo has a mysterious illness, and his mother is determined to develop a cure. The need to cure Hugo is a major part of A Plague Tale’s story, as he will suffer intense headaches and hallucinations…usually at the most inopportune times. Throughout their journey the pair will experience unspeakable horrors and commit acts that no children should ever be forced to do. The entire story is paced beautifully and kept me intrigued; it’s the type of game you might beat in a single lengthy sitting, but is by no means short.
So how does it play? A Plague Tale: Innocence is a third person adventure game where you control Amicia. She is armed with her sling that fires rocks at unsuspecting bad guys and environmental areas. It’s rare for Amicia to go one-on-one with an armed guard, the player is typically relegated to stealth, sneak attacks and using the environment to their advantage. If you’ve seen basically any screenshots or trailers for the game, you’ll be aware of the rat swarms. Throughout the story, the players must navigate through swarms of rats that can kill you in mere seconds. These rats do not like light at all and will quickly scatter at the sight of a lit torch or lantern. There will be times when you are quickly moving through areas before your torch burns out. Amicia learns new alchemy recipes as the story goes on, giving you access to new abilities like ignifer (lights torches and embers), odoris (attracts rats to one area) and devorantis (forces enemies to remove their helmets) among others. These special items are crafted with ingredients you pick up during the journey. Other smaller items like alcohol, animal hides and ropes are also used to upgrade your equipment. Lastly there are collectable items in each chapter in the form of gifts, curiosities and flowers. Thanks to handy chapter select and counter options, returning later to mop these up is a breeze.
For the rest of this second opinion I will be focusing on the things I liked in A Plague Tale: Innocence and the couple gripes I had. You cannot play this game long without marveling at the graphics, both character and environmental. I have never stopped and taken so many screenshots in a game before. Matching the level of realism is the incredibly well-acted voicework and beautiful musical soundtrack. The beginning of each chapter will subject you to a loading time, but it’s worth the wait. I was highly impressed with the cinematography as well, thanks to beautiful camera angles that take place during cutscenes. It really feels at times like you are partaking in a movie.
Any complaints I have about A Plague Tale: Innocence are minor and seem to only bother some players. There are sections where the player must move large boxes, crates and carts…which I found to be cumbersome and sluggish. You won’t likely get stuck on any puzzles, which I certainly did not mind, but others might crave more of a challenge. Lastly, those who hate stealth sections might find themselves turned off at times. I personally did not find many areas that frustrated me with stealth gameplay, but others I know did. There will be some areas where you must choose how to dispose of enemies, and there are some heavy trial and error elements. These typically occur when archers are in the distance and one-hit-kill soldiers are much closer. I found myself doing seemingly well during a fight, only to be hit and killed by a single arrow, which almost feels RNG whether it will hit or miss you. There are no difficulty settings, so everyone experiences the same thing. If I can make it through to the end credits, I would bet that most gamers will as well.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is the definition of a sleeper hit that I hope earns plenty of award nominations. It’s a story that everyone can connect with on a human level, but even more so if you are a parent or sibling. The presentation will astound you and the pacing of gameplay will keep you playing in both lengthy and short sessions. You might get discouraged at times when your stealth play goes awry, but I encourage everyone to keep at it until the end. I’m hopeful that A Plague Tale will become a series, with more entries in the future. Until that question is answered, all I can do is give kudos to Asobo Studios for their true gem of an experience. Highly recommended.