When building a game, laying the groundwork with a gripping story is very important. You can make a mind-blowing AAA game with the best mechanics in the world but, if your story/writing is terrible, then you can kiss my attention goodbye. Right after seeing the trailers for A Plague Tale: Innocence I was hooked. Focus Home Interactive and Asobo Studios have crafted a storytelling masterpiece. A Plague Tale: Innocence tells the story of Amicia and Hugo De Rune, siblings that are thrust into the dangers of the outside world after their home is ravaged by the Plague and the Inquisition. Believe me when I say that the events of this game will tug at your heartstrings like you wouldn’t believe. A Plague Tale: Innocence tells a beautiful story while mixing stealth and puzzle gameplay elements into its linear world.
At its core, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a stealth-based game, with some puzzle elements mixed in. Amicia needs to protect her brother Hugo from the rats and the vicious soldiers of the Inquisition. Hugo will follow you wherever you go unless the game offers up a moment where Amicia goes at it alone. You have the choice to tell Hugo to stay where he is at or to follow you by holding your hand. This was an interesting mechanic, them being siblings and all, but I didn’t feel like I ever was forced to use it. Throughout my playthrough, whenever I had Hugo by my side, I typically would keep him with me. Being a stealth game, lighting plays a huge factor in your adventure. Lighting affects different things in the game like being able to hide from guards in the dark, as it is much easier for a guard to see you if the light is on you. Light will also stop the rats from advancing on their path. Throughout the game there are unique uses of light, for example, there are light stands you can turn to block off the path of rats or create a new path for yourself.
Amicia is a natural at using her sling to take out her enemies, rats and soldiers alike. At the start of the game, Amicia can only use rocks in her sling, but as you progress through the game, Amicia picks up some new tricks to deal with the opposition. You will meet new characters on your journey, and they will help you in different ways, like Lucas, who teaches Amicia how to make different alchemical creations that do different things. One of the first ones you get is Ignifer, which allows Amicia to light fires on smoldering objects. There are two that you can make that will give you a save if you get caught by rats or soldiers, but they are a much higher cost and you can only carry one of each. Each of these alchemical creations cost a certain amount of materials to make. You can pick these up in the world and craft your ammo on the spot. To accompany this, Amicia can also upgrade her sling and pouches to strengthen herself. These upgrades cost a lot of resources to make, so you must be picky as to which ones you use.
I have not had a story immerse me into its game world as much as it has in A Plague Tale: Innocence. This game is the perfect example of being able to deliver an emotional story in such a short period of time. Not saying that the game is short by any stretch, it took me just over 12 hours to finish the game, not including snooping around for collectibles. During this time, I fell in love with the main characters Amicia and Hugo. Going into this game, I knew the story was going to focus mainly on these two. Having children of my own, I immediately latched on to Hugo and spent the whole game worried about his fate. The relationship between Amicia and Hugo starts off rocky, but over time they develop a strong sibling bond. Hugo is like a light in the darkness of the world, there is a moment where Amicia and party are running but Hugo stops her to show her a flower. He picks it and puts it in her hair and tells her that she looks pretty. This sort of stops Amicia and shows her that her brother is more than just an inconvenience. I won’t get into the story much as to avoid spoilers but, it is one of the best stories I have witnessed in a game this year.
Now all this can’t go without saying that there are some faults with the game. Asobo aimed not to make an open world game with tons of side quests and open areas, but a linear story experience. With this design process, I found I was not able to backtrack after entering certain areas. There was a ledge I jumped over and was not able to jump back over that ledge to get to an Alchemist’s Cart (which were seemingly important). There wasn’t an environmental trap blocking me either, just no explanation as to why Amicia couldn’t jump back over the ledge. There was a little bit of hand-holding as in where the game wouldn’t let you progress if you hadn’t done something prior to that event. This isn’t terrible though as it made me go back and reassess what I had done in the area before. The only real time that I felt that I was in danger was towards the end of the game. With such great accomplishment this game has, the faults are almost able to be put to the side.
A Plague Tale: Innocence officially releases on May 14th and will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC. If you play games for a gripping story, then this will be a purchase for you. I grew attached to the characters in the story throughout the game and felt a slew of different emotions through the game. After playing through the game, though I feel like I wanted more. I am satisfied with how this story wraps up, but I am interested in knowing what the next step for the De Rune family will be. So, Asobo and Focus Home Interactive, if you see this, make a sequel or a spin-off, I would play it in a heartbeat.
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