A Plague Tale: Innocence takes place in a bygone France and follows the story of Amicia, a teenage noble and her little brother Hugo. Amicia lives in a large country home and spends most of her time with her father as her Mother, an alchemist, spends most of her time attempting to cure Hugo, who is in quarantine. One day while hunting with her father, the ground opens up and a mysterious force kills her beloved hunting dog, setting forth a chain of events that will affect them all. When Amicia returns to the Estate, the inquisition has broken in and they start to systematically murder all in their path in an attempt to get to Hugo. In the confusion, Amicia is able to rescue Hugo and the two flee, thus beginning their adventure. It quickly becomes apparent however that the inquisition is not the only threat to the band of heroes, but the real threat is actually millions of ravenous plague rats, that devour all in their path and spread disease as they go. Part of the joy of the game is the story, so I’ve kept the overview brief. It is beautifully told and full of likeable characters and intriguing twists along the way which kept me gripped from beginning to end.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is for the most part, a stealth based game in which Amicia must lead Hugo past the inquisition as quietly as possible in order to reach their current goal. It is played in the third person, with the player controlling Amicia directly and ordering Hugo to either follow or stay depending on the desired outcome. Amicia is not completely defenceless however, as she carries a sling which can be used to distract guards, influence scenery and even kill with a well-aimed headshot. As well as avoiding the inquisition, Amicia and Hugo must avoid the plague rats, that only have one weakness in the form of light.
The game plays similarly to other stealth based games, guards have a meter above their head to show if they have been alerted or not as well as giving insight into whether they are patrolling or searching. Amicia can use her sling to fire rocks at metal surfaces in order to move the guards away/towards a desired location and she is also able to throw pots to have a similar result. When it comes to the plague rats, Amicia can light sticks on fire to create a path, although these burn out quickly, and is also able to use torches/sconces/fire pits to create light as she goes keeping the rats at bay. As the game progresses, Amicia is able to collect crafting materials that allow her to use alchemy to make concoctions to aid her, such as a sleep powder to knock out guards; these potions however take a lot of materials and can be few and far between. These crafting materials however, if saved, can be used to upgrade her sling as well as create a range of ammunition that can be used for a range of purposes including lighting fires, melting armor and attracting rats. As each of these new abilities are unlocked, so is a new element of strategy which keeps the stealth mechanic from becoming tired as the game progresses. A further strategic element is unlocked as Amicia meets other characters that each have a specific ability, such as knocking out guards or unlocking doors/chests which adds more variety to the game. The gameplay overall is great fun and paced well enough that just as you think it is becoming comfortable, another element is added in order to keep you on your toes. This being said however, it isn’t particularly challenging and even those few minor sections that take more than 2 or 3 attempts, it’s just a case of trial and error until something works.
When it comes to graphics, A Plague Tale: Innocence is absolutely stunning. Although the character models and scenery are not photo realistic, the attention to detail is staggering. Every area feels like it has been created with love and from the lush forests and grimy dungeons, everything is dripping with atmosphere and feels as close as it can be to actually being there. I was particularly impressed with the textures of every surface, from textiles to stone to foliage, they are all rich and detailed which adds to the beautifully created world. The character models keep this trend going and each have personality and presence, as well as being well animated when it comes to the voice acting. Speaking of the voice acting, it was very well done throughout and unlike many many other games of this ilk, the characters are actually likable and I found myself feeling for them and actually caring whether they live or die, rather than purposefully running them into danger now and again just because they bug me! I also found the rat effects impressive, with hundreds and hundreds of rats onscreen at a time, they all look like individual rodents rather than a blur of movement which could have easily happened.
Where A Plague Tale: Innocence falls short is the replay value. The game is around 10-12 hours long and while the experience is beautiful throughout that time, there isn’t really anything to go back for. If, like me, you’re a bit of a trophy hunter, they can easily be picked up in one play through and afterwards, there isn’t really anything to go back for unless you want to experience the story again. Although, on the surface, this isn’t a huge issue as not all games offer a huge amount of replay value, but I think it’s important to mention when you consider the price. A Plague Tale: Innocence retails at £40-45 ($50-55) and for the gameplay involved, this come across as pretty steep, considering this is the same RRP as games like Days Gone and Red Dead which will give you 10x the play time. In my opinion, the game falls under the same umbrella as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which was equally as beautiful and had a similar length but retailed at £25 ($31) on release, which to me means A Plague Tale: Innocence can’t justify such a hefty price tag.
Overall, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a gorgeous game with likable character, an interesting story and a completely different take on the stealth genre. It has a few down points, mainly the price to gameplay ratio and also suffers from being very linear, with almost no room for exploration. That being said however, if you can get it as the right price, it is a beautiful experience that is great fun and will stay in your mind long after completion.
- Beautiful environments and characters.
- Interesting story.
- Fun gameplay.
- Almost no replay value after completion.
- Relatively short for the price.
A beautiful game with a huge amount of attention to detail, an interesting twist on the stealth model and an interesting story. The only letdown is the little replay value once the story is complete.