To say I’m excited about Asobo Studios’ A Plague Tale: Innocence may be an understatement. It’s been on my radar since it was announced back in 2017 and it’s one of my most anticipated titles of 2019. It has all the hallmarks of a game that will tick all my boxes; a compelling historical setting, a single-player and story-driven campaign, and a soundtrack composed by Olivier Deriviere. So naturally I have been chomping at the bit to go hands-on with the title, and thanks to the game’s publisher Focus Home Interactive, I got the chance to play through the game’s first three chapters, which not only exceeded all of my expectations but also reinforced that this could be one of the surprise hits of the year.
If this is your first time reading about A Plague Tale: Innocence, let me give you a quick synopsis. The game is set in 14th-century France during the Black Plague. Players control teenager Amicia de Rune and her sick five-year-old brother Hugo, who are on the run and fighting for survival from not only the French Inquisition, but also the hordes of plague-ridden rats that want nothing more than to gnaw on their juicy flesh as they journey across France to find a cure for Hugo’s mysterious disease.
The beginning of the game sees players introduced to the mechanics of the game, with Amicia and her father walking and chatting peacefully in a beautifully verdant forest before hunting a boar. Instantly I had a harrowing flashback of the opening sequence to 2017’s Troll and I, but thankfully that evocation was quickly put out of my mind as I pegged the helpless animal with a rock using Amicia’s trusty sling – a weapon that will be called upon many times throughout the campaign.
Shortly after this, tragedy strikes, with father and daughter quickly returning home. However, it’s not long before the Inquisition arrive at the family’s residence, forcing Amicia and Hugo to flee for their lives. It is here we are introduced to the game’s stealth mechanics, with the siblings slinking their way past roaming guards by using the environment to their advantage. Hugo, who has little understanding of what’s unfolding around him, looks to his older sister for protection, and as such holds Amicia’s hand as they make their way to safety.
The amount of detail put into the world is incredible
Asobo Studios is on the verge of releasing what could be one of the most compelling and unique storytelling experiences of 2019
As the pair arrive in a nearby small village seeking help it’s impossible not to stop and take in the sheer impressiveness and beauty of the stricken world that Amicia and Hugo find themselves in. Structures ooze authenticity and every area has been meticulously detailed to ensure that the game’s 14th-century setting mirrors its source material. The level of detail shouldn’t come as a surprise given the studio studied paintings and other resources to recreate the world of A Plague Tale.
Here we are given a brief look into the game’s upgrade system, with Amicia able to upgrade her sling and other equipment using resources found in the world. Shortly after Amicia and Hugo depart the village we are given our first taste of the scurrying infectious vermin that are wreaking havoc amongst the population. It is here the siblings – and the player – learn just how deadly the rats are, and with fire and light being the only defence separating the siblings from safety and what feels like thousands of rats, players will need to look for opportunities to progress safely.
The gameplay, while linear in nature almost feels cinematic – especially the chase scenes – which is not a slight on the game by any means, in fact it works perfectly as it makes the whole experience a more tense and tighter affair.
We’re gonna need a lot of Ratsak
While I’ve only been treated to a small section of what’s to come, it’s easy to establish that A Plague Tale is a narrative-driven game at heart with an emotional tale waiting to unravel as Amicia and Hugo’s journey unfolds. Driven by strong writing, excellent pacing, solid voice acting and an incredible soundtrack, Asobo Studios is on the verge of releasing what could be one of the most compelling and unique storytelling experiences of 2019.
A Plague Tale: Innocence will launch PS4, Xbox One and PC on May 14.
This preview was completed on PC using a preview build code supplied by the publisher.