Since the initial reveal of Asobo Studio’s ambitious new IP, A Plague Tale: Innocence has captivated the imagination with its eerie sensation of dread and despair. Previews of the game detailed orphans caught in the middle of a ravaging plague, instigated by insatiable rats eating through all life, only kept at bay by light.
Now, after many hours journeying through the games daunting yet breathtaking level designs and uncovering the ultimate truth to this fantastic tale, it is only fair to delcare Asobo Studio’s latest interactive experience as a must-play narrative experience. From the beginning A Plague Tale: Innocence reflects a beautifully inspired world, quickly becoming a grim and dark existence for the games tinder hearted young survivors.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is based in the early stages of the ‘Hundred Years War’ of 1349, as 15 year-old Amicia, her father and her beloved dog named Lion who are out on a morning strole, stumble upon the birth pains of the forest. Ultimately, an unknown entity takes the life of the dog, Lion as victim of its clutches. Soon after, Amicia and her younger brother Hugo have their lives turned on its head, as their posh home life gets ripped before their eyes. Running for their lives, they are pursued by the Inquisition through villages devastated by the disease. At the same time a savage rat plague is unleased, ravaging the Kingdom of France.
Initially players control Amicia with her brother Hugo in tow while holding her hand. While this may sound troublesome, the system here work quite well. Due to Hugo’s peculiar sickness and very young state, Amicia must be aware of both herself and her vulnerable younger brother. Again, this tandem system which is introduced throughtout works well and does not feel like a burden. However, once you let go of Hugo’s hand, commanding him to stay put, Amicia can only go so far before Hugo become deathly frightened.
Due to the games seemless gameplay and puzzle design, Amicia and Hugo work together in order for the two to progress the story forward. While Amicia progressivlely masters the sling, Hugo can squeeze through small openings aiding in opening reachable areas. In many of these instances the game introduces challenging level designs, forcing the player to carefully assess their surroundings and enemy travel patterns. Sometimes timing is key and eventually if you’re brave and accurate enough, getting from point A to B can rely heavily on your skill of the sling.
Make no mistake, for most of the ride you must approach this with stealthly resolve. Yet, when opportunities present themselves it does feel great to unleash your youthful emotions on the pursuing Inquisition.
For the entirety of the ride, despite your ability to enhance your combative dexterity, you will feel vulnerable throughout. This level of uncertainly mixed with the games adolescent banter keeps you on your toes.
Unfortunately for Amicia and Hugo who are on the run desperately seeking shelter from citizens within the local village, the siblings find themselves on their own as no one will help. In fact, some people believe the kids are somehow the cause of this devastating rat plague, refusing to open their doors.
Ultimately, you are forced to efficiently work your sling as you will often be confronted by soldiers and knights suited in their full armor, who take no pity on you. In fact, expect to die a few times as you learn to implement all of the resources at your disposal. Initially Amicia will use rocks and pots to distract enemies in order to cross certain paths. Later you become equipped with various forms of slinging weapons. Some objects can be tossed at the helmets of enemies to melt the armor, forcing them to remove their helmets, allowing you the opportunity to go full David & Goliath.
Other objects allow you to bait the rats in your prefered direction, also destroy a pool of rats, light up objects and much more. Balancing the scales, the devastating rat plague show no pejudice, this allows Amicia to strategically take out the fire/light of nearby soldier, thus offering the rats a wonderful meal.
Throughout the journey Amicia will occasionally find workbenches where she can increase the size of her weapons pouch, replenish her weapons, increase the accuracy, speed and reloading of her sling, among other valuable upgrades.
While the combat system is rather limited in scope, the purposeful intension here is a brilliant compliment to the games story and level design. From the varied enemy types of the Inquisition to the menacing rat hodes, every enemy is larger and much more powerful with greater numbers. This actuality keeps the tension high. If you are caught by the Inquisition you are brutally killed on sight and if you have a missed step outside the light the rats will quickly devour your flesh.
Word of advice, please take your time and do not rush or you will die!
While A Plague Tale: Innocence showcases an exquisite canvas of beautifully detailed design, your heart will certainly break for these kids as they traverse this horrifyingly opulent world. The art of France on display here is truly amazing, yet you desperately want these children to escape all of it.
The production here explodes off the screen as everything in use adds stunnning quality to the experience. Narratively, you are compelled by the layers of story discovery associated with Hugo’s health, the siblings mother, the origin of the rat plague, and why Hugo is such a significant plot piece to the plans of the Inquisition. Uncovering all these truths keep you on the egde of your seat.
Shortcomings of the game were identified in how your allies were positioned. For example, sometimes Lucas had a tendency of standing too close to the dark, allowing him to be overcome by the rats. Also, during a sequence when Amicia, Hugo and Lucas needed to run behind a lit mobile barrier, for some strange reason Lucas would not run fast enough staying in the light and would again be eaten. More or less, there were occasion like this which were out of my control, dampered my experience, but only for a spell.
For the duration of the games seventeen chapters, what’s on display is beautifully realized. The puzzles are simple yet challenging. Taking me more than fourten hours to complete, the satisfaction of the games conclusion is rewarding.
From its gripping atmosphere and emotionally driven cut-scenes, to the straightforward gameplay and enchanting narrative, A Plague Tale: Innocence stands out as easily one of the year best adventures.