Game Review: A Plague Tale: Innocence (Xbox One X)

An action-adventure horror game with stealth elements, A Plague Tale: Innocence was developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive.

A genuine surprise, there is so much to love about A Plague’s Tale: Innocence. So enjoyable is its story, characters and rat-related horror elements that many of its flaws can be over-looked.

Set in 1348, Players take on the role of the teenage girl, Amicia de Rune (for most of the game). Of noble descent, she lives a sheltered life on her family estate blissfully unaware of what life is like for the common man and woman outside her walls.

The de Rune family is splintered. Amicia is close to her father Robert but rarely sees her mother, Beatrice. Who spends all her time trying to find a cure for a mysterious disease that assails the youngest member of the family, Hugo. Even though he is her bother, Amicia rarely sees him as his illness keeps him locked away.

While out hunting with her father and dog Lion, Amicia gets a harsh dose of reality when she enters a part of the forest that is suffering from blight. To make matters worse, Lion is attacked and killed by something unseen.

Back at the grounds of the estate, Amicia goes to inform her mother. However, that is interrupted by the arrival of the English Inquisition. They have come for Hugo de Rune and begin attacking and killing the servants and staff. Robert is killed by Lord Nicholas of the Inquisition when he refuses to give up the location of his son. However, Amicia and Hugo are able to escape with the help of Beatrice who stays behind.

Out in the world, with a boy she barely knows that is suffering from a mysterious disease and with the Inquisition on their heels, Amicia is forced to seek help from Hugo’s doctor. Unfortunately, they have to get there first and the outside world is not a good place to be.

The plague is ravaging the country and those who haven’t died yet are going mad with fear, grief and paranoia. Then there is the ever-present Inquisition who will seemingly stop at nothing to get hold of young Hugo. If all of that wasn’t bad enough, at night swarms of rats emerge. A truly terrifying villain able to strip flesh from bone in a short amount of time.

Almost everything is trying to kill Amicia and Hugo and it makes for a constantly tense experience. One such great example comes early on when seeking help in a plague-ridden village, the pair are forced to run for their lives. Racing through confined alleyways trying to avoid dead-ends all while insane villager chase them.

This is one of the more action-packed sequences in the game but they’re few and far between. Instead stealth is the main gameplay mechanic with players required to sneak past guards and take advantage of light when it comes to the rats.

The former can be distracted by throwing rocks and pots while the latter hates light so using fire to make paths is the way forward. It sounds tedious and not much fun but the mechanic is done really well,. Situations are varied and ramped up as the game goes on.

A lot of this comes from the way in which you approach a section. Using brute force (Amicia has a sling) or taking advantage of the rats and using them against your enemies are just two examples.

As the game goes on more you’ll unlock new alchemy abilities that allow you to get really inventive. There’s nothing quite like the moment you extinguish a flame that an enemy guard is using to keep the rats at bay. It’s always disturbing and horrific.

Which is pretty much the tone of the entire game. Unafraid to pull its punches and show you true horror. Moments where you must walk across a battlefield of corpses or wade through gory remains will stay with you. It’s here the very pretty visuals look their best.

However, for all its horror A Plague’s Tale: Innocence’s true strength lies with its story and characters. Not just the main paring of Amicia and Hugo but the side characters too.

What is the disease that Hugo has and why do the Inquisition want him so badly? It builds and builds to an ending that can be simply called, phenomenal. However, it wouldn’t be as impactful if you hadn’t learned to love the characters so much.

It’s a great game but not flawless. The most obvious issue being that it feels grand, but it is way more linear then you might first think. While some deviation off the main path is encouraged, this is often mostly for collectibles and very limited. Later chapters really begin to feel like you’re going from one set-piece to another, made somewhat worse by tougher trial and error moments.

These moments will have you dying repeatedly as you attempt to learn the pattern of enemies. Each restart leaving a bad taste in the mouth as you are forced to play the section as the game demands. This, mixed with overly familiar elements like upgrading weapons/abilities and the odd level that just goes on a little too long stop this being one of the best games on modern consoles.

However, the quality of A Plague’s Tale: Innocence still shines through making it a must play.

A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • The Final Score - 8.5/10
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