A Plague Tale: Requiem

Platform(s): Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X
Genre: Action/Adventure
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Asobo Studio
Release Date: Oct. 18, 2022


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PC Review - 'A Plague Tale: Requiem'

by Cody Medellin on Oct. 17, 2022 @ 11:00 a.m. PDT

A Plague Tale: Requiem follows Amicia and her brother Hugo on a perilous new quest as they do whatever it takes to survive a brutal, uncaring world.

Buy A Plague Tale: Requiem

A Plague Tale: Innocence was released in 2018. The initial trailers were focused on the horrors of the plague, along with the multitude of rats waiting to swarm and eat you alive at a moment's notice. The game delivered on that creeping dread, but it also delivered an adventure that focused on familial bonds. It featured characters who felt authentic and likeable, even if the adventure sometimes diverted from the main path. Three years later, we have A Plague Tale: Requiem, a game that does what every good sequel should by keeping intact the good parts of the original game's formula while adding in tweaks to make it all flow better.

Requiem takes place six months after the end of the first game, and again, the title follows Amicia, Hugo, and their family and friends as they make their way through France. While Hugo seems better than before, the Macula still has a hold on him. The group is on a journey to a town where a group of alchemists called The Order may hold the answers to a cure. At the same time, Hugo has constant dreams of an island with a phoenix that may also hold the cure to his affliction. The journey starts off calmly, but things quickly spiral into chaos, and everyone's resolve is tested.

Like many good modern adventure games, including A Plague Tale: Innocence, the narrative is engrossing. The strong relationship between Hugo and Amicia remains and feels just as natural as before, but you can also feel the tension between Amicia and her mother as things progress. Both characters also run the gamut of emotions from extreme anger and happiness, and while it can sometimes feel overwhelming, it never exceeds that point. The side characters are all allowed time to shine instead of being one-dimensional support, and the same can be said for some of the antagonists, who have more backstory, so they aren't typical villains. The constant presence of companions also provides some good dialogue, as the chatter between everyone is constant but also sensible. The increased presence of adult companions helps the overall premise be about banding together to save a child, rather than the "kids versus the world" vibe of the first game.

The story also does a better job of providing more opportunities for happiness in an otherwise dreary world. You'll still get scenes where you're surrounded by death and ruin and guts, and those portions are just as grim as before. Hugo is still a five-year-old, so he'll still be prone to outbursts of wonder at mundane things. Now, there are more times when you'll encounter fairs and villages full of people that haven't experienced the rat infestation yet. There are moments when you and your brother are simply running across fields of flowers and enjoying peace as opposed to making the most of a bad situation. Even when you know that things are about to take a turn, having these moments in the narrative are a refreshing change from the constant dour feeling of the first game — and most narrative adventures like this.

The main gameplay tenets from the first game return, with an equal amount of attention given to each aspect. Stealth is the major thing you'll be engaged in, and the mechanics are mostly unchanged. You can hide behind cover or in tall grass, and you can throw pots on the ground or rocks at metal basins to attract nearby guards, giving you an opening to move to the next piece of cover or an exit. You can also throw stones away from approaching soldiers to distract them briefly. What's different is that the game makes you work harder to get through a stealth sequence unscathed. Try the same type of trick on the same guard more than a few times, and everyone suddenly goes on high alert and stays there, making their patrol patterns more erratic. Guards aren't afraid of venturing into the tall grass, and if they spot you hiding there, they'll also try to flush you out by burning the grass. Climb into houses, and they'll give chase, so breaking line of sight or elevation doesn't guarantee a clean escape. It feels more advanced compared to other stealth games, which can either be taken as proof of how good the team is at this or how the genre's AI hasn't progressed as far as one would like.

The combat goes hand in hand with the stealth, and the same tools and techniques you've relied upon before are present again. Your sling is still your main weapon of choice, and the alchemic ammunition (from smoke that smothers fires to ones that spark flames) and items that attract the rats are still available to help get you out in sticky situations. New to the ammo pool is tar, which can amplify fires to either burn wider areas or blind someone. Jars can now be filled with this alchemic ammo, so you can unleash chaos faster. Instead of having a blinding powder for guards, you can stab them with fragile knives to initiate a sling-based combo to stun them for a while. Eventually, you'll also build up the power to shove enemies into fires and swaths of rats.

Aside from the new moves and ammo, Requiem gives you two new tools. About one-third of the way into the game, Amicia gains access to a crossbow that helps greatly against armored foes. It also makes for a good puzzle-solving tool, as it helps the crafted alchemic ammunition stick to vertical surfaces. That said, there is a scarcity of bolts in the world, so you don't become a killing machine. The other new tool you get are the rats themselves. A little before the game's halfway point, Hugo gains the ability to use the rats as a radar to see where enemy soldiers are. He can also take control of the rats from a first-person viewpoint to scurry across and climb up fabric to devour any enemy soldiers, armor or no armor. Much like the crossbow, the limiting factor is that any extended control of the rats eventually leads to Hugo losing control and dying, making it a tool to use when it's your only available option.

Environmental puzzles are another frequent part of the game. Most of the time, they'll involve you turning a crank, moving a cart, or asking your companion to do that for you while you investigate a new passage. There are a few puzzles where you'll be asked to solve riddles, but they aren't impossible because you'll get constant feedback from your companions. About the only new thing you'll deal with are some environmental puzzles that may ask you to put out fires or create fires to clear roadblocks and uncover something essential to the solution.

The game also features a good amount of pure exploration. There are large sections where the next story beat opens in due time, and all you're asked to do is look over objects, talk to people, or look at things while waiting for those triggers to activate. The game uses this as a perfect opportunity to drop a few pieces of lore or progress the narrative with some more detail, but it does so in a way that doesn't feel like busywork. It works as a nice respite to the game's more action-oriented elements, as it still gives you the feeling of playing a game rather than relegating these moments to a series of non-interactive cut scenes.

