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Game Review: A Plague Tale: Innocence
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A Plague Tale: Innocence
XBOX | PS4
DEVELOPER: Asobo Studio
PUBLISHER: Focus Home Interactive
RELEASE DATE: May 14, 2019

For anyone who is exhausted by the current state of video games, oversaturated with endless “games as a service” BS, a good old-fashioned single-player experience is always a most welcome option to have. The recently released A Plague Tale: Innocence is one such option.

The game, which comes from independent French developer Asobo Studio, is a third-person adventure set in medieval France. It follows a girl tasked with protecting her young brother as they fight to survive in a dangerous world devastated not only by war but also by the horrific Black Death plague.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is set in 1348 France, after the English have invaded as part of the Hundred Years’ War. But the game starts out pleasantly enough. You play as Amicia de Rune, who is out with her father in a beautiful forest. The pair spot a nice fat wild boar, which would make for quite the feast. But while pursuing their feast fit for royalty, they discover something extremely disturbing and head home immediately. This is just the beginning of some difficult times for Amicia and her family.

While looking for her mother—who spends most of her time taking care of and trying to find a cure for Amicia’s young brother Hugo, who has been sick with a mysterious illness since birth—the Inquisition shows up, and they’re looking for Hugo.

In the chaos that ensues, Amicia finds herself taking Hugo and barely escaping the Inquisition. And so begins her quest, a journey across perilous lands trying not only to keep Hugo safe but to stay alive herself as well.

Asobo Studio and publisher Focus Home Interactive have delivered an impressive game in A Plague Tale. Asobo did a tremendous job in crafting it, and clearly put a lot of effort into bringing the world to life. Their attention to detail really shines through as you take in the various locations you visit and characters you meet. How those locations are designed, all of the small touches and items placed carefully to give the areas or buildings their own unique feel, the outfits the characters are wearing—it all helps to build a remarkable world. And makes it so very easy to immerse yourself in that world.

The first thing that jumped out at me is just how beautiful the game is. Watching trailers and gameplay I expected to be rather depressed playing through it. But there are little moments of beauty sprinkled throughout the game and plenty of touching moments between characters to pull at those emotional strings, both helping to ensure that you the player don’t get too burnt out on the bleak stuff—another smart move by the developer. A lovely score composed by Olivier Derivière helps to enhance these moments, as well.

The two main characters, Amicia and Hugo, are so sweet. It’s impossible not care for them almost immediately. And that emotional connection to the characters only grows as you progress through the story. Especially Hugo, who’s so young and tiny in such a dangerous world. You’ll do whatever you can to protect him, like Amicia, as if you yourself were protecting your own sibling. Amicia is basically just a child herself, which makes her feel quite vulnerable at times, but thankfully she can be David vs. Goliath deadly with her sling when she needs to be.

You’ll meet a few memorable characters on your journey, but much praise goes to Charlotte McBurney and Logan Hannan, who voice Amicia and young Hugo, for their work on A Plague Tale. This is the first credited acting role for each of them, and there was an undeniable innocence to their performances perfectly fitting to the game’s title.

The game mixes things up well to keep gameplay feeling fresh. It is largely a stealth game, especially when you’re dealing with the Inquisition. But you’re not constantly in stealth mode, using the same tricks over and over again to progress through the game.

Sometimes you’ll encounter a puzzle which needs to be solved. Other times you’ll find yourself in a chase, running for your lives. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in a situation where violence is required. And sometimes, there’s a moment of peace when you’re able to take in what’s around you and catch your breath. And in between all of this there’s also plenty of crafting materials to pick up which you can use to upgrade your gear, and collectibles to discover on your journey which add to the lore.

But you’re not just dealing with the Inquisition in A Plague Tale: Innocence. As the title warns, you’re dealing with a nasty plague as well. The disease is spreading rapidly, and many are dying. Helping to spread this nightmare is the rats. And I must say, there is something truly terrifying about thousands of screeching, infected, ravenous rats appearing on your screen, especially when the only thing keeping them from stripping every ounce of flesh from your bones is a flicker of firelight.

Thankfully you’re not always dealing with the Inquisition, or the nightmare rodents. The chapters are well-organized and change things up, keeping things fresh once again. Taking a page from favorites like The Last of Us, the game jumps from one danger to the other so that you don’t get too overwhelmed by one or the other. Though some sections do throw some heat your way by having both threats looming. They need to keep you on your toes, after all.

This is most definitely a game you should dive into if you get a chance to. Especially if you, like me, are sick of the avalanche of online multiplayer games as a service titles we’ve been hit with lately.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind some online games, and have enjoyed quite a few of them. But to see them completely engulf gaming as a whole, like a swarm of plague infected rats, has been difficult for anyone not making Scrooge McDuck coin off of them or those with cash to burn who actually prefer buying an advantage. Monsters.

A game like A Plague Tale: Innocence, which allows me disappear into another time, another world, and experience a story without having to worry about what other players are doing or how good my internet connection is? That’s something that warms me to my very core and makes my soul smile.

I very much look forward to what Asobo Studio has planned for their next game, and I hope it too offers a similar escape.

Trailer

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