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Preview: A Plague Tale: Innocence (PC)By Ofisil At 12.03.2019 20:53

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Alicia will have to run away from some menacing knights of the Inquisition, who want to capture her brother Hugo for their own, unknown reason. Neither of them are soldiers, though. Alicia is just a 15-year-old girl, and the much younger Hugo is just a frail boy. More importantly, the world they'll have to survive in isn't exactly a very hospitable one. Their struggle takes place during the worst period of the Middle Ages, as human madness and religious fanaticism has recently found its match in one of the most lethal pandemics in history; the Black Death.

As such, Alicia's modus operandi will be to avoid danger, not fight it. So, it's another of those stealth-based, action-adventures, right? Well, yes, and no. On one hand, the heroine will have to follow the typical hide/sneak/distract routine, but on the other one, this manages to actually offer a slightly fresh take on the formula, with one example being how using your slingshot to hit a metal surface can divert the attention of guards, but also help them discover your location, since it makes a bit of noise while swinging it to aim.

Sure, the various stealth tactics at hand aren't exactly innovative, but, thankfully, everything works like a dream, with no occasion leaving the player wondering "how on the earth did that guy see me?" The only mechanic that makes this a bit more unique is how Alicia is almost chain-linked to her brother, who panics and makes a commotion when left behind, must be assisted in climbing walls, and, generally, makes things harder for his sister (in more ways than one) - although the little fellow can also go through small openings in the wall to unlock doors and stuff.

Being a preview built, this short journey didn't give much chance to see how much freedom the player will eventually have over the stealth and... babysitting business, as this small taste was basically a way too easy kind of deal, which mainly acted as a tutorial. As such, it funnels Alicia into the right path, and doesn't leave much room for exploration - out of which one can either find medieval encyclopaedia-esque, lore-giving items, or materials for upgrading your equipment; a part that, once again, is hard to tell how versatile it will be in the full package.

The truth is that, even if the gameplay portion ends up being somewhat similar to what was seen in this tiny peek, A Plague Tale's biggest strength seems to be how strong it manages to pull you into its world. As mentioned before, this handholds the player, therefore, when Alicia is, say, hunted down by a bunch of raving villagers, she'll just have to keep on running from alley to alley, and she will be safe. You, the player, however, won't feel so. You will feel defenceless and powerless, not mention that you'll always have to deal with the heavy burden of responsibility that is Hugo.

...and that's the beauty of this quest. Although violence and gory visuals aren't in short supply, death is all around, and the gorgeous, 14th century French forests and towns have a pretty grim side as well, the brutal, unforgiving nature of this world is mainly felt, not simply shown. The best thing, however, is that the real horror here is reflected in the protagonist duo, like in how Hugo's innocence is on the verge of shattering, or how Alicia is forced to kill, although she definitely don't want to. Hopefully, that element will be one of the core ingredients of the final release.

Yeah, there's also a river of rats running around. This is the least realistic aspect, as these act as rabid piranhas that eat everything in sight, have nests reminiscent of aliens rather than rodents, and the only thing that drives them off is light. Strangely enough, and while their attacks can borders on ridiculous, this actually works to the benefit of the whole immersion thingy, giving a very subtle horror vibe to it all. It's also admirable how, while you know the critters will eventually come, their first appearance is handled in such a way that it gives them an almost supernatural vibe.

As a final note, this looks fantastic. Whether a dense forest, shabby village, or dark dungeon, every locale is highly detailed, and obviously painstakingly handcrafted. By the way, one can turn off the HUD, but even the standard setting is a very Spartan one, further helping the player get engrossed - oh, and this also runs incredibly smooth, even on a potato. It's really a testament to the game's visuals that the only "bad" thing to say, is how the main characters are too fairytale-flawless, with Alicia's mother in particular looking like a Tomb Raider reject.

User Comments
#1 HW (guest) - on 20.03.2019 at 16:13

Seeing a little bit of this only makes me think of Last of Us. The protagonists and the circumstances sound so like it, it makes it less unique. They even have crate moving sections. Makes me upset.

#2 Ofisil - on 20.03.2019 at 21:45

HW (guest) said:
Seeing a little bit of this only makes me think of Last of Us. The protagonists and the circumstances sound so like it, it makes it less unique. They even have crate moving sections. Makes me upset.

That's what I thought before starting the game, but, in all honesty, it has a totally different vibe.

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