A Plague Tale: Innocence | Sean Bean - The Little Boy Lost
Who it Caters to
Looking back at human history and examining the events that took place prior to our existence, it gives us great joy to know that we didn’t have to go through a lot of problems our ancestors did. One of the more sinister, and perhaps more notable disasters in human history, came in the form of the Black Death, a catastrophic pandemic that nearly wiped out the entire nation of Eurasia back in the XIV century. Close to 200 million people succumbed to this malevolent outbreak and left an incredibly dark scar on human existence, even to this day. This lead us to A Plague Tale: Innocence, an uncanny story that brings to mind the events that took place during that era and gives us a grim reminder of just how horrific things can get if you’re not prepared. The rats that you encounter in the game are a symbolic reference to that of the Black Death, as their incessant hissing and unwavering thirst for blood send nothing but shivers down your spine, with each step you take leading to more uncertainty that lies ahead. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a divine amalgamation of a powerful story about two siblings who must use their wits to survive, and gripping gameplay that puts you on the edge of your seat with every deadly encounter.
What to Expect
At first glance, A Plague Tale: Innocence comes off as a genuine reimagining of the grim events that took place during the mid 1300’s, but beneath all of the terror lies a deep emotional core that really speaks volumes when you experience it for yourself. There are plenty of powerful moral reminders scattered all throughout the game, with one example being the relationship between siblings and how love can truly get you through anything. For the majority of the game, you’re in control of Amicia and Hugo de Rune, two siblings with contrasting personalities that put their differences aside in order to depart themselves from a hellish world that’s bleeding with torment, pestilence, and war. With only a slingshot in hand and her brother by her side, Amicia must use all of her might to protect Hugo at all costs. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a bone-chilling adventure through a dark and tumultuous world, where every decision you make can be the deciding factor in whether you live or die by the rats. No amount of cheese will aid you in this one, so put on your thinking cap and trudge forward into the darkness.
Taking place during the Hundred Years’ War of the Middle Ages, two siblings who once lived a noble life free of disaster are thrown viciously into a world full of terror and destruction. The Black Death has overthrown the country, with much of the population of France succumbing to the pandemic by death or consumed by the unrelenting army of rats. What makes it worse is that the Inquisition, led by a powerful figure, is deployed in order to get their dirty hands on and wipe out the last of the de Rune ancestry. With their lives at stake, both by the Inquisition and the fearsome outbreak, Amicia and Hugo must navigate their way through a cesspool of bloodthirsty rats while outsmarting the knights that await them ahead.
Focus Home Interactive is no stranger to delivering high quality titles, with A Plague Tale: Innocence being no exception. The game’s overall presentation is enough to make your jaw drop in awe, with every facial animation depicting every type of emotion you can think of. Whether it’s the sudden shock of Amicia’s face when she first encounters the dark pool of rats that erupted from beneath the ground, or the more touching moments where Hugo reminds us that life can still be beautiful amidst all the terror, everything is conveyed beautifully. You’re never short changed on anything in the game, and those very contrasting emotional moments really help to exemplify just how much attention to detail was put into delivering a strong performance. Players have the option of keeping the UI on or off during their expedition, which is a plus because by turning off the UI you actually get to experience real immersion at its finest. There are no markers to assist you and so every move you make truly puts you in the driver’s seat, adding an extra emotional dynamic to the game that really sends chills down your spine.
The bloody pool of rats are so meticulously designed that just seeing them scurrying around gives you goosebumps, with their devilish red eyes leering at you from every angle as you desperately try to avoid wandering into the darkness. The rats are such a powerful symbolic reference to just how impactful the Black Death was, and how overbearing they can be if you don’t take the proper precautions to survive. All of that serves up a theatrical performance that really emphasizes just how haunting life can be at times, but also helps us to better appreciate having our family there to protect us.
As if the rats weren’t a terrifying experience already, A Plague Tale: Innocence delivers a spine-tingling array of sounds that are enough to keep you up at night. As you walk through a vacant forest in search for refuge from the Inquisition, the sound of silence evokes a horrifying feeling because of the uncertainty that lies ahead. One moment you’ll hear the gentle chirping of birds in the trees, and the next moment you’re overwhelmed by sounds of blood curdling screams, swords being embedded into the guts of an innocent villager, and a gang of rats devouring flesh faster than you can even comprehend. All of this is supplemented by the straightforward gameplay that can be a bit annoying at times but overall, provides a generally rewarding experience.
