Every so often a game comes along that surprises you from out of the blue. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of those games, Asobo Studio have crafted a fantastic and original story here that is well worth experiencing.
The 14th century medieval setting is an interesting time to set any story in, with the Inquisition slamming down their heavy hand on anything they deem blasphemous, rich nobles ruling over peasants with an iron fist and the growing dread of the Black Death rising across Europe. Amongst all this, Amicia De Rune and her family find themselves facing tragedy from all directions. Unusually, the main characters happen to be from one of the richer families but, as we find out in the rather harrowing opening, it doesn’t make them immune to either the plague or the Inquisition.
Amicia’s little Brother, Hugo, has a strange illness that the Inquisition seem interested in, to a point where they’re not about to let anything stand in their way to get hold of him. Our story sets out with Amicia having to flee with Hugo across the rat-filled landscape with guards and inquisition members potentially around every corner. Even the locals initially seem angry at the children, so there is no hope of any help from them. Taking control of Amicia, your job is to guide them through the landscape to find safety while figuring out why Hugo is so important to the Inquisition.
The dynamic between the two characters is interesting; Hugo acts like a young child and Amicia tries her best to get him to follow her, but as a child herself. she’s not always best equipped to deal with his tantrums. Thankfully, she manages to find ways of dealing with her other big problem, the rats, by using alchemy. Fire ‘spells’ help her light fires that the rats will flee from or put out a fire elsewhere, leading the rats away or towards a guard instead. Many of the puzzles in the game revolve around moving through the deadly rats or avoiding the guards and this becomes easier as you learn the systems for defeating both.
While pacing and story are both solid, there is an issue with how much easier the puzzle elements become once you have full control of the alchemy and get used to rat and guard movements. It becomes a little too predicable at times, though this is mixed up a little with the occasional boss who throws a spanner in the works. The story holds things together, though and is strong enough to make you want to see if through. Likewise, the developer has perfectly captured the look and feel of Medieval Europe in the graphics and sound which makes for a very atmospheric game usually only seen in the best AAA titles.
A Plague Tale is well worth experiencing for the story and brother/sister dynamic alone, even though puzzles are a little too easy at times. The atmosphere and constant hordes of rats that threaten to spread death wherever they go makes this a unique and interesting adventure.