First of all, if rats aren’t your ideal company, maybe this game will give you the shudders..But don’t let a phobia of the furry critters put you off playing this phenomenal game, because, wow.
A Plague Tale Innocence offers up a variety of gameplay which switches between action, stealth and puzzle mechanics to provide the player with a uniquely original story set in war torn 14th Century plague riddled France. As the player you follow our protagonists Amicia and her younger brother Hugo, both orphaned and on the run from a horde of horrendous enemies, some of which are fellow human beings who go by the name of Inquisition Soldiers. Speaking of enemies, the young heroes will also need to survive against swarms and swarms of rats who appeared alongside the plague which is destroying cities and villages across the country.
Later on in the game the rats can be used to Amicia’s advantage though. Have a murderous guard galloping towards you sword in hand? No problem. Using the sling shot which is Amicia’s primary weapon, you can bait the rats towards your enemies and let them handle the threat while you scurry off into the safety of cover. Or you can use your sling shot to shoot stones at the guards to stun them which gives you a safe few seconds to sneak on past. As helpful as the rats can be at times, you don’t want to find yourself caught in a dead end with them. Fire is your friend in this game, as it’ll strike fear in the swarms of vermin and give you a protective shield as such to protect yourself with. You can either get fire from your environment or you can craft sulphur based ammunition which can ignite brazier lamps. Luckily upgrading workbenches appear rather frequently so you always have the option to upgrade and craft before continuing your adventure. Your brother Hugo can also be used as an action command if Amicia finds herself stuck in a sticky situation. One last thing about the swarms of rats I want to mention is the attention to detail and the awesome rat physics. As they swarm around you, you genuinely feel trapped in, well and truly surrounded. Even the sounds they make are super authentic and really makes you feel like you are there, which in all honesty probably isn’t the best place to find yourself. The last game I played which showed good rat physics and a real threat from the vermin was Dishonoured Definitive Edition PS4, so hats off to you Asobo Studio, you did good. Even seeing them scurry around on the menu screen gave me the shivers.
The leads me on nicely to the gameplay itself and how the game runs. Off the bat you can decide whether you’d like your playthrough to be standard or as immersive as possible. As expected ‘standard’ means the full interface is on show at all times, where as ‘immersive’ means majority of the interface is disabled meaning a more attention filled playthrough. For this review I opted for ‘standard’.
As you control Amicia, it is 3rd person over the shoulder gameplay, and oh boy, the visuals are absolutely stunning. God rays galore, perfect contrasts between light and shadow and the music really does set the scenes well as you progress through the story. Speaking of ‘boy’ there is a very good boy called Lion at the start of the game which luckily yes, you can pet. Using the R3 command allows Amicia to lock on and zoom into important scenarios and objects in her current surroundings and like most games of this nature, L2 is to use your weapon, R2 is to aim and shoot. Alternately you can use L1 to aim weapons as well for a more stealthy attack. Your sling shot is a noisy tool and will attract the attention of the guards if swung in close proximity. The beginning segment of the game as I’ve just described sets the story up nicely and acts as a mini tutorial as such to get you the player ready for the adventure awaiting ahead. I won’t describe anymore of the story to avoid spoilers for you readers but just know you’re in for a rollercoaster of emotions. As the game progresses you team up with younger sibling Hugo and the directional buttons on the D-Pad are what controls and gives him commands. The puzzles are relatively simple, but effective, using your surroundings to progress throughout each chapter. Hugo can also help Amicia with certain puzzle tasks like squeezing through smalls cracks in walls/doors and opening them from the other side, allowing Amicia to progress.
The voice acting is very well executed and like mentioned before, the music really does help set the scene and the pace of the story well. The NPC’s feel well placed and actually converse with each other and interact with the environment giving the game a real sense of realism. As the action increases the music swells and honestly it is very gripping, I found myself completely caught up in the story moment. The conversation between Amicia and Hugo too feel very authentic and again as the story progresses you can really start to see and hear their relationship ever growing. Hugo will ask questions about the environment you are currently in and it just conveys as so real. Even at times Hugo will run off and disobey and Amicia sounds genuinely annoyed by it, like a true sibling rivalry as it were.
The length of the game is generous too, offering the player up to 12 to 15 hours, depending on your play style. It’s not open world but the environments are large enough to provide the player with plenty of places to explore and loot. Loot is very generous too, enabling Amicia to always be stocked up on rocks for her sling shot and when you’re fighting off hordes or either plague infested rats or blood craving Inquisition soldiers, you are going to want to be well equipped.
If I were to give advice to anyone who’s going to be picking up this game, I’d say don’t rush your play through. Savour and take in the gorgeous environments around you which clearly have had a lot of care and attention poured into them. Hell even the swarms and swarms of rats look amazing, as mentioned previously.