To kick things off with the positives, one thing A Plague Tale: Innocence does very well is its control scheme and how easy it is to jump in and play. The game does a great job of notifying you when it’s time to interact with specific items, or when to attack an enemy that’s nearby. Animations are incredibly detailed and really help to convey the amount of danger that surrounds you when wandering through various locations. When times are bleak for the duo, Hugo’s presence creates a charming contrast with his childlike behavior, which makes you appreciate the relationship they both have and how their bond really helps to define the narrative so fluidly. You grow a fond attachment to the two and oftentimes develop such a deep immersion within the game that it’s almost as if you’re right there with them, seeing their maturity evolve. Surviving at all costs is the crux of the game and where a lot of intense moments are incubated from, but also where several problems tend to creep up, which can ruin those very heart wrenching scenarios. One prime example is the Inquisition and how they behave, or lack thereof, in the world around you. When in stealth mode and trying to devise an escape plan, these knights don’t seem to provide enough of a challenge that would make you scream in fear. The AI behavior isn’t perfect by any means and oftentimes the Knights would be alerted by you, but then succumb to very repetitive actions that really sap the fear out of the action. You sling a rock at a pile of metal equipment only for the Knights to respond in a very similar manner, and act in such a way that feels somewhat robotic.
They’re not braindead by any means since there were moments where the AI would definitely set you up for a quick death, but a lot of times we found it quite easy to navigate our way through without feeling too threatened. This often created a somewhat linear approach to our method of escape which carried on until the very end where even the boss battles felt a little underwhelming. It’s challenging enough to keep you engaged, but when the AI shuts down so too does the immersion, which to be honest is the primary selling point of the game. All of this however is made up by the sheer fact that these rats don’t play around, and if you get even an inch close to these pesky rodents, they instantly take you out. That’s where a lot of the fear and excitement derives from in A Plague Tale: Innocence, and where a lot of your attentiveness is put to the test.
Crafting items becomes even more imperative the deeper you dive into the chapters, and the spells you produce through alchemy really help in keeping the rats at bay. That being said, puzzles do provide a stimulating challenge, and so having the right items equipped will give you the upper hand when confronted with obstacles.
Honey's Gameplay Consensus:
There are plenty of positives to take away from A Plague Tale: Innocence, from its superb delivery on the narrative between Amicia and Hugo, to the challenging puzzles that await you in the later half of the game. They make up for the shortcomings that you do come across such as the ones we mentioned earlier, and over time you actually forget about how dumb as rocks the Knights can be at times. Indeed there are several moments where predictability rears its ugly head in relation to the story, but once again, a lot of that is supplemented by the terrifying moments that you experience while fighting your way through the non-stop onslaught of rats that are adamant on sealing your fate. Those impactful moments are complemented with scenarios where the importance of bonding becomes the main focal point, and helps to remind us just how gracious life can be when you just slow down to appreciate the smaller things. The Black Death is definitely overbearing, but Hugo’s lighthearted approach to solving problems and putting Amicia’s ego to rest when she overreacts instills a liberating feeling that everything will be just fine, if we just take things one step at a time.
Incredibly polished visuals make this game so lifelike it feels like watching a movie.
The fantastic relationship between characters really helps to bring the story to life, and creates more emotional impact.
Navigating your way through tricky corridors and solving puzzles while being chased by rats is a scary yet satisfying ordeal.
12-15 hours of gameplay is more than sufficient to enjoy this game.
The AI behave in very strange ways sometimes, which robs you of that immersion.
Gameplay can feel linear.
Honey's Final Verdict:
So, what do you think about A Plague Tale: Innocence? We hope you enjoyed our review! Also, be sure to check out our other reviews from Focus Home Interactive along with other titles, and if you feel like it, show us some love by leaving your thoughts below.
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Author: Rob "NualphaJPN" B.
A passionate fan of gaming, writing, journalism, anime, and philosophy. I've lived in Japan for many years and consider this place to be my permanent home. I love to travel around Japan and learn about the history and culture! Leave a comment if you enjoy my articles and watch me play on twitch.tv/honeysgaming ! Take care!