Since being founded in 2002, Asobo Studios has slowly built up a solid reputation within the industry. From creating 20 games across PC and consoles to working with outstanding partners at Pixar, Codemasters, Microsoft, and Ubisoft, this independent French video game development company is absolutely on fire and using that same passion, energy and drive to create new original IPs, one of which I saw for the very first time at E3 2017.
Enter A Plague Tale: Innocence, an ambitiously captivating action-adventure game centered around the survival of two siblings during one of the most brutal and unforgiving pandemics in human history. Here are more details on this emotionally gripping title and why it is Asobo Studio’s living and breathing masterpiece.
A Plague Tale starts out innocently enough as players are introduced to Amicia de Rune spending quality time in the woods with her father Ronald and their dog named Leon. After a brief sling throwing and hunting tutorial, tranquility turns into tragedy when Leon and a wild boar become victims of The Black Death. Fearing the worst is coming, Ronald tells his daughter to deliver an important message to her mother Beatrice who is watching over Hugo. Up to this point, Amicia hasn’t spent much time with Hugo because of his mysterious illness which has managed to keep the family separated. Shortly thereafter, the Inquisition starts an aggressive hunt for Hugo which leaves both parents seemingly slaughtered and the reunited siblings on a dangerous journey in search of safety, answers, and a purpose.
As the story unfolds, Amicia and Hugo experience the harsh realities of their surroundings and are forced to do uncomfortable things in order to survive various threats posed by Inquisition soldiers and rats. What started out as innocence evolved into growth and responsibility before my very eyes which not only shows the strength in good character development but also left me feeling deeply connected to both characters and concerned about their emotional well-being throughout their entire journey.
Rounding out the rest of the cast, the supporting characters on the good side were also entertaining and played important roles as the story progressed. The key human antagonists like Nicholas and The Crazed Priest were a bit one-dimensional in the sense that I never truly could see things from their perspective but I still got some enjoyment out of facing them both in heated but fun boss battles. The Rats truly felt like credible threats especially as I got deeper into the game and they became more calculated in their attacks. All of these elements kept the narrative very compelling with plenty of memorable moments, twists and turns that I found simply satisfying.
From a graphics standpoint, A Plague Tale: Innocence looks incredibly stunning. Character models, fluid animation sequences, and detailed environments really go a long way towards pulling you into the overall experience. It’s worth noting that if you do plan on buying this game for the Xbox One X and have a 4K TV then you’ll instantly be able to take advantage of benefits that come with an enhanced version, but that doesn’t mean the PlayStation 4 version is a step down in any way. If you do own a PC though, then I can only imagine that this title will look even better than it currently does on consoles but that depends on how advanced your rig is.
In addition to having a gripping storyline and fantastic visuals, A Plague Tale: Innocence also has top-notch gameplay aesthetics. While you are heavily encouraged to use stealth to sneak past adversaries, there are several instances where that might not be possible. Since light and dark are often seen as central themes of good and evil, it plays a big role in the game. The rats are afraid of light and this can be used to your advantage by allowing you to create pathways to escape. Darkness can also be to your benefit if you destroy lamps and illuminated weapons being held by Inquisition soldiers, instantly making them vulnerable to nearby rats who won’t think twice about eating the flesh off of their bodies. Likewise, if you are caught escaping by soldiers or find yourself surrounded by rats with no lights then your life will be cut short instantly. Below is a quick overview of several weapons and alchemy abilities that will become available to you as you steadily progress through the game:
- Rock – Sling throw rocks at enemies and on nearby shiny surfaces to distract enemies
- Ignifer – Light embers or distract enemies
- Extinguis – Extinguish fires and lights
- Somnum – Silently eliminate enemies
- Luminosa – Create a powerful source of lights to kill rats instantly upon contact
- Imperium – Control the rats
- Pot – Throw pots to distract nearby enemies
- Odoris – Attract rats from surrounding areas
- Devorantis – Substance forces enemies to remove helmets
Crafting is another important part of this game as finding various items will allow you to replenish and strengthen these weapons. It takes a considerable amount of time to truly upgrade your sling and level of your equipment but that is fully depended on how you approach battles as every interaction with an enemy doesn’t have to end in violence. Lastly, the game does have its fair share of collectibles to keep you busy in the form of 13 Hugo Herbarium Roses, 11 Gifts and 26 Curiosities.
The soundtrack and voice acting used throughout matches perfectly with the overarching narrative tone and characters. As I stated above, this is a very emotional experience and it’s absolutely essential that these elements are consistent to really keep the player fully engaged in what’s going on. The actors and actresses are very convincing in their performances which only made me root for or despise them even more.
A Plague Tale: Innocence consists of 16 chapters and took me roughly 15 – 20 hours to complete. This play length may be different for you depending on whether or not you discover all of Hugo herbarium flowers, gifts, and curiosities in your first playthrough. This game is available at retailers everywhere for $49.99 and is definitely worth every penny especially if you enjoy story-driven action-adventure games with collectibles and puzzles.
The one area about A Plague Tale that disappointed me is that there is no New Game+ option. After you’ve completed the game you can go back to replay any chapter but once you save, all previously saved progress isn’t accounted for. If you acquired every collectible in your first playthrough then something like this probably won’t both you, but it is worth mentioning for those who might be curious if this feature is available.
Despite not having a New Game+ mode, A Plague Tale: Innocence is still a beautifully made action-adventure game and a fantastic accomplishment by Asobo Studio. Had it not been for the incredible team over at Evolve PR inviting me to see this game at E3 2017, I probably would have missed out on something special and not been the fan of Focus Home Interactive that I am today. If you ever get the opportunity to attend an E3 or PAX event in your lifetime, do yourself a favor and book an appointment with a promising independent publisher to preview some of their upcoming titles. You just might be surprised by what you see. Below are some additional screenshots that were taken directly from the game.
This review was written based on a digital review copy of A Plague Tale: Innocence for the PlayStation 4 provided by Focus Home Interactive.