A Plague Tale: Innocence Xbox One X Review

 

 
Overview
 

Genre: Stealth Action-Adventure
 
Rating: MA
 
Release Date: 14/05/2019
 
Overall
 
 
 
 
 
3.5/5


User Rating
1 total rating

 

Positives


- Characters and story are well written and interesting
- Environments and characters look fantastic
- Great variety to gameplay sequences and mechanics

Negatives


- Animations and controls are clunky
- Puzzles are too simple


Posted May 19, 2019 by

 
Full Article
 
 

Asobo Studio aren’t known for their original games, having largely spent their existence developing licensed properties or assisting other studios, but after 10 years they’re releasing their first new IP since Fuel. A Plague Tale: Innocence looked interesting at announcement but given Focus Home Interactive’s business model is based around publishing games on smaller budgets, it was never clear just how the game would turn out. Thankfully, while there a couple of seemingly budget-based design decisions in the game, A Plague Tale: Innocence proves to be a well-paced, engaging and interesting experience from beginning to end.

A Plague Tale: Innocence follows Amicia and Hugo De Rune, siblings unfamiliar with each other due to an ongoing and undisclosed illness suffered by Hugo. Their lives are quickly upheaved, forcing them to flee together from imminent destruction and into the unknown. Set in the 1300s amidst the destruction and desolation of the black plague and Hundred Years War, A Plague Tale: Innocence never shies away from depicting the horrific realities of both and its character writing humanises the game’s main characters. Amicia and Hugo’s growing relationship, and the trials and tribulations that come with it, is very much the focus of the game’s story. Their dialogue is well written and their reactions relatable, leading me to quickly become attached to them and care about their journey. This isn’t an epic tale of war, but an engaging view into a story of personal growth and the horrors that lead to it.

Much of A Plague Tale: Innocence’s marketing has surrounded the hordes of plague rats that threaten the very existence of humanity, but their utilisation leaves them feeling more like props than horrific monsters. While many areas of the game are strewn with masses of rats, you’re rarely directly threatened by them unless you walk directly into the hordes. The plague rat sections of the game largely play as puzzles, as you find the right ways to progress through the extremely linear levels. The puzzles are incredibly simple and straightforward, never requiring more than a couple of minutes to complete. By the halfway point of the game I stopped worrying about the rats at all, knowing that unless I did something particularly badly that they wouldn’t come close to me at all. That isn’t how I want to feel when faced by hordes of bloodthirsty rats waiting to eat me alive.

This leads me to the real threat of A Plague Tale: Innocence – the French Inquisition. The Inquisition had taken interest in the De Rune family – Hugo, in particular – and will stop at nothing to capture him. This when the game’s stealth gameplay comes to the fore, as you try to sneak past or escape the Inquisition. Inquisitions soldiers will actively chase and seek you if the see you, and they notice you incredibly quickly if you fall into their sights. Like the puzzle sections of the game, these sections are largely linear – although with a little more freedom around solutions – with you expected to puzzle out the right path and actions to take. This could mean smashing Soldiers’ lanterns with your sling, causing them to be overrun by rats, causing distractions to get past them, or simply waiting for the right moment to slip past. These sections are more of a constant threat as Amecia dies after a single hit, as are the chase sequences that have you running from the Inquisition, but even these are still muted due to their relative linearity and simplicity. However, the game does strike a great balance between the three types of sequences – puzzle, stealth and chase – never overstaying on any single one. Unfortunately, the game’s controls can sometimes cause problems throughout all of these, as a combination of imprecise and unresponsive movement gets in the way.

Throughout these sequences, you’re using a slew of different items and actions to progress, which are slowly rolled out as you progress. Early on you only have the ability to shoot stones out of Amicia’s sling, throw pots or send Hugo into gaps you can’t fit into. At regular intervals throughout the story Amicia’s repertoire expands, as she learns to craft new ammunition for her sling, and the game’s chapters are built around this. Each chapter that brings about a new item then spends time presenting you with situations where it’s required to progress, teaching you to recognise the right environmental and situational triggers to put it into use. The game never overwhelms you with a sudden increase in options, but the pacing it employs is near perfect. By the end of the game the scenarios begin to open up more, often allowing you to choose how to approach them and what items to use. The materials used to craft these ammunition types are plentiful but are also used to upgrade Amicia’s sling and other equipment. It rewards people that are able to more frugally spend their ammunition, while never feeling particularly punishing if you need to use large amounts.

It’s not unusual for a smaller budget game to not look fantastic technically, but this is where A Plague Tale: Innocence really excels. The characters are all incredibly detailed, with realistic looking skin and hair, and the textures on their clothing is fantastic. The game’s environments are similarly dense and complex, with small details everywhere and some excellent lighting, especially whenever fire is present. The design is interesting, mixing together dilapidated buildings, beautiful forests, horrific battlefields and cavernous underground sections. A Plague Tale: Innocence is batting above its weight when it comes to graphics, but the game’s animations leave a bit to be desired. Amecia’s movement is overly stiff and weirdly confined, while the game’s rats at points almost seem like static props as they simply get pushed away by an invisible forcefield when touched by light, instead of really reacting to it. The score is neither memorably good nor memorably bad, instead seeming unobtrusive and somewhat forgettable, while the voice acting is fairly well done.

I went into A Plague Tale: Innocence with moderate expectations, believing it would be a flawed but potentially interesting experience. It’s safe to say that the game exceeded my expectations, delivering a deeply engaging story, a lovingly rendered world and interesting and varied gameplay mechanics. The animations and controls could have used some work, while the linearity and relatively simple puzzles could be off putting for some. However, if you’re looking for a great narrative experience to spend some time with, than A Plague Tale: Innocence is a must buy.


Andrew Cathie

 
Rocket Chainsaw's premier Fantasy-loving Editor. I basically play anything and everything that looks like it could be fun or interesting.