A Plague Tale: Innocence Review

Posted by: Sam Tree | 24 May 2019

Publisher:
Focus Home Interactive

Developer:
Asobo Studio

Release Date:
14th May 2019

Player(s):
Single-player

Platform(s):
PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Reviewed On:
Xbox One

A Plague Tale: Innocence is a third-person stealth game with a heavy emphasis on survival. You take control of Amicia de Rune, the teenage daughter of a French noble during the 14th century France.

After the early decimation of her family and home, Amicia is tasked with looking after her younger sibling, Hugo, despite her obvious reluctance and inexperience. What begins as an unwitting pairing grows into a clear bond between the two – which is very clearly defined through the course of the story. To begin with, Amicia is short and sharp with the youngster, resentful even, but she slowly warms to the boy and cares for him as any sister would. In comparison, Hugo is inquisitive, naive and even excitable, a stark contrast to the grim backdrop of death and despair; in an early scene, he finds simple joy in chasing frogs which serves to remind you of the beauty of the world, even one gripped in the midst of the plague.

It’s here where I feel A Plague Tale really shines. Despite some of my misgivings over the graphics (more on this later), the story is well penned and the characters feel human. The interactions between the two feel natural and real, causing you to care more about their wellbeing. The dialogue between the two is natural but doesn’t overshadow the poignant reality of what they’re going through. Amicia is forced to grow up in an instant, while Hugo, having lived such a protected life, is now thrust into the middle of what can only be described as a nightmare. Light in this game is quite literally a lifeline.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the Inquisition soldiers. Predictable and dumb as soup, the forces sent to apprehend the young protagonists are easily fooled. In areas where stealth is required Amicia is able to distract unwitting soldiers by throwing rocks and ceramics allowing the pair to sneak past with little more than a “Huh, who goes there?”. The few not adorning helmets can be taken out with a well-placed rock from Amicia’s sling.

During the course of the game, you’ll find various resources which can be used to upgrade your sling – your primary weapon against the Inquisition. From lengths of leather to reduce its reloading time to a larger pouch to carry more rocks; the crafting system is basic but it serves its purpose. Enemies foolish enough not to wear head protection are ripe for the picking while destroying a soldier’s life-giving lamp will leave them to the mercy of the rats.

While evading the Inquisition is the primary goal in terms of story, the threat of plague is ever present. In towns, doorways are marked with big white crosses to signify infected, while corpses are littered across the countryside. The rats don’t like to come out during the day but come nightfall Amicia and Hugo need to wary of more than the soldiers. Venturing into the dark is a tense experience, which Innocence handles exceedingly well. Rats burst from the ground and cascade through nooks in the walls – the scratching of their tiny feet is almost overwhelming.

Areas of darkness mostly act as puzzles, designed to be solved using light. They’re as enjoyable as they are nerve-wracking. Every nook and cranny is a potential entry point for the swarms of rats that inhabit the world. Their cold, red eyes glowing in the blackness, waiting for you to pull away from the safety of the light. One wrong move and they’ll swarm Amicia, all the while flitting around the edge of the darkness, sniffing at her, raising on their hind legs. It’s disturbingly hypnotic.

During darker sections of the game, soldiers keep the rodent hordes at bay using torches; you can use this to your advantage by slowly following the guards through rat-infested areas while in other situations destroying their source of light will allow the swarm to reduce them to little more than skeletal remains. Evidence of this is always present, reminding you of the grim fate of anyone caught in the dark.

One concerning issue I need to address is the performance of A Plague Tale, notably on the Xbox One S – which is the system I’ve reviewed the game on. I have my console set up to run in 4K; while I appreciate the system isn’t capable of playing true 4K content, it does at least upscale the resolution. While playing using these settings I noticed a considerable amount of screen tear, especially in areas with a lot going on. This seemed to lessen, to an extent, when in tighter, less action-packed situations but it was still noticeable. Reducing the resolution to 1080p did improve performance but there were still issues. The entire look and feel of the game felt jagged and graphically inconsistent compared to all of the promo material that has been released leading up to the game’s launch; a disappointing revelation considering how good the game really is. Because of the story and the gameplay, I was able to overlook this, but in some places, the framerate does drop quite noticeably.

But despite this, I was still compelled to play on. The realistic relationship between Amicia and Hugo causes you to care for the sibling’s wellbeing and urges you to continue their story. As you progress you gain a few more companions; company for the now orphaned De Rune children, but this doesn’t take away from the isolation or ever-present threat of the Inquisition. If you’re a stickler for framerate and pristine graphical integrity then I probably wouldn’t recommend playing on the Xbox One S; I feel the PC version might fair better. If this isn’t too much of a concern for you, however, then I couldn’t recommend A Plague Tale enough. With some solid gameplay and genuinely tense moments. In my opinion, it’s lived up to the hype.







GREAT
The Good
  • Character relationships feel real and believable
  • The rat swarms are impressive
  • A real sense of tension and dread
The Bad
  • A lot of screen tearing, especially playing in 4K
Apart from a few graphical inconsistencies, A Plague Tale does the job. If you have a phobia of rats, however, you might want to steer clear.
This review is based on playing the Xbox One version of A Plague Tale: Innocence that was kindly provided for review purposes by Focus Home Interactive.


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