A Plague Tale: Innocence begins with a warm and welcoming scene. In the French countryside, Amicia and her father hunt together. It’s a sweet moment that starts off the newest game from Asobo Studio, set in France during the Middle Ages. In these perilous times, the land faces turmoil with the Black Death and the Inquisition.
But that isn’t the focus of this tale. Instead, it’s about Amicia and her younger brother Hugo, on the run searching for a cure to Hugo’s mysterious illness. Instead of battling your way to the end though, APlague Tale: Innocence focuses on stealth and evading Inquisition soldiers and avoiding hordes of Bubonic-infested rats. A Plague Tale: Innocence sets a tone early on and sticks with it. Things are dreary and you’re best to keep that in mind as you witness the horrors of the time.
Set against the backdrop of the Hundred Years’ War, Amicia serves as a guardian to her brother Hugo. Before the events of the game, Amicia and Hugo lived idyllic and peaceful lives in the countryside. Their mother is Hugo’s primary caretaker and always stays by his side due to his illness until one day soldiers arrive, and the siblings are forced out into the world. Amicia and Hugo aren’t very close and so through the events that transpire, end up having to survive this – together.
Amicia and Hugo tread through half-eaten corpses, hordes of rats that peel the flesh off bone and soldiers out for them. The world is out to get these two and you need to help them survive. Along the way, you’ll encounter friends that join our characters. Each character is written well and believable and offers a brief respite from the evil out to get you.
As far as escort missions go, I’m not a fan. However, the way Amicia and Hugo are written and the way they interact with their surroundings drives the narrative way past it’s weaker gameplay. Essentially, you as Amicia, must hold the hand of Hugo and guide him through 14th century France. Hugo being a child, never experienced the world outside his bedroom and thus, this wonder for the things he sees is contagious. On the other hand, Hugo is a child and acts as you would expect a 5-year-old to act.
Gameplay involves stealth primarily but Amicia uses a sling that throws rocks but acquires other tools to help in her journey. You can craft items as well using items you find exploring. One thing I never expected is the personal journey Amicia in which she does horrible things to survive. Amicia isn’t an adult but she’s forced to do horrible things to survive. I enjoyed the way events unfolded and you see her grapple with her choices.
What have I done
However, what should be noted is that Amicia doesn’t fret on her decision on killing too long. In some sections, to proceed any further she needs to kill to get by. I understand the necessity of this decision, but this takes away from the damage killing does to a soul and undermines the entire conflict of having killed someone.
The majority of A Plague Tale involves holding Hugo’s hand. While you’re able to let go of his hand and move independently, if you go too far, Hugo draws attention by screaming. Hugo does, however, help when a puzzle requires his assistance.
Speaking of puzzles, these break up the gameplay and flow well. In some, you use light to manipulate the hordes of rats to get around them. Other puzzles have you shifting around boxes, levers and so on. Rats hate the light for example and is a key gameplay element needed to complete puzzles. Thankfully, none of the puzzles are particularly tough. This isn’t a bad thing by any means, and really, if you prefer harder puzzles you won’t find any that stump you. Instead, these serve as a means to an end and to keep the pace of the story flowing.
Crafting also plays a part in A Plague Tale: Innocence. Levels are littered with resources and you’ll find yourself picking up as much as you can. In a world where everything is so gloomy, so dark, the plentiful resources displace the feeling of desolation. For instance, Amicia learns alchemical recipes along her journey and those recipes can be used to craft light sources. However, the issues lie in the fact you don’t need to plan out a strategy when you need them, instead of leaving you to be wasteful. Not only that but Amicia happens upon workbenches and here she can upgrade the sling, as well as carrying capacity.
A Plague Tale: Innocence features an interesting narrative set within the backdrop of a bleak time in human history. You often felt tension when encountering hordes of infested rats or the well-equipped soldier’s search for Amicia and Hugo. The relationship between these two siblings starts rough but builds into something worth exploring. While the stealth and combat sections don’t do anything new, they are there to push the narrative where it needs to go. Furthermore, the rats are horrifying and watching them scurry or devour a corpse leaves a lasting impression. A Plague Tale: Innocence is exemplary and recommended.
[A copy of the game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.]