Review: A Plague Tale: Innocence (PS4)

Platforms:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC

Platform/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: A Plague Tale: Innocence
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (38.24 GB)
Release Date: May 14, 2019
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Developer: Asobo Studio
Original MSRP: $49.99 (US), £49.99 (UK)
ESRB Rating: M
PEGI: 18
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Amicia is a young noble who lives in the French countryside with her parents and younger brother Hugo. Hugo suffers from a mysterious illness that has afflicted him since birth. Due to his illness, Hugo has been isolated most of his short life and Amicia doesn’t really know her brother.

Forced to flee their home alone, Amicia has to not only worry about the sudden appearance of the hordes of plague-carrying rats, but they are also being chased by the Inquisition. Her trouble’s are compounded by trying to take care of a brother she doesn’t know, with an illness she doesn’t understand.

I know some will really engage with the story. It’s good and provides motivation for the game. It felt too heavy handed, at times, to me, trying too hard to pull on the player’s emotional strings. A minor loss during the tutorial hit me harder than the major, life changing event that will probably scar Amicia and Hugo for life and sets everything in motion. The minor loss caught me off guard but the event that really kicks off the story I saw a mile away. It was too obvious what was going to happen to have much effect.

Amicia and Hugo’s relationship and her trying to handle it while protecting him is a big focus in the game. Some of these moments feel forced. There’s a harrowing escape from the Inquisition, and as soon as they are out of the village, the music changes and the sun shines a little brighter. Hugo is running around a field and laughing while playing peek-a-boo behind tall plants. It’s supposed to be a moment to relax and watch them bond. Less than thirty seconds after all of this started, they come across another patrol and everything swings right back to the way it was. Maybe I am just nitpicking, but it feels like that moment could have been planned/paced better.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is an interesting mix of stealth and puzzle solving. The path forward is fairly linear, so there is generally only one way to progress and not an open sandbox to mess around in. Amicia, armed with her tools, can use clay pots and racks to distract soldiers as she and Hugo sneak past the Inquisition. Or, she can use her slingshot to clear the way by taking out the soldiers in the way.

The slingshot is really satisfying to use. The swoosh as she swings the stone around, the snap of release as the rock sails through the air, the crack of the impact with an enemy’s head. Even when I could throw a devorantis to light a bundle of hay or pile of embers on fire, I tended to use the slingshot.

When not trying to avoid the Inquisition, there is a slight rat problem. Hordes of rats everywhere! The puzzle solving comes in trying to find ways around the rats. Sometimes dropping a few large pieces of meat will distract them, but usually it involves using light to clear a path and keep the rats away.

Both the stealth and the puzzle mechanics involve a lot switching back and forth between projectiles. A head shot with the ignifer (this is spelled correctly) will cause the enemy’s helmet to heat up and force them to take it off. They are now open for a slingshot headshot with a rock. When trying to take down a group of enemies with helmets, it becomes tedious switching back and forth using R1 and the right thumb stick. There should be a button to switch back to last used projectile or you should be able to use the d-pad to cycle through them all.

During Chapter Eight, I had to repeat an area multiple times. I suddenly realized I could sneak my way through everyone, probably without engaging a single enemy, but I really wanted to kill them all, even the ones not directly in my way. It dawned on me that as soon as I was able to kill with the slingshot I had been killing almost every enemy I came across. The hordes of rats were bad enough but the Inquisition was slaughtering plenty of people on their own and I wanted every last one of them to pay. Simply sneaking by them would not do.

Hmm. Maybe the story is having more of an impact on me than I originally thought.

This made the game a little more difficult and the guards’ ability to see at a distance or certain light didn’t always feel consistent. Getting caught resulted in a swift and brutal death for Amicia. Luckily, the checkpoints were generous.

Although Amicia is escorting her brother across the French countryside, A Plague Tale is not really an escort game. Amicia is usually leading Hugo around hand in hand, so the player does not have to worry about a dumb NPC getting themself killed and restarting a section. There are times when you will want to tell Hugo to stay put, but leaving him alone too long or wandering too far away will cause him to start panicking. If you do not make it back to him in time he will freak out and alert the surrounding enemies to his presence.

As the game progresses, you will meet more people who will join your party. Even then, this was still mostly not an issue. A couple of times, someone in my group was killed and it was my fault. Once we were spotted by a soldier and I managed to hide again really quick but the guard was already upon us and caught someone in the group. Another time, I didn’t stop to light the hay on fire before boosting Hugo over a wall and climbing over myself. One of the group members didn’t have time to climb over before the rats came back out. Slightly frustrating, but the checkpoint was not far back and it was obvious why the bundle of hay was there. I just didn’t think about the time it would take for the whole party to climb the wall.

Visuals:
There are a lot of dark and gloomy environments. Even when there is some sunlight showing, you are usually too busy running from a mob through a small dirty town or worrying about an enemy turning around before you reach the next patch of tall grass to really appreciate the different settings the artists have created. It’s a combination of this and how the game uses green and sunny settings of a field or forest to change the pace of gameplay for a moment, that caused me to stop and soak in these beautiful environments.

Some of the environmental shots appear to have a green screen effect, like a B-tier TV show. The party is standing in a field with the trees blowing in the wind. The background isn’t still but doesn’t seem to blend in with the foreground, like the party and some trees are standing in front of a picture.

The cutscenes are well done. The characters’ faces are quite detailed and display a full range of emotions.

The animations of the horde of rats pouncing on live animals or large chunks of meat are chilling. Despite my desire to kill every enemy I come across, I hesitated after the first time I saw the horde descend and climb upon a solider after I used my slingshot to put his lantern, suddenly drowning him in darkness.

Audio:
I have never heard of Olivier Deriviere before but the music he composed for A Plague Tale is really good. Good enough that I googled to see who composed it and what else he has worked on. I am not generally a big music/soundtrack person but I am writing this review while listening to the soundtrack.

I already mentioned how the sound effects help created the a satisfying feeling while using the slingshot, but overall all the sound effects are on point.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
I was not expecting much from A Plague Tale: Innocence. I have never heard of Asobo Studio. My past experiences with Focus Home Interactive have been games with good ideas but not fully fleshed out and lacking some polish. A Plague Tale surpassed all of my expectations.

Sure there are some things I believe could have been done better, but there are no major weak points. A Plague Tale: Innocence is a solid game all around.

Sometimes when reviewing a game I will “think this is a game everyone should play”. I have not felt that this time and I think that is partly due to the dark subject matter. A Plague Tale: Innocence may not be a game of the year contender, but whenever I would think about what game I should play tonight I always wanted to play more.

Score:
8.0

Written by Matt Engelbart

Matt Engelbart

I love all things video games. When I am not gaming I am watching the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals, BBQing, and reading.

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