A Plague Tale: Innocence – a first look into a rich story littered with rats, violence, and beautiful scenery

Platforms:
PCPS4Xbox One
Released:
May 14, 2019
Publisher:
Focus Home Interactive
Developer:
Asobo Studio

Feature article

A Plague Tale: Innocence is a stealth game currently being developed by Asobo Studio. The game will be released in full on the 14th of May and will be published by Focus Home Interactive. In A Plague Tale, you play as Amicia, a teenage girl trying to outrun the Plague and Inquisition in medieval France, together with your younger brother Hugo. After being chased out of your childhood home, you must get yourself and Hugo to safety.

As I dived into the first three chapters of this game, the first thing that struck me was how beautiful the visuals were. A Plague Tale may chronicle a story set in a historic period rife with death and despair, but it manages to do so beautifully. Set in 1400s France ravaged by the Black Death, the forests and ruins you explore in the first chapters feel very realistic, well researched, and highly detailed, and help create an immersive story straight away.

The story of Amicia and Hugo is one of emotional upheaval, adventure, and tragedy. Without giving anything away, each chapter comes with unexpected plot twists that will keep you on your toes. The same goes for gameplay mechanics: alternating between quiet and tense stealth sections and scenes where you have to outrun mobs of angry villagers at an insane pace, A Plague Tale offers plenty of gameplay variety while staying true to the game’s main story. It certainly made me feel like I could never rest on my laurels, as danger could be lurking just around the corner.

And there are many different dangers to deal with: as Amicia, you’re only armed with a slingshot and your wits. As you progress through the game, you will not only have to deal with human enemies, but you will also encounter enormous swarms of terrifying rats, rats, and more rats. Scenes where you must outsmart hundreds of scurrying creatures will have you use different elements in your environment to escape, whether it’s through lighting a fire to find your way out of the darkness or relying on your (sometimes agonisingly slow) little brother to unlock doors and passageways. In this way, I felt the gameplay struck a nice balance between solving puzzles and engaging in faster paced forms of combat.

“…well-paced and interesting story, with gameplay that reflected a solid understanding of its player.”

With more than a hundred rats able to fill an in-game space at a time, this game is certainly not for the squeamish. After all, with a story set in a medieval world with people dying from the Plague left, right and centre, you can expect violent and graphic scenes. Perhaps the graphic nature of the game is what makes its story and protagonists stand out: it is remarkable that in the middle of so much despair, the game’s two main characters can still survive and thrive in such a hostile environment.

Both Amicia and Hugo sparked my interest as characters pretty early in the game. As a result, I was invested in their survival, which kept me engaged, even when I was grossed out by certain scenes. This is especially important when you consider A Plague Tale is still a stealth game at its core, meaning that gameplay can be frustrating. I cared enough about the characters to keep playing, despite the fact that I died many, many times in a row, and often very quickly. That said, I was relieved to find out that the game’s autosave feature is engineered in such a way that it saves often, and prevents you from having to replay huge chunks of the game over and over again.

In this sense, I found that A Plague Tale delivered a well-paced and interesting story, combined with gameplay mechanics that reflected a solid understanding of its player. The game mechanics seem to anticipate the player’s needs: features like the frequent autosave help the game become a fun experience rather than a dull and repetitive one.

If the first three chapters of the game are anything to go by, A Plague’s Tale promises to be an engaging game with both beautiful and disgusting visuals that is worth picking up. If swarms of rats don’t deter you and you enjoy stealth, story, and action in games, A Plague’s Tale is certainly worth pre-ordering today.