I haven’t really heard of Asobo Studio’s before A Plague Tale: Innocence and that’s probably because most of their games before this were videogames based on Pixar movies like Up and Ratatouille. After discovering this, I didn’t know what to expect because this seems to be much different from everything they have worked on in the past, but what I found was a really great – and surprisingly impressive – third-person, action-adventure stealth game with beautiful visuals and awesome, eerie music that just kept surprising me.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s story is great, well-paced and gives some excellent story beats that keep you interested throughout the 17-chapter campaign which takes around 12-15 hours to complete. You play as Amicia de Rune who is forced into a protector role for her brother Hugo (who has been sick since birth), despite not knowing him very well, as they flee their home after it is overrun by the Inquisition who kills their parents in the process. As they are escaping, they discover that swarms of ravenous rats are devouring anything that crosses their path while spreading the plague throughout the villages that begins to make people sick. We later discover that the Inquisition stormed the de Rune household looking for Hugo as his blood is special, but that’s as far as I’ll go with the plot.
As mentioned before, the story in A Plague Tale: Innocence is really great because of how well new story and gameplay elements are added in. With almost every other chapter you get new, fascinating information about this world, the plague or Hugo and his illness that keeps the story interesting and retains the pace of it very strong throughout. Since this is mainly a stealth game, most of the interesting information you are getting in the chapters are from sneaking around and listening to the dialogue and because of this, I would sit and listen before moving onto the next room because I wanted to know more. The cast of characters during the journey with Amicia and Hugo de Rune is awesome and all had solid performances. These side characters kept the story interesting and add some great gameplay elements based on their skill sets such as lockpicking or crafting recipes. Amicia and Hugo themselves are such interesting characters as well with an equally interesting relationship since, as previously mentioned, they don’t know each other very well because of Hugo’s illness since birth.
One of the most impressive parts of A Plague Tale: Innocence is the rats themselves mainly because of how many they actually have on screen at certain parts and how awesome they look when they are in swarms. You learn quickly in the story that the rats do not like light/fire and this becomes a terrifying, yet fantastic, gameplay element for enemies and for the puzzles in the game. The rats are more of a distraction than an actual threat since most of the time you are dealing with them it is puzzle-oriented, but the noises they make, the look of them and just the idea of these hordes of blood-hungry rats trying to nip at you makes you feel uneasy throughout.
There are some portions of the game where you will have to fight enemies with Amicia’s trusty slingshot which she uses to whip enemies in the head with rocks, but she also uses it for solving the few puzzles in the game. The slingshot is surprisingly fun to use and gets even better the more you upgrade it. Throughout A Plague Tale: Innocence you are able to craft many different ammo types with the power of alchemy, which is what the mother of Amicia and Hugo was practising to help Hugo. There are eight ammo types in total that you get gradually as the story progresses, one of them is ‘Ignifier’ can be used to light braziers and lanterns to help clear rats to proceed in certain areas and there is also ‘Extinguish’ which is the opposite of ‘Ignifier’ and that helps when there is an enemy by a fire and you want to take him out with rats. Using the sling makes noise, so there is an option to just throw these ammo types if you are close enough, which I thought was very smart. There are several crafting components throughout each chapter that can be used to craft these ammo types or they can be used to upgrade yourself or your sling.
Another thing that A Plague Tale: Innocence surprised me with was the visuals because this game looks like a AAA title in almost every aspect. It has this oil painting-like style for the world and characters that I absolutely loved and the design of the rats and how they interact with said characters and world is visually terrifying. The music in this game is also something that deserves praise because it adds to the intensity of the game whenever you’re being chased by guards or you discover your first rat nest. It shows how important a good score can be and how much it can add to the intensity of a story and the emotions of the characters.
The only issue I had with the visuals was with the characters themselves since their facial animations don’t look the greatest, especially for Amicia herself. Amicia was the worst of them because it always felt like she had ‘dead eyes’ the majority of the time her face was shown in cutscenes, but with everyone else, my main issue was the lack of mouth movements for dialogue. The game also froze and quit itself on me during a cutscene where there was an explosion, but this only happened once. There are also framerate issues in some sections, but the majority of the time it ran great.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a game that took me by surprise in the best way. It’s a visually beautiful game with a great, excellently-paced story filled with interesting characters and story beats along with fantastic, eerie music that keeps you wanting more from this world. The rat plague remains terrifying throughout and adds some unique gameplay elements to the already great stealth/action gameplay. There are a few issues with performance and the facial animations aren’t on par with the visuals, but these are minimal complaints for what makes this game great. A Plague Tale: Innocence wasn’t even on my radar and I’m ashamed because I would have missed out on this great game and now that I’ve told you, don’t make the same mistake I almost made.
A Plague Tale: Innocence (Reviewed on Xbox One S)
This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.
A Plague Tale: Innocence wasn’t even on my radar and I’m ashamed because I would have missed out on this great game and now that I’ve told you, don’t make the same mistake I almost made.