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A Plague Tale: Innocence

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Asobo Studio
Release Date: May 14, 2019


PS4/XOne/PC Preview - 'A Plague Tale: Innocence'

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on March 5, 2019 @ 12:00 a.m. PST

A Plague Tale: Innocence offers an adventure supported by an original scenario, with gameplay that blends action, adventure and stealth phases.

Pre-order A Plague Tale: Innocence

A Plague Tale: Innocence, as you might expect from the name, is set in France during the Black Death. It follows the story of a young girl named Amicia de Rune, daughter of a local lord. Amicia's peaceful everyday life is shattered when the Inquisition unexpectedly arrives at her house, seeking her sickly younger brother Hugo. Naturally, Amicia isn't going to let them take her brother, and the siblings are forced into the terrifying world to figure out how they can escape the Inquisition's grasp. They also have to contend with a mysterious danger that's slowly building underground.

Our preview build gave us a chance to see the first three chapters of the game, which lasted about two hours. The first section involves Amicia attempting to escape from an Inquisition raid on her household, joined by brother Hugo. Hugo is five years old and easily terrified, so he isn't the best person to bring along with heavily armored knights. Amicia can hold his hand to keep him close, but if she has to leave him alone, he starts to get worried, especially if danger is nearby. On the other hand, Hugo's small stature means he can get into nooks and crannies that Amicia can't.

A lot of the gameplay is reminiscent of The Last Of Us, though admittedly with less combat capabilities and a less capable partner. Your goal is to sneak around enemies and avoid danger. Rather than waiting for patrol routes, you have to figure out how to distract enemies to dart past them with Hugo in tow. Most of the time, Hugo can be handheld (quite literally) through danger, but you'll sometimes have to leave him behind until you can make a big enough distraction that he can sneak through. Amicia can use a sling to make noise at a distance, and she can throw pots to draw attention.

The stealth in the demo wasn't punishing. I can certainly understand how the idea of a game-long escort mission with a helpless child may make people nervous, but Hugo was perfectly fine. He moved quickly and didn't cause trouble, and the few times you had to leave him behind, it wasn't frustrating. It's difficult to say how the mechanic will evolve as the game progresses, but judging by what we've played thus far, Hugo shouldn't be too much of a trouble.

The second chapter of the game involves traveling to a plague-ridden village where they fear outsiders. Amicia and Hugo's attempts to find help quickly devolve into a chase through the town. This was a combination of a puzzle and chase sequence. The two couldn't hide, so they had to move ahead of their pursuers. Occasionally, they'd have to figure out how to proceed through dead-ends, which involved knocking down objects and pushing crates.

The most distinctive thing about this chapter comes near the end, when Amicia gets the ability to upgrade her sling. The first required upgrade makes it so the sling can kill an enemy when they're hit in the head with a rock. While we didn't see much combat, it's clear that it will play a part in the game, with various upgrades available to Amicia to improve her bludgeoning power. There's even a boss fight at the end of the second chapter.

The third chapter introduces us to what is sure to be the game's defining feature: rats. The rats in A Plague Tale are horrifying creatures. They exist as a large swarm that fills every available space, and going anywhere near them gets you graphically and violently devoured. The only thing that holds them at bay is light. You're safe as long as you're in the light, but since this is an era before flashlights and smartphones, that's easier said than done.

When rats come into play, they become central to the area, and you need to find ways around them. Torches are useful but cumbersome, so they can't be held once you need to climb or crawl. Sticks can be set alight but burn so quickly they only offer a few precious moments to reach another permanent source of light. While we didn't see it in the demo, it's also clear that this will also be used against enemies, turning the rats into a deadly trap as long as you find a way to take away the light.

All in all, A Plague Tale: Innocence is shaping up to be a really interesting stealth game. The setting and time period give it a distinctive feel. The stealth mechanics are shaping up to be fun, and the combination of terrifying swarms of rats and malicious knights feels like it'll make for a very interesting set of enemies. While the possibility of a game-long escort mission can make anyone nervous, Asobo Studios seems to know what it's doing. We'll see how the full game pans out when it comes to PC, PS4 and Xbox One later this year.

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