Year after year, we are inundated with open world, FPS and sports games, which can get a little dull. Thankfully, mid-tier developers and publishers are putting out memorable experiences for those wanting something different. A Plague Tale: Innocence is Asobo Studios’ first original title since Fuel in 2008. Backed by the brilliant Focus Home Interactive, let’s see if they can rise above the average titles in the middle tier rank.
In A Plague Tale: Innocence, you play as Amicia, a young, French noble girl with a passion for adventure. While out hunting with her father, she encounters the beginnings of the blight when her dog is killed by a swarm of rats. She returns to her estate with her father to find the Inquisition sacking the village in search of her younger brother, Hugo. Hugo has been locked away for his short life and is gravely ill. Amicia’s mother instructs her to travel in search of doctor Laurentius, the only one capable of healing poor Hugo. They escape through the mass executions of their family and friends, not knowing of the plague of rats, Inquisition forces hunting them down or the invading English army in their path. Amicia must find safety as well as uncover just why the Inquisition are after a 5 year old boy.
Watch the launch trailer for A Plague Tale: Innocence below:
I think it would be foolish to not start with the biggest strength of the game, which is the characters. Amicia is barely a teenager and has been given an enormous task right after a tragedy. The writers do an excellent job in making her complex. She barely knows Hugo and is both angry and scared but remains positive. Her character could have become very annoying to play but a delicate touch makes her one of the best protagonists I’ve played as, in a long time. Hugo is a 5 year old kid and as gaming has taught us, kids are very hard to write. Hugo is very scared and sick, yet remains hopeful. He knows little of the world and relishes in new discoveries. Amicia and Hugo have a fractured relationship and watching it grow, then break, then grow again was a treat.
The allies you meet on the way also have their own stories to tell and are given a lot of care. Every character is interesting and the villains are suitably evil. The plot itself is basically split into two different stories. The first is a struggle for survival in a world with death at every corner. The second story is, well, a little strange. Towards the end of the game, there are revelations that come out that start to lean towards the mystical. While it’s interesting, it gets a little too barmy for my liking. Thankfully the excellent characters keep you invested but the finale is pretty silly. Handled differently it could have been much better but what we are given is solid enough. It doesn’t detract from the rest of the story, which is excellent.
On a gameplay front, it’s a mix between puzzle, stealth and combat. Rats are the biggest issue in the game and form the bulk of the puzzle elements. They are scared of light so manipulating light to create a path through the sea of sharp teeth is paramount. None of these puzzles are challenging but serve the plot well. Since you play as a child, you can’t go toe to toe with a fully armoured knight, so you have to be a bit sneaky. Rats play a big part here as you can lure rats towards enemies for an instant kill or distraction.
Using Amicia’s sling, you can throw rocks at metallic objects to create an audible distraction, alternating soft and loud throws to confuse your opponents. This sling can be used in combat through it’s many ammo types. Rocks can be thrown at enemies without a helmet for an instant kill but those with a helmet need to be forced to take it off first. You can ignite and extinguish fires to control the swarm of rats and utilise explosives for massive damage. These explosives use up a lot of resources and if you keep crafting them, you’ll not have enough to upgrade Amicia’s equipment.
View some A Plague Tale: Innocence screenshots in our gallery:
It’s all simple stuff but it gets the job done and aside from a couple of sections, flows pretty well. The only downside is the boss battles. Of the three of them, only the first is passable. The other two are pretty bad, with the final boss being an irritating, instant kill style boss. These quick bosses aren’t reason enough to write off the game but they do take you out of the experience.
I was absolutely blown away by the visuals on display here. While getting a solid 60FPS at 4K isn’t possible, even on a 1080ti, it runs beautifully at 1440p. The character models are outstanding, going head to head with titles like God of War. The environments are either stunning or terrifying, as required and are given a tremendous amount of love. The lighting is incredible, blinding sunlight, inky black shadows and stunning fire effects are aplenty. The game also has excellent usage of screen space reflections and the sound library is used perfectly. Voice acting is also excellent, with a special nod to Charlotte McBurney, the actress who plays Amicia. Voice acting can hit mid-tier games hard but here it is wonderful.
Watch A Plague Tale: Innocence – The Little Boy Lost starring Sean Bean below:
Since it’s reveal trailer, I’ve had an eye on A Plague Tale: Innocence and seeing Focus Home Interactive release a slew of great titles, I’ve stayed interested. I was treated to a wonderful story, that does dip at times but is saved by its excellent cast. The adventure you go on may be bogged down by a bit too much sneaking and combat but it’s an adventure well worth the trip. Kudos to Asobo on their first major title as it really does butt heads with what AAA developers are releasing and is currently my favourite game of the year, proving linear stories still have a place.
A Plague Tale: Innocence was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the publisher.
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive Developer: Asobo Studio Release Date: 14th May, 2019 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also Available On: Xbox One, PS4