There are times when you just want to write a review to evangelize how great a title is. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one such game that you may not have heard about, but an experience you should definitely keep on your radar. In this day and age of narrative driven gameplay experiences disappearing at a depressing rate, A Plague Tale delivers in almost every aspect.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a narrative driven action-survival title from French developer Asobo Studio which tells a grim, but heartfelt tale of sibling bond and childhood innocence during one of the darkest periods of human history. The story follows Amicia, a noble daughter who must protect her younger brother Hugo as the pair journey across plague-ravaged France during the 14th century. Not only must they contend with swarms of plague rats, but they’re being hunted by Inquisition soldiers as well.
Dealing with both as you sneak through each level is the main premise of the gameplay and remains similar to other games of the stealth genre. Hugo and other companion characters can perform a variety of actions during these encounters, although opportunities to do so is scarce and they feel somewhat underused as a result. However, when they do happen, it’s very satisfying finding unconventional solutions to some of the in-game problems presented.
Of course, direct combat is an option as well and while Amicia might lack the physical strength to take on armored soldiers, she is incredibly adept with her excellent sling. Her sling can be outfitted and upgraded to launch rocks and features a surprisingly imaginative range of different chemical mixtures to use again enemies to a deadly effect. The action gameplay lives and dies on this sling mechanic and thankfully it delivers in providing a visceral experience of operating the sling mechanics.
Where the gameplay truly shines though, is in how rats can be used to your advantage. Since they actively avoid light in the environment, igniting or extinguishing sources of fire can manipulate these deadly hordes into swarming enemies and clearing paths for you. The result is not only a stealth title, but a stealth game with many tactical elements unlike anything I’ve ever played. Adding to this, the fact that enemies themselves carry light sources and A Plague Tale presents an overall unique conceit that encourages you to play enemies off one another in some really creative ways.
I’d be remiss not to highlight though that levels are extremely linear. While not a problem with how certain situations had multiple ways to solve a solutions, I couldn’t help but feel railroaded into taking a single path through certain areas. With so many interesting mechanics on offer, opportunities to use them in unique and different ways felt somewhat restricted and I would have liked some more open-ended enemy encounters.
A Plague Tale does commit to a linear narrative experience and I can respect the developers for maintaining that authenticity in presentation. The story had me invested throughout and was brought to life through some great performances. While some characters felt underdeveloped, the key relationship between Huge and Amicia was explored beautifully through some very poignant moments.
Despite the grim and grey connotations stories dealing with plagues might have, A Plague Tale’s stunning environment art style covers some surprisingly varied and colorful ground. This is all further improved by a fantastic soundtrack that is as heartfelt as it is emotional. The production values were a step above most mid-tier developed games and seemed like a first-party title of something we would expect from Sony or Nintendo.
A Plague Tale: Innocence may not have the most polished gameplay, but manages to present a unique rich and heartfelt experience well worth experiencing. With some bigger titles missing the mark as of late, this is the perfect time to play one of the best gaming experiences of the year so far.