A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
By Ferry "Sadhonker" Adams on May 14, 2019
I remember first seeing a trailer for A Plague Tale: Innocence and thinking to myself: "Why the hell haven't I heard of this game before?! This looks awesome!" So seriously impressed with what I saw, I started looking into this title and quickly learned that it was to be a game in one of my favorite genres, the story-driven action / adventure genre. Now, many months later, the time has finally come in which we can get our hands on A Plague Tale and play it for ourselves. Time to see if the game is as good as I hoped it would be!
Set in war-torn France in 1349, A Plague Tale: Innocence puts the players in the adventurous shoes of a girl called Amicia de Rune, a descendant of the noble French de Rune family. As the game starts, we see Amicia walking through the forest with her father. Alas, as is often the case, this idyllic scene quickly gives way to far more sinister events which will change Amicia's life forever and will make her a target of the members of the feared and ever-present Inquisition. Amicia, accompanied by her 5-year old brother Hugo, makes a narrow escape and starts a journey that will take her across the ravaged kingdom of France, where people live in fear of both the Inquisition as well as the Plague that sweeps across the lands, infecting people everywhere it passes.
Because of this plague and the dead bodies that are left in its wake, Alicia and Hugo will often come across swarms of rats. These vermin pose a serious threat to anyone they come across, so Amicia will have to be careful where she goes, especially because she is solely responsible for her little brother's well-being. You see, Hugo has been sick ever since he was born, and is under constant care from Amicia's mother and an alchemist who is a friend of the family. The journey Amicia and Hugo must undertake to get to safety and safeguard Hugo's health will be a dangerous one, make no mistake about that! Luckily, during their travels, they'll also come across a few likeminded people who help them on their way.
Because Amicia and Hugo are almost constantly under threat from both the Inquisition as well as hordes of rats, they'll need a way to defend themselves. Now, as luck would have it, Amicia is pretty handy with a sling and can use this weapon to knock out any soldiers with a swift stone to the head. Apart from normal stones, she also receives recipes for a number of even more awesome things to use as ammunition. Eventually, Amicia will be able to craft ammo that will ignite flammable items, ammo that will extinguish flames, puts guards to sleep, corrodes metals, creates powerful light sources or even attracts rats to a certain place for a short time. These types of ammo can only be crafted when Amicia has enough resources to do so, as well as the recipe for said ammo. Now, the recipe will come to you when you first need it during the story, but the resources will have to be gathered by yourself. So keep your eyes open for crates, containers and other stuff lying around. You'll never know what you're going to need next!
Guards can be knocked out using regular stones or other ammo, depending on the situation. Is it a guard without a helmet? No problem, just knock him out with a well-aimed stone. Is he wearing a helmet? Well, then you'd better get him to take it off. Now, if we only had a way to corrode metal. oh wait, we do! The ammo type Devorantis does just that. It melts the metal helmet, forcing the guard who is wearing it to take it off, if he doesn't want it permanently fused to his head. When he takes off his helmet, he is vulnerable to a precision strike from your sling. Apart from its really well-written story and breath-taking environments, It's this kind of game mechanic that makes playing A Plague Tale truly interesting. It's not simply a matter of gathering all the stones you can carry and start slinging them left and right. Some problems will take a lot more finesse to solve.
And that's only where the Inquisition guards are concerned. Remember how I told you that there was another threat? Indeed, the rats! Now, these plague-bearing vermin don't come at you with a sword and stab you full of holes, but they pose a threat nonetheless. If they get their grubby little paws on you, then you might as well say goodbye, because a veritable sea of rats will cover you and turn you into mince-meat. Luckily, these creepy crawlies are not overly fond of bright light, so that gives us something to work with, doesn't it? Saying that the rats are not overly fond of light is actually an understatement. They fear it, they loathe it; they literally can't stand to be in the light.
So if you manage to light a torch surrounded by rats, they will scurry away as soon as the flame erupts, providing you with a safe path to cross. By making good use of handy torches along the way, you can safely make your way through the rat infested countryside and cities of war-torn France. The fun thing about the rats' fear of light, is that this can also be used as a weapon. When you spot a guard making his way through a sea of rats by carrying a lantern, why not hit said lantern with a rock and see for how long he'll still be safe from the thousands of little scurrying feet and gnawing teeth that crawl unseen in the surrounding darkness?
Safely making your way through the ravaged kingdom and reaching your final goal will take every ounce of your ability to analyze the situation and come up with a fitting solution. A Plague Tale: Innocence does a lot, but it doesn't do second chances. If you're spotted by a soldier, you're most likely dead within seconds. There are a few situations in which it is possible to knock out the guard just before he impales you on his sword or lance, or to hide and wait for the guard to stop searching but, most of the time, getting spotted is more or less a death sentence.
One of the things that, for me, proved how much thought went into making A Plague Tale: Innocence, was the option to switch between two distinct HUD styles from the main menu. Now, usually, I don't really look for this kind of option, but in this game it does actually make a huge difference which of the two you choose. First up, there's the standard HUD, complete with all indicators and interface elements present. Then there's the Immersive HUD, which simply turns off all of these elements, forcing the player to take even more notice of their surroundings in order to find what they are looking for.
Also, for the collectors among us, A Plague Tale comes complete with three types of collectibles, hidden throughout the world. There's Hugo's Herbarium; a collection of plants and flowers for you to gather, so Hugo can add them to his herbarium. The second and third type of collectible are the Gifts and Curiosities. These everyday and not so everyday items are usually well-hidden and mostly located somewhat off the beaten track. The fun thing about both the Gifts and Curiosities collectibles is that they give a sneak peek into the lives of people during the time period and serve to enhance the story even more.
I, for one, am more than sure that if you're into this genre of games, A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of those titles that you really will not want to miss. It's one of those games that gets everything right; The environments and characters look absolutely stunning, the story is intricately created and extremely well-written, the soundtrack fits the rest of the game perfectly and the core game mechanics are more than solid. The game delivers not only exceptionally fun gameplay, it also manages to successfully immerse you in a dark and grim world, where you definitely have the feeling that every false move could be your last. I really, REALLY liked playing A Plague Tale: Innocence and can heartily recommend it to everyone who loves a cool and good-looking action / adventure game with a sublime story and awesome puzzle and stealth elements.
I, for one, am more than sure that if you're into this genre of games, A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of those titles that you really don't want to miss. It's one of those games that gets everything right; The environments and characters look absolutely stunning, the story is intricately created and extremely well-written, the soundtrack fits the rest of the game perfectly and the core game mechanics are more than solid. The game delivers not only exceptionally fun gameplay, it also manages to successfully immerse you in a dark and grim world, where you definitely have the feeling that every false move could be your last. I really, REALLY liked playing A Plague Tale: Innocence and can heartily recommend it to everyone who loves a cool and good-looking action / adventure game with a sublime story and awesome puzzle and stealth elements.