Developed by Asobo Studio
Published by Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro (also available on Xbox One and PC)
Single player narrative games are starting to become a rare sight to behold. In an age where the online shooter and open world games lacking in story roam wild, it truly is hard to find games that can real you into a world akin to cuddling up with a good book. Sure, there are many single player experiences in the indie world, but most are simplistic games that lack storytelling. A Plagues Tale: Innocence breaks that mold, giving you a triple A experience in a small package, brimming with fascination, mystery, and brilliance.
The story takes place in 14th century France and revolves around fifteen year old Amicia de Rune and her five year old brother Hugo. Since birth Hugo has been ill, so he has been kept away from many including his sister. One day, the Spanish Inquisition storm the de Rune’s estate killing all who got in their way, looking for none other than Hugo de Rune. After seeing the slaughter of both friends and family, Amicia escapes with her brother, who lacks survival skills, while trying to figure out what to do next. In their journey they will face others who look to either capture or kill them, including plagues of rats who have cursed France with the disease known only as “The Bite.”
This game, no this work of art, has some of the best story telling I have seen. The writing is top notch and the characters are written so well. You truly get a feel for what the characters are going through. The conversations Amicia has with Hugo and vice versa are something special. The dynamic between these two are truly a sight to behold. Hugo really does act like a five year old would, you can’t reason with such a child. Such things are depicted well throughout their experience in plague ridden France.
What helps brings this story to life though is definitely the game’s audio. It is nothing short of amazing. The musical score is all orchestrated and usually comprised of eerie solo rifts from a violin or guitar. Sometimes you are treated with brilliant compositions that make you want to put the controller down and just take it all in. The voice acting is surprisingly some of the best I have encountered. All the actors, from the main characters to the minor NPCs, portray their roles without a hitch and all with brilliant French accents. It truly makes you feel like you are there. If you want a more authentic experience, you can even change the voice acting to French which is also well acted.
The story is brought to life with some amazing visuals. A Plague Tale: Innocence can be a sight to behold and makes you wonder how this is an indie title and not a big budget triple A game. The art direction from the world to the characters are both fresh and reminiscent of games like The Last of Us or Tomb Raider (2013). The world is slowly getting destroyed no thanks to the plague, the inquisition, and even invading English soldiers. The environments change constantly and sometimes you will just stare at their beauty…or nearly vomit at how horrifying they can be. The game runs great at 30 FPS on PlayStation 4 Pro with enhanced resolution. Though many may argue, I prefer the 30 FPS for the game which gives it a more cinematic feel over the smoothness of 60 FPS.
Speaking of The Last of Us, you can tell that Asobo Studio got some inspiration from the game. But they made it their own, and honestly it’s not a type of style you see often in the gaming world. The game will incorporate Amicia and Hugo working together to progress though each chapter in the story. This includes using Hugo to crawl through small spaces to unlock doors, or using Amicia’s sling to bludgeon a soldier to death with rocks. That’s right, a sling! That is not a weapon you see often or ever in video games. This game portrays it well allowing you to later create different types of ammo. This includes fire bombs to alerts guards or frighten rats to acidic canisters that melt armored soldiers helmets forcing them to take them off to get a head shot.
There is also an upgrade system that allows you to do a multitude of things including increasing your ammo capacity or even strengthening your sling by finding items in your environment and stopping at work benches to upgrade them. You will of course also encounter rats in impressively large groups that will kill you instantly. Luckily these rats can’t stand the light, so your goal more often than not is to find a path through rats using torches or lighting up haystacks. These rat encounters bring the most fun to the game, adding a large element of puzzle solving to the game while soldier encounters usually require stealth or action. You will see yourself moving boxes, light panels, and flinging fire bombs to light up far away torches to pass through many a brain teaser. There truly never is a dull moment while playing A Plague Tale: Innocence.
After completing the story, which is roughly 10-15 hours long depending if you are a completionist or not, I can easily say that A Plague Tale: Innocence is some of the most fun I have had in a video game in years. The well written story and superb acting reeled me in and the fun gameplay kept me going to the end. If you liked The Last of Us for the PS3/PS4 this game is right up your ally. This is a must for anyone wanting a single player game with the writing of a best-selling book.