The 1300’s can be a scary time. No electricity, scores of deadly diseases, and religious discourse brewing onto the world. All these troubles are compounded when a paranormal infestation begins to overwhelm the world. A Plague Tale: Innocence crafts a beautiful story into this intriguing world that will capture your attention.
A Plague Tale: Innocence follows a pair of French noble siblings, Amicia and Hugo, as they work to uncover a growing mystery that blends family secrets with a paranormal horde of rats (yes, really). Throughout the adventure, the pair finds a myriad of companions – some for a few moments and others for the long haul – that offer alternate perspectives to the commotion happening in France. The story presents some enduring, heart-pulsing, and emotionally powerful moments and really pushes the story forward without slowing the pace. I was also shocked by how much the story affected me (in the best ways possible).
What shines brightest is the evolving relationship between Amicia and Hugo. The two siblings seldom spent time together in the past (which is explained early in the game), but due to unforeseen circumstances are forced to rely on each other to survive. The two start of bickering, undermining each other and showcasing a typical frustrations of having a younger brother who doesn’t always comply with dictations or common sense. The innocence of Hugo is also tested and the brutality of survival is hard for him (and his sister) to fully process. The interactions are believable and genuine; offering sincere emotion for large climax-driven story beats as well as more intimate and tranquil moments. The only somewhat disappointing moments occur towards the final few story-beats, taking a-few-too-many creative liberties within the carefully crafted world. Regardless of the incongruency of a latter end-piece, the entirety of the story really resonated with me and lingered well past the completion of the game.
In addition to the moving story, the voice actors and the workmanship of the game devs were able to meld emotional moments with powerful set pieces. Without spoiling too much, I was amazed by the cinematography on numerous instances. You could feel the unease, hear the caution in the characters’ voices, and nearly forget that you’re controlling the characters through the horrors of the world. Despite some inconsistency with graphic fidelity, I was completely enamored with and in awe of these moments and the work done by the voice actors to keep me enthralled in the moments. This is all compounded by the beautiful score throughout the game. The crescendos, moments of suspense, and accents of fear were all heightened by the musical experience.
Despite all the praise for the visual and story elements, my biggest struggles occur with several of the gameplay mechanics. This 3rd-person adventure game has players controlling Amicia, who by default is also holding onto her brother, Hugo, for his safety during the majority of the game. This relationship also plays into several puzzles in the game; having Hugo stay in one place while Amicia performs another action is commonplace. Though this wasn’t too frustrating, I did have several deja-vu moments of puzzles mostly being too similar with each other towards the first half of the game. Luckily, this is absolved for several thematic reasons in the second half and offers a bit of fresh air that continues to push the gameplay and story forward. However, the majority of the game, aside from puzzle solving, leans into stealth, fighting, and crafting.
The crafting is unlocked early into this 17-chapter adventure game where you can upgrade your equipment for battle, stealth, and general consumables. Unfortunately, the materials for crafting upgrades are few and far in between and require a careful eye when exploring chapters. If I wasn’t actively looking for crafting materials through this linear experience, it would be likely that I would miss out on most of them. Stealth and combat are wildly inconsistent, where several moments in the game require certain actions and failing results in instant-fails. Though the reload is quick, I found myself banging my head at two specific moments where the accuracy of throwing my weapons or the precision of stealthiness was frustrating to accomplish. Happily, these ended up being minor frustrations on an otherwise stellar experience.
The Verdict: 8.6 out of 10
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a great puzzle-adventure game with an eerily beautiful story to tell. Despite the somewhat lackluster gameplay, the emotional journey it puts you through is well worth the time investment. I eagerly hope to hear news of a continuation of the series or at the very least, more from this team
This game was reviewed on PlayStation 4 with the code provided by the publisher. For more information about what the score means, check out our official review scale.
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