Just like the narrative, Requiem properly paces these gameplay mechanics in a way that you never feel like one aspect is overwhelmingly dominant over the other. Major stealth or action sequences often give the player some respite with cut scenes and small sections where you walk and explore to reset the mood. Exploration sequences last long enough that the transition to action or puzzle sequences feels natural. Cut scenes go on long enough to establish important story beats and transition smoothly to when you take control of the action again. Thanks to relatively short load times, the title does a very good job of keeping you engaged while also blending in major gameplay elements in a natural manner.

If you're coming into the series fresh with this game, you'll be pleased to know that your AI companions are just as competent as before, if not more so. From Hugo to Lucas to any one of the newcomers to the series, no one is a burden. Everyone moves at the same speed as you do, and no one gets caught up in the environment. When sneaking around, no one ever stays out in the open waiting to get caught or does something to catch people's attention. The game helps your companions by making them much harder for enemies to see, which creates some hilarious scenarios such as Lucas jumping on the wrong side of a barrier and a soldier just not caring. Aside from not getting themselves or you into trouble, your companions do a better job of helping you out, and not just by being an extra hand in puzzle segments. They will create flashes of light or tall grass smoke as distractions, or they may even kill enemies outright, so you'll appreciate their presence.

You'll also be pleased to know that the game has quite a few accessibility features. Aside from the usual slate of difficulty sliders and subtitle options, Requiem also features a few toggles to determine if you'll press and hold buttons for quick time events (QTEs) versus mashing your way through the sequences. You'll also be able to automatically complete those sequences if you aren't particularly good at or fond of them. There's even an option to make yourself invincible against human antagonists, but it doesn't extend to environmental hazards or the rats, so you'll still encounter some challenge.

Some of the gameplay issues that were present in the first game remain in the sequel, alongside some new issues. Unless you're thorough in searching every area and can do so without dying, you'll never be able to fully level up all of your tools before the end of the game, but New Game+ alleviates that concern. Your personal skill system is tied to you doing things, so sneaking around successfully means getting more abilities so you get better at sneaking. The on-screen alert that you've leveled up is easy to miss, so you may only discover what you've unlocked by stumbling upon it in the upgrade menus. While the button prompts are often easy to do and actual movement through the world is smooth, pushing and pulling carts becomes an exercise in hilarity, as you can never pilot those things straight. There was even one instance where we had to restart a section because the cart got stuck in some debris, and letting go immediately placed Amicia high in the air.

Aside from the little things mentioned earlier, about the only gripe we had when running the game was overall stability. While playing, the game experiences hitching that isn't constant but is consistent. It appears more often when you're outdoors, but it also appears when you're inside buildings and caves. The game also experiences crashes to the desktop, and while the title does save often, especially when you open and close large doors, it results in a few instances where you'll need to repeat some sections due to some of the large gameplay areas. We're not sure if this is a result of the game needing some quality patches or if the system (RTX 4090, 32GB DDR4 RAM, Ryzen 7 5800X, B550 motherboard, Windows 11 22H2) is experiencing bottlenecks or other issues affecting performance. Be aware that these issue might still be present after a day-one patch.

Much like the first game, the audio is stunning. The music is certainly the most notable feature, as the string instrument-dominated themes do an excellent job of manipulating your emotions. From thrilling chase sequences to moments of dread in stealth to the happiness of the festivals, each track does its best to transport you into that mood, and it's absolutely worthy of a premium soundtrack treatment. The voice acting is also very well done, with some of the past actors reprising their roles. It is still strange to hear a mostly French group of characters speak in British English, but you'll only notice when they speak ill of invading British forces or past wars. The sound effects also do their job well, especially the rumble and squeaks of the rat hordes when they enter an area, and they sound even more menacing on a home theater system.

The graphics of the first game were quite excellent, and this entry bumps up the quality in some key places. The textures for the environments and characters look cleaner, and the variety of environments and moments gives the game a wide range of lighting scenarios and an expanded use of color. The character models look gorgeous and animate well both in-game and during in-game cut scenes, though the mouth movements look better in this title. The environments sport a ton of detail, and the variety of events gives you a chance to appreciate some of the beauty the world has to offer, rather than looking at the decay of the first title. One thing we really wish we could have tested out was ray tracing. Despite it showing up in some of the promotional material from Nvidia, the feature wasn't present. It is scheduled to show up via a day-one patch according to Focus Entertainment, and based on those promotional videos, it looks to amplify the game to become a real showcase for the overall look and use of the technology.

For those hoping to run the game on the Steam Deck, be prepared for some initial disappointment. The game will start, and while you will hear the audio of the company logo movies, you won't see anything on-screen. The game fails to progress after that, so you can't blindly toggle through menus in the hopes that the gameplay will show up. That's the case if you start the game with no tweaks. Force the compatibility into Proton Experimental, and the game will start, and it's playable if you're fine with sub-30fps at the low graphical preset. It's only a matter of time before the official Proton version will run the game and patches make it run at a solid 30fps, with a full charge lasting roughly two hours, but those wanting to do minimal tweaking can get it going on the portable while desktop Linux users with more powerful hardware should see better luck.

Except for the stuttering and crashes endured through the review period, A Plague Tale: Requiem is a very well done game. The story remains as engaging as ever, with a whole cast of compelling characters. The myriad of mechanics keeps things exciting, and the pacing makes you feel like you had the right amount of it at the right times. The overall presentation is stunning to the point where it is already a looker, even before ray tracing comes into the picture. If the stability fixes come in for the title, you're looking at a game that'll easily make a "Best Of" list for 2022.

Score: 8.0/10

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