One of the greatest catastrophes that humanity has seen to date has been the Black Death, or better known as The Plague. This disease was transmitted by fleas that were transported by rodents, being the rats the most abundant rodents of the time. The Black Death was so devastating that it took the life of a third of Europe, charging a total of 45 million victims. A Plague Tale: Innocence develops in this now almost unthinkable time of nightmares and seas of rats. Asobo Studio was responsible for not leaving out anything of this horror in every detail of the game.
A sea of rats hungry for innocence
The story of A Plague Tale: Innocence focuses on Amicia de Rune and her brother Hugo. Both are nobles who live comfortably in a village that is deduced to be French. Given the origins of both protagonists, they grow up shielded from everything that the outside world fears and suffers. In this topic of overprotection, Hugo has an advantage over Amicia. Since birth, he suffers from a disease that causes him to have attacks similar to anxiety or panic attacks. The mother of both is dedicated in its entirety to the care of Hugo, who is in permanent quarantine since he was born and who does not even have contact with his sister.
All this world of protection collapses in a single afternoon when all the sins and aggression of the outside world suddenly enters through the main door of the Rune’s state in the form of the Inquisition. In addition to the terrible plague that ravages the continent, the game shows the cruelty of the Inquisition of the Church and the obscurantism of the time. The soldiers sent by the Inquisition seek only one thing, Hugo de Rune. All this attack ends in the tragic destruction of the de Rune state and forces Amicia to escape with her brother of five years that she barely knows.
And so the decadent journey begins
They flee on the instructions of their mother, who sends them in search of the alchemist with whom she worked for years to keep Hugo’s disease at bay. All this is new for Amicia, who had little contact with her mother and even less contact with her brother. The Inquisition regarded all this as heretical practices and persecuted both Amicia and her brother. As they escape, Amicia and Hugo advance on their journey and see the horrors of the outside world. They realize the siege of the plague throughout the population, the calamity and the burning of “heretics” who practiced alchemy and the barbarism of war between the Inquisition and England. From here on you will see, not dozens or hundreds of rats, but thousands are piling up to devour the bodies of the pestilence left behind by the plague.
The story of A Plague Tale: Innocence combines many fantastic and hyperbolic elements, like rivers of rats that break the ground and sprout like an avalanche on the slopes. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a story where a plague, sometimes represented as a disease, others as visceral human ambition or only as a sea of rodents rob the innocence of a teenager and her little brother. We will leave the story here. Since, A Plague Tale: Innocence has much to contribute apart from what we have already mentioned and deserves to keep the details of the adventure of Amicia and Hugo as a secret.
Not everything is a desolation
Amicia and Hugo will not see these horrors alone. During your trip, you will meet a few friends who will help them endure a little of the reality drenched in misery that surrounds their world. These friends come to give variety to the gameplay. Each provides unique abilities that allow more exciting and complicated puzzles. Amicia is the defender of Hugo and only possesses a sling. At the beginning of the story, the game is basically based on stealth to escape unnoticed from different enemies. Through a progression system based on collecting materials found on the road, Amicia’s equipment can be upgraded, and she becomes more skilled with her sling. All this progression not only happens with the equipment but with the mentality of both protagonists.
There’s no hiding from the plague
As mentioned, A Plage Tale: Innocence has a lot of sneaking around and solving several environmental puzzles. Rats cannot tolerate light, so there will be many segments where you have to light lamps or guide beams of light in a certain way to evade the swarm of hysterical rats. Each of these challenges is entertaining, and as characters join the journey and new tools are available, the gameplay remains changing, and even though the objectives are the same, you rarely feel bored.
This with the exception of a couple of puzzles past the first half of the game. These can be a bit tedious since it is not the first time you have met similar challenges; it can be a bit dull to fall into that repetition. It must be made clear that A Plague Tale is not a game of survival or horror, despite the oppressive environment and the constant presence of rodents, they do not present a real threat because if you fail you simply try again and there is no penalty or stress generated by these factors. The game focuses more on giving you tools so that you have your own perspective of how to overcome a level.
A wicked but beautifully detailed world
A Plague Tale: Innocence is graphically incredibly detailed. In Xbox One X its 4K resolutions let each of the details, both beautiful natural landscapes, and grotesque dungeons, shine in their unique way. The animations and the design of each of the characters are worked with a fantastic level of dedication. Every part of the world of Amicia and Hugo feels alive. Sometimes literally alive by the rivers of rodents that run in underground tunnels.
The implementation of HDR in this title is a delight. Each scene is carefully lit. Light beams and well-marked shadows cover each stage at night, and each corridor illuminated by a torch distills a vibrant reddish orange on the worn walls.
The setting is also of exceedingly high production quality. Each environmental sound makes this world credible and oppressive when it needs to be. The instrumental music is perfect and fills you with nostalgia and admiration.
Deadly, yet so alive
But, above all, what makes A Plague Tale: Innocence shine in the graphical and technical department is its living world that tells you the story without having to engage in long conversations or necessarily talk with NPCs. The world behaves as it should. NPCs speak naturally, and you can listen to many details that make the story slowly take shape and form.
Regarding its technical performance, the Xbox One X version did not present any problem frame rate or frame pacing issues, nor could I observe any kind of graphical glitch. The load times between each chapter can take between 2 to 3 minutes, which is not intolerable given that it is only on these occasions. When you fail, and you have to repeat a level, the loading time is quite fast, and you can return to the action quickly. There are plenty of autosave points, so if you fail at some point, you will not have to start from the beginning of a level to overcome a particular obstacle.
No innocence resists the plague
The duration of the game is between ten to twelve hours. There is not so much additional content, more than collectible elements or improving all your equipment. But this will not change your gaming experience that much. Keep in mind that A Plague Tale costs $ 10 less than the classic triple-A game.
The care Asobo Studio took to create this adventure of two innocents in the middle of a world full of tragedy was optimal. Each one of the 17 chapters of which the game consists kept me in line with the seat and anxious to see what turn this story was going to take. A Plague Tale is that kind of game that starts in a way and ends as you would never have imagined, giving you narrative twists whenever it can and at the same time incorporating new mechanics to the game.
The game is taking a toll, little by little, on the protagonists of the story and as well as the player. It is sometimes difficult and harsh to hear the conversations between Hugo and Amicia. Especially when they are astonished at how cruel life and humanity are. The innocence of both is abundant at the beginning. Due to the quarantine in which Hugo lived all his life and in Amicia’s case, because she only knew the comforts of her life in opulence.
Asobo Studio did an incredible job with A Plague Tale: Innocence. It is an excellent and pleasant surprise at a terrific price. The story has a couple of surprise elements, which may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but are nevertheless very well executed and result in an admirable narrative work. It is a game that takes a concept of innocence and places it in the darkest hours of humanity, giving rise to contrast that in the face of such cataclysms you can see the best and the worst of morality. All this with great gameplay, clever puzzles, a living, rapacious, and graphically stunning world that sets a right tone for a satisfactory ending. A total recommendation.