A Plague Tale: Innocence is a stealth action-adventure game set in an alternate version of 14th century France. War with England and the Black Plague has ravaged France. Not only is the plague itself killing people, hordes of rats appear at night, consuming all flesh in its path. Amicia and Hugo De Rune are on the run from the Inquisition, whose leader seems to have a special interest in Hugo.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a well written coming of age story. Amicia and Hugo’s characters feel nuanced. Amicia is more than just the heroine who seeks to protect her brother at all cost. She is also struggling to find time to process grief and jealousy of her brother’s close relationship with their mother in a trying time. The writers do an excellent job of creating a very human portrayal of Amicia, though I would have liked to see a little more time spent on Amicia’s emotional struggle in the early game. The relationship between Amicia and Hugo is also well written. It’s full of the love/hate moments many siblings will recognize.
The dialogue is very good. There are a lot of children in the story, and their lines always feel appropriate for their age group. The writers have also added enough lines for the guards that sneaking around never sounds too repetitive.
In practice, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a stealth adventure game with some action sequences built in. The stealth system is simple, but well executed. Since Amicia is a young teenager facing off against grown men, the stealth mechanics are more old school in nature. Players are given some equipment to distract guards and maybe even take one or two down, but generally avoiding combat is key. There are some short action sequences, but they are generally focused on escaping more powerful foes.
The game is puzzle heavy. Most of the puzzles are not hard, though a few will probably require a few tries to solve. The puzzle design is smart, with many requiring players to control the flow of the rats with light and alchemical projectiles to advance to new areas. The linear level design makes the stealth sections feel more like a puzzle, as there is usually only one way through. Enemies are generally lured by existing items in the environment, such as throwing rocks into metal items. Throwing pots is the only way to choose exactly where to lure enemies, but those are rare. There are a few open areas that offer players some more flexibility. These sections highlight just how linear the rest of the levels are, though.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s difficulty level is not very high. While it never gets so easy to the point of boredom, the developers are more focused on the overall journey than testing player skill. There are a generous number of checkpoints for players to fall back on. An ample amount of crafting materials for alchemical projectiles is scattered around the world. I never felt like I had to ration projectiles if I fully explored a level. Even with a more direct run through, there is usually a steady supply of materials on the path just before an item needs to be used. The game offers some last-ditch items that can save the player from death, but they are generally useless due to the generous checkpoints and the fact these items consume materials needed for equipment upgrades. These materials are rare enough to force players to choose their upgrades wisely, so wasting them on last ditch items is pretty pointless.
The game’s controls are decent. The menus work well for both controllers and mouse and keyboard. The PC controls are on the simple side and miss some options like toggling or holding crouch. The controller offers two possible layouts, though both feel slightly non-standard compared to the traditional shooter layout that has become almost ubiquitous in gaming these days. A third layout or completely customizable controller bindings would have been preferred. The menus work well for both controllers and mouse and keyboard. Switching between ammo types can be a little awkward in a tight situation. There are two unused directions on the D-Pad that would have been great for binding favourited items.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s graphics are excellent. The game’s art direction is dark. The amount of gore in the game may not be everyone’s cup of tea but feels necessary given the theme of loss of innocence. Character animations and models are generally solid. The game’s rats are visually impressive. The swarms move around like a liquid, reacting to light and alchemical projectiles.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s audio experience is fantastic. Sound is so important for stealth games, and Asobo Studio uses it masterfully. The sound effects are solid. I love small subtle details like Amicia’s breath quickening when enemies are nearby. The music is incredibly well done. The composer has created a soundtrack that is full of emotion. The music does a great job of building tension during stealth sections and injecting energy into escape sequences. Amicia and Hugo’s voice actors do a fantastic job. There are plenty of adult voice actors whose work pale in comparison to these two child actors. Their performance makes the already strong story absolutely captivating. Most of the actors playing smaller roles do a good job, though there are a few actors whose French accent noticeably falter from time to time. Normally, most people probably would not notice, but Amicia and Hugo’s performance is just that good in comparison.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is very much about the story, and there’s nothing wrong about that. The story itself is fantastic. The characters are complex and relatable, even in their dire situations. I can easily see this game being adapted into a movie. The gameplay may not be the star of the show, but it is solid none the less. It’s just hard enough to be enjoyable without being frustrating. It’s not perfect, as the levels can be a little too straight forward and the controls have some minor quirks. The visual presentation is solid, but it really pales in comparison to the fantastic audio experience. Between the well executed audio and the stellar performance by the two child actors playing Amicia and Hugo, the game is a delight for the ears. As long as you can handle the gore, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a must play for anyone who loves story heavy games.
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