Set during 1348 in France, A Plague Tale: Innocence tells the story of two siblings: Amicia de Rune and her younger brother Hugo. The children of nobles, these siblings live quiet lives in the French countryside, with Hugo having been isolated from everyone except his mother, an Alchemist who is attempting to cure him of a sickness, for most of his life.
From here, some events transpire due to the actions of a religious inquisition that force these two siblings to flee their home, and get thrown into the outside world. The children soon learn that not everything is as simple as their sheltered lives made it out to be, and that they are not prepared to face the trails and challenges in front of them.
Straight off the bat the impressions you get from this game is that it is not going to pull any punches with its narrative, and it’s good to see that it never really does. This is a dark and somber tale that explores what it means to be a child during a time of great suffering and death, namely the Black Plague, and the game never shies away from using some of the more mature aspects of a setting like to get its point across.
The varied locations you visit in the game are designed to be both beautiful and absolutely haunting, and the game really knows how to set a proper dramatic tone for each of them. You’ll grow used to the imagery of death and human cruelty fairly quickly in the game, but they never quite lose their impact over the course of the game.
The two children who have to traverse these locations, Amicia and Hugo, are some of the best written child characters I have ever encountered in a game, and a large part of that has to do with the fact that they are written to be just that, children.
Amicia is the older, more mature and more responsible of the two, but only within the bounds of how much a person in their early teens can actually be any of these things. Similarly, Hugo is just a young fearful child who is prone to tantrums and confusion, as most children his age tend to be. He also starts to panic when his sister is too far away from him. The two of them are believable and relatable, and this is why you’re invested in them when you play the game.
And while I won’t spoil anything about it, know that the story is fantastic. The plot develops really well over the 14 to 15 hours it will take you to beat this game, and the conclusion is really satisfying. Apart from the main characters, each enemy and ally you encounter is also appropriately fleshed out.
The story also isn’t completely historical per se. It’s based on historical events of course, but there is a really interesting fantasy element to it that plays a large part in it. The massive swarms of rats we’ve seen in trailers for the game are partially a part of that fantasy element.
It should also be mentioned that the primary focus of this game is the story, and not the gameplay. This doesn’t mean that it takes a backseat or anything, just that the goal here is on using it to further emphasize the narrative.
The vast majority of the gameplay is stealth focused, and revolves around using a small variety of items to distract and disorient the numerous human enemies in the game. Starting off, you make use of simple items like stones and pots to create noise to draw away enemies so you can sneak past them, but over time you can gain access to more complex items such as one that puts them to sleep.
Combat is not really emphasized in the game, and this is reinforced further by the fact that you go down in almost no time at all. Amicia can make use of her sling to headshot enemies and kill them, but using it makes noise that attracts other enemies. So again, direct combat is possible, but not really encouraged.
The real meat of the gameplay is found in navigating the various different survival puzzles featuring the hordes of all-devouring rats found in the game. Most of these are really well designed, and have Players make use of sources of light, whether they be in the form of handheld torches or fixed structures, to both drive rats away in order to open up new paths, or find refuge from them in certain areas.
There are also some craftable items that can be used to attract rats to a specific location, set alight standing torches or braziers and even extinguish fires. All of these can be used to control where these rats go in order to solve puzzles, or even to guide them to attack unsuspecting enemies.
These puzzles involving the rats were sort of the main draw of the game, and they absolutely deliver. Not all of them are great, but the vast majority of them are, and I really can’t complain about this all that much.
And the areas that all of these puzzles and stealth encounters take place in are very linear in nature. In fact, this entire game is very linear, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
The game is divided into different chapters that take place in a number of varied locations, as mentioned above, and they range from cramped hallways to large open fields. These places look beautiful, are well structured, and are always a joy to explore. No area ever overstays its welcome.
In terms of the graphics, the game looks absolutely fantastic. It runs at 4K resolution on the Xbox One X at a steady 30 FPS. The game even looks amazing on the base Xbox One, but only does 1080p at 30 FPS on it. In both cases, it looks incredible, and the level of detail in the locations you visit is astounding.
It’s also a remarkably polished game, and I encountered no bugs at all during my time with it. There was one minor instance where, upon grabbing her brother’s hand, Amicia’s arm just popped out and glitched a bit for around a second, but that’s the extent of it. I never saw anything like that again in the game.
In conclusion, I have enjoyed few narrative driven games over the past few years as much as I’ve enjoyed my time with A Plague Tale: Innocence. It’s a unique sort of game, and one that isn’t afraid to commit to its unique style of gameplay while still keeping the focus primarily on its fantastic story. I can see myself recommending it even to people who aren’t particularly fans of this genre.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is out now on the Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and the PC. It was developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive. This review covers the Xbox One version of the game.
The review copy was provided by the publisher.
A Plague Tale: Innocence Review
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a somber story about a pair of siblings struggling against overwhelming odds. Its dark, depressing and one of the best narrative focused games to come out in the past few years. It deserves your attention.