Asobo Studio’s A Plague Tale: Innocence was easily one of the most intriguing games I got to check out while at E3 this year. I attended a hands-off preview of an early mission, and by the time the demo was over I was wishing I got to go hands on, because this game really looks like a winner in terms of visuals, narrative, and its gameplay, so it has definitely become a game that I have much interest in now after seeing more of its characters, world, and how it plays.
In A Plague Tale: Innocence you play as two young nobles who are on the run from the Spanish Inquisition in 14th century France. They’re also dealing with fallout from the Black Plague in the form of ravenous rats, which play a massive role in every aspect of this game’s gameplay, but we will get to the vermin later. Anyway, so the two main characters are both kids and you mainly control the older sister who is named Amicia, but her younger brother Hugo plays a major part in this game’s reliance on puzzles and stealth, so technically you’re always in control of both characters even though Amicia is the clear protagonist.
As one may expect after reading that brief summary of the game’s characters and setting, this game world is one that is very dark and depressing, which perfectly compliments the fact that the main characters are kids on the run. For some reason having kids as main characters really resonated with me, because when you really think about it, there haven’t been many games that star children, at least not ones with mature themes and settings. By having these two poor kids working their way through a very dark period of humanity it adds a massive layer of emotion, because seeing kids in peril, at least for me, is much more emotionally taxing than seeing another stereotypical adult hero video game lead.
The whole kids as lead characters also helps to play into the perils the gameplay presents, which as I mentioned earlier relies heavily on the use of rats infected by the Black Plague. These little furry pieces of death play an integral roll in A Plague Tale: Innocence’s stealth gameplay, which makes up a bulk of what players will be doing as they try to expose a dark secret plaguing 14th century France.
I got to see just how integral the rats are to the gameplay in the demo when Amicia and Hugo, along with another young character that was more of a NPC, came across a battlefield that was full of fallen soldiers, which naturally became a buffet for the infected rats. They literally were faced with a sea of vermin, and because they’re possessed by the plague they essentially are piranha’s on land, so any living thing that crosses their path gets eaten up in seconds flat. Luckily, like vampires and gremlins, these rats hate light, so players — through the use of Amicia’s sling — have to find creative ways to use it to spread light sources around so the young hero characters can maneuver past the rat horde.
For example, this battlefield had torches on it from looters and from the battle itself, so Amicia could use her sling to throw rocks at them to knock them over, which in turn would create enough of a distraction for the party to move to the next safe zone. I also saw her use her sling to knock lanterns out of the hands of guards, which in turn would lead to their death, but it would also lead to an open path, so little kids are tasked with killing adults for their own survival, which plays on their morality in-game, as well as your own.
Like I mentioned stealth plays a huge part in this game’s gameplay thanks to how the rats operate, so that is a main focus on the gameplay, but there are also puzzles that require risky exploration missions, as well as figuring out how to use items in the environment to get past an area that at first may seem impassable. At one point in the demo Amicia ran out of the powder she can use in her sling to bring fire embers back to a blaze to distract rats, so she had to command Hugo to stay put while she went out searching for supplies. This even kicks off a gameplay mechanic, because while Hugo will listen to his sister and do what the player commands, like any little kid if you leave him alone for too long he will panic and get himself killed, or both of you caught, so at all times this game is meant to keep you on edge. Let’s just say that it’s far from a leisurely experience, because its gameplay is designed to always keep you on your toes.
The gameplay and characters are what stood out to me, because the young leads are unique, and the gameplay scenarios they face are dire, so the whole experience looked different than what other third person action/adventure games have put forth. With that being said the visuals and voice acting also popped off the screen. The voice acting in particular was excellent, which is sometimes hard to achieve when you require kid voices, so that aspect of the game really brought a feeling of authenticity to the experience. The visuals are super dark and gritty, and they really brought 14th century France and the hell that humanity lived in to life quite well.
A Plague Tale: Innocence should definitely be on your radar if you’re into third person action/adventure games that weave in stealth and puzzle gameplay tropes. You should also check it out if you just want to experience a new take on the genre by having kids as the leads in a very mature and depressing setting. I think this game has all of the ingredients to be a special experience in 2019 when it releases for PC, Xbox One, and PS4.
Head on down below to check out its latest trailer to get a better idea of what it looks like.
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