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Review: A Plague Tale: Innocence (PC)By Ofisil At 13.05.2019 23:01

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French worms versus English mangy dogs, "righteous" inquisitors versus heretics, and an ocean of plague-carrying rats against... well, everyone they deem tasty. Young Alicia, and her even younger brother Hugo, live in a world where death is all around, yet for a filly her age and social class, she is quite battle-ready. A sword-wielding warrior she is not, however, and although she can kill by using her trusty sling, she'll have to mainly resort to some stealthier tactics. Initially, it will be her and this measly weapon, as well as the occasional pot that she can throw to create a distraction, but new, fancier tools will occasionally be added to her collection.

At its core, however, A Plague Tale: Innocence is an ordinary stealth/action-adventure, with lots of hiding, some minor puzzle-solving of the push-crate-here, or use-crate-and-climb-there variety… and a little bit of babysitting. As Hugo is considerably less capable of handling the dangers of this world, Alicia will have to balance keeping him close to avoid his - noisy - panic attacks, and leaving him behind so that she can do something without him slowing her down. Sadly, while an interesting concept, it never makes things challenging, and is a mechanic that doesn't evolve past its initial stages - something that can be said for pretty much everything in here.

Of course, the truly unique element in here is the rat infestation problem. How can these misunderstood rodents be a threat that's bigger than fully armoured knights? Well, like a swarm of piranhas, they munch everything they see in seconds, and, like rainforest ants, they tend to move by the thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, with the only countermeasure against them being a bright torch. Admittedly, the sections where you have to confront a flood (not an overexaggeration) of rats are far better in how they are put together - but again, are you really free to think for yourself, or are you, once more, guided by the very level design that's meant to challenge you?

Unfortunately, while undoubtedly more impressive than a bunch of patrolling guards, rat attacks are just one more mechanic that fails in becoming engaging. You generally have to play your cards a little smarter with them, but in the end, this is still a part where the game handholds way too much, ruining the, otherwise, excellent tension these critters can bring forth. As an example, there are some spots where you have to light up a brazier to create an opening, or blow out a soldier's lantern so that rats can attack him, but how can this be called a challenge when the ingredients for crafting the needed tools are given to you right before you are required to use them?

As a whole, the flow of the game is rigidly scripted, and as a result, not much effort will be required from the player. Need to make an enemy move away from a door? Just throw a rock at the pile of helmets that conveniently lies close to him. What? The next guard can't be distracted in the same manner? Well, just wait till he turns his back on you, and there you go. Asobo Studios has kept the structure of the whole adventure similar to the first, tutorial-like chapters, with the little freedom given to you being there so that you can find additional resources to improve your equipment (a pretty restricting part, as well), or gather useless, collector's items.

With that being said, this is in no way bad or mediocre. The controls are great, moving around feels natural, and generally, this is a finely-crafted, enjoyable experience. It's just disappointing that it's not that eager to reach its full potential - at least, from a purely gameplay standpoint. Understandably, this is mainly a narrative driven-game, so, it sort of has to handhold and restrict, in order for it to offer something more cinematic, which focuses more in being a gripping tale of survival, instead of a simple videogame. Of course, this begs the question of whether the story on offer manages to do that.

…And it doesn't. The plot revolves around Hugo, who seems to be of great importance for the Inquisition, but, without spoiling anything, the reason for that is somewhat silly, and, more importantly, the game never really succeeds in making the player very eager to find out what that is, quite possibly because not much happens before the big reveal. Alicia goes from A to B, then from B to C, and, afterwards, from C to - you guessed it! - D, and that's about it. Long story short, this is a narrative-driven title, where not much really goes on between its chapters. Okay, so the story is not particularly engaging, but maybe the presentation is, right?

Again, while the preview build was very good for an intro, the complete package doesn't go the distance, and doesn't deliver - and the main reason is how hard it is to get invested with the characters. Alicia and Hugo will get through a pretty tough ordeal. Will that affect them, though? Will these change through their journey? Sadly, they don't really have any character arcs, and will end their journey pretty much in the way they started it, untouched by the horrors they had to confront. Speaking of which, how can you, the player, be shocked, when your character's response in the face of one of the many, surprisingly gory scenes, is something like "Eww! Gross!"

The biggest issue with A Plague Tale: Innocence, seems to be how it doesn't really know what it wants to be. What begins as a heartrending, unabashedly dark and realistic adventure, with a strong survival horror vibe, soon becomes an almost teen-friendly tale that turns the realism down a bit, and the ridiculousness slightly up. Then the narrative makes an awkward turn down the realm of fantasy, with alchemists tied to antiquity and so on… and then we reach the wacky conclusion, with the final boss basically being a Dragon Ball Z fight with rats(?!) - a missed opportunity for Ghost's Rats to start playing, in the humble opinion of this critic.

Like with the gameplay, the storytelling part is not bad. Many, especially fans of this kind of games, will probably stay glued to their seats for the 12-15 hours this will last. The visuals are simply fantastic, with each locale having an immense amount of detail, as well as a fantastic atmosphere - plus the HUD is almost non-existent for full immersion, and it all runs incredibly smooth, with just a few rare frame-rate drops when rats start flowing like lava. Yes, A Plague Tale: Innocence is great while it lasts... but in all honesty, few will care to revisit it more than once. Again, this isn't a bad game, but it's certainly an unfulfilling one, with so much of its potential gone to waste.

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Final Score
[i]A Plague Tale: Innocence[/i] is a stunningly beautiful, and finely-crafted… ok. It's an ok stealth/action-adventure, with ok characters and drama, and oceans of rats that add an ok survival horror vibe to it. Certainly a fun title, but not exactly a big recommendation.

6

/10

User Comments
#1 no (guest) - on 16.05.2019 at 14:28

I dislike this article, it does not display what the game is really about.
The Gameplay is presented as "nothing new".
It may not be anything new but it certainly is more deserving than a 6/10, it's smooth and matched with the atmospheric design of the game makes it at least a 8/10.
Not reading anymore of your reviews.
They be trash

#2 Ofisil - on 16.05.2019 at 18:59

no (guest) said:

Not reading anymore of your reviews.

It would be nice if you had read it, though.

#3 no one (guest) - on 21.05.2019 at 21:58

Bad written article and can't even use HTTPS with certs for this shit site.  GG

#4 nooooo (guest) - on 21.05.2019 at 21:58

NooooO! We need your whiney ass!!!

#5 Ofisil - on 21.05.2019 at 22:11
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#6 Sandy Wilson - on 22.05.2019 at 12:31

This is a very fair review I think, nice to see someone actually telling us what doesn't sit so well. A nice reprieve from so many critics ignoring the lacking elements purely so they can rank it higher on atmosphere.

Looking forward to trying it more now XD


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