Review of A Plague Tale: Innocence based on the PlayStation 4 version kindly provided by Focus Home Interactive – Digital Bros. Title tested on PS4 Pro and played in 4K HDR.
The hard face of the dark ages
France, 1348: the De Rune family suddenly saw itself persecuted by the Inquisition. The sacrifice of the two parents is useless: the two brothers, Amicia and Hugo, have to flee from home; there is little hope of surviving in a hostile environment, constantly hunted down for the secret that little Hugo hides. From the first moments of the game – sprinkled with warm autumn colors and a wise use of HDR – you are thrown directly into a dark environment, where the false step is equivalent to a certain death, brutal. At Plague Tale Innocence – as the name suggests – you will relive the period of the Black Plague, following the fate of a young woman – Amicia – and her desperate attempt to survive with her little brother Hugo.
When one thinks of the Middle Ages, one approaches knightly poems, the adventures of fearless young men who defeat monsters and armies to conquer power or the love of a lady. In the small villages, in reality, life was very different. The disease raged and claimed victims. The cause was unknown and was often attributed to witchcraft: few survived and were forced to live in ghettos, closed in houses marked by the brand. A Plague Tale Innocence is inspired by that period, but making you relive the emotions and difficulties of Amicia and Hugo in a path dotted with characters of depth and characterization.
Taken by the hand, the road is a single one
As Amicia will always hold her little brother’s hand, so the developers of Asolo Studio have wanted to lead the player. A rather defined path that offers very few variations to the road to travel.
The gameplay – in the third person – will see us alternate stealth to more excited phases, passing through short stretches of connection between a zone and the other. We will have to learn to hide quickly (in the tall grass, behind the covers ..), we will have to observe the area in search of the few objects needed to solve the puzzles. The sequences will always be characterized by a halo of sadness and tension: a feeling torn internally Amicia and that often leads to dialogues.
Fighting can always (or almost) be avoided: remaining hidden in the tall grass, distracting enemies with stones and other devices will be possible to evade their gaze. There will be somewhat forced sequences, decidedly unlikely, but at the same time capable of pulling a breath of relief once they manage to escape from the enemy.
Amicia, Hugo and all the characters we meet have a well-defined personality dictated by their age. If the young woman is forced to kill in order to survive, Hugo will sometimes look for small escapes from the brutality and rawness of the scenes in front of him. You’ll love it: Hugo’s hand – always held in the hands of Amicia – the protective embrace passing behind the guards are constant and leave a mark.
Amicia will grow throughout the adventure: her skills will improve thanks to a sketchy crafting system that involves the collection of some objects and their use in two different forms. While on the one hand we will enhance our slingshot – always trusted friend – on the other hand we will increase the options related to combat. From throwing a simple stone to the incendiary blow and other “goodies” a little forced, but very rewarding. Even the relationship with the little Hugo will change – though it’s mostly aimed at thrilling the gamer and involve him emotionally.
Human faces in front of the rawness of the Plague
In A Plague Tale: Innocence There will be times when it will not be enough to run, you will not be able to hide and the light will be your only way of salvation. The rats – here present in real organized swarms – will swarm from the ground trying to reach you. The only thing that will prevent them from reaching you is the presence of a strong light source. Braziers, torches, dry branches will allow you to continue on your way by solving simple sequences. Occasionally, creating small diversions will open the way for you, allowing you – with the right timing – to save yourself.
At other times you’ll have to resort to the combined help of Hugo and any characters you meet. Rarely will you find it difficult to overcome certain obstacles, perhaps a precise willingness of the developers to guide the player from beginning to end trying not to frustrate him.
Overall you won’t find impossible parts to overcome or particularly challenging bosses. You’ll be able to complete the story in a dozen hours, without ever getting bored (except for a couple of undertone chapters).
Superb technical realisation
A Plague Tale: Innocence succeeds in the great challenge of recreating a credible world, capable of combining the fear of the disease to the amazement of the different environments. The medieval villages are recreated in a superb way, as well as the textures that will make each stone unique, each beam different. The effects of light, the water of the puddles, the mud: the developers have taken care of every single detail giving us an impressive overall image. The soundtrack and the ambient noises will complete the work of involvement.
A Plague Tale is a title that we absolutely recommend. Let yourself be carried away by the feeling, smell the scent of the grass: enjoy every chapter of this wonderful – but brief – adventure.