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A Plague Tale: Innocence Review

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A Million Eyes Waiting In The Dark .

Read Time 11 minutes
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When it comes to video games that surpass expectations, A Plague Tale currently comes on top of the list for me because it is so well-made that if you don't cry because of the story it tells, you'll end up crying anyways just because of how beautifully set up it is. As one of the first few graphically-intensive games I ever played after acquiring a computer that was neither a toast nor a refrigerator, I hold it close to heart for showing me that the hardships of life can be a phase if you are able to keep looking forward to the path ahead. With that introduction out of the way, today I am here to share with you how coming back to the not-so-wonderful world of A Plague Tale has changed my way of viewing its faults, as well as its glorious, almost fabled method of telling a story that not only gets us involved but also don't ever drop the bar, even when it feels like it's bound to happen.

 ...Whose genius idea was it to make a game based around the streets of NYC?... 

Drawing heavily from real-world 'concepts', the game dives deeply into the annals of history books to create what I would call a blend of the worst that has happened throughout human history. It tells us the story of Amicia and her sickly little brother Hugo de Rune, siblings chased by the inquisition, and whose lives took a big turn and went from calm and tranquil to dark and full of terrors after a series of tragic events that left both of them without the warmth of a parent's embrace. As the toughest of realities comes down crashing, it will be our mission to keep both of them alive and well for as long as necessary for them to regain their strength and return the favor to those who put them in this situation twice as rough.

Refering to the doom of humanity, the list includes items such as devastating plagues, famine and war, as well as the destruction that can be caused by the irrational/blind pursuit of faith. They are not approached directly, being more of a recurring theme that plays constantly on the background.

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A game that isn't afraid to tap upon mature topics, and one where death is so common, seeing a corpse or two being torn apart on the ground won't even be the most distressful thing you'll see. In it, our main objective will be to save civilization as we know it from collapse, as a rat-carried plague that very much alludes to the Black Death rampages what little is left of it. A game you almost could say has it all; from some of the most creative puzzles I've seen, all the way to escape sequences to get you jumping on your chair, A Plague Tale is the kind of game that quite frankly could hardly get any better, aside from perhaps making cute little Hugo be slightly less annoying, which I do admit would be quite a challenge.

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Set in early-age France, the game uses traditional, bright-toned colors alongside a wonderful medieval setting to paint a picture that sticks to memory like hot glue. Not to be confused with your everyday fairy tale where everyone gets to live a happy ever after, A Plague Tale makes a somewhat terrifying use of shock-full scenes to hook in players from practically minute one. It is an unnerving descent into the depths of hell where a torch — or pretty much any source of light, for that matter — can mean the difference between life and death, and finding respite quickly becomes an idealistic image we can only dream of achieving.

You know a game is not even slightly afraid to slap you with sensitive content when right by minute one you'll be seeing the most lovable of animals thrown into a nest of rats for the sake of sending a message — whatever can do that to a dog, is not to be messed with. While you could say that the game peaks in horridness right then and there, that'd only be the start of a formidable gut-wrenching experience.

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You know a game is not even slightly afraid to slap you with sensitive content when right by minute one you'll be seeing the most lovable of animals thrown into a nest of rats for the sake of sending a message — whatever can do that to a dog, is not to be messed with. While you could say that the game peaks in horridness right then and there, that'd only be the start of a formidable gut-wrenching experience.

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When Humans Get Outmatched: Don't Dare Turn Off The Lights .
 

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Developer: Asobo Studio

Publisher: Focus Home Int.

Release Date: May 14, 2019

Buying the game from the link above is a great way to support the site.

With its focus firmly set on selling us a narrative that is both engaging and interesting to sit through, A Plague Tale narrows my main talking points to only a handful. Those would have to be convincingness, for how believable it is, and elasticity, to see how far character arcs and plotline go, in terms of expansiveness. First, to convince someone what they see on their screen is 'real', you need to evaluate whether you are willing to go the extra mile of telling them that directly, or let your words do the work of inspiring people into believing that if they fail to save the world in-game, their house is going to actually burn down IRL. Second of all, you can kind of tell how far a game is willing to go in terms of character development by how much effort they put into making secondary characters not as one-dimensional as a wall made out of bricks.

Taking what it can from fantastical, as well as realism nodes, the game makes great use of elements of both worlds to construct an intricate experience that is kept under low profile for as long as necessary for the decisive bang to be as impactful as possible. A well-rounded experience that keeps you wishing for more, and its chapter-segmented structure helps by making it so that each piece of the set is as digestible as possible, at the same time it leaves you hanging in suspense after each and every single one of them.

A movie-like show that is shaped to fit into the stereotypical view people have of female protagonists, where women can't fight back at all and have to hide in order to survive. Except… not really…? Armed with a skull-breaking slingshot and powerful alchemical solutions we learned how to craft thanks to a close friend, there are a number of ways we can get around breathing obstacles. In the case of rats, for example, we can incinerate them with a light-emitting bomb, or as for humans, a solid piece of rock shot from our sling straight to the face should get the job done just as well, unless they are wearing helmets or similar equipment to protect their ugly smug.

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Similar to every other storyteller, A Plague Tale follows a linear framing to tell its story, meaning that our decisions won't affect the plot by much outside of unlockables and achievements we can get along the way. The plus side is that everything we hear or see should be tailor-made to only enhance the experience.

Taking the concept of the floor is lava to the next level, instead of flaming hot stones for us to avoid stepping on, we now have several biting nibblers who really want us to fall on them.

​The rule is simple: as in almost every form of media to ever exist, if it moves, it can most certainly be killed. It doesn't matter if we're talking about some kind of supernatural force, an entire army, a heavily armored foe or heck, even both of those combined into one. As you'll see in a bit, A Plague Tale makes that unlikely scenario that much easier to visualize...

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​The rule is simple: as in almost every form of media to ever exist, if it moves, it can most certainly be killed. It doesn't matter if we're talking about some kind of supernatural force, an entire army, a heavily armored foe or heck, even both of those combined into one. As you'll see in a bit, A Plague Tale makes that unlikely scenario that much easier to visualize...

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With a clear understanding that desperate times require desperate measures, A Plague Tale is quite strict when it comes to what you can and cannot do. I recall thinking fairly early into the game that the troubles of getting caught were a good enough reason to deter me from going where I wanted. This is important to know because, on the topic of exploration, sometimes you'll see items just out of reach, and while most of the time you'll be able to figure out an easy and hopefully not-so-costly route to access them, that, unfortunately, won't always be the case for more uncommonly found bits.

 

Consisting mostly of ingredients for alchemical preparations, as well as upgrade materials such as leather, strings, among other bits and pieces, these rewards, so to speak, serve to enhance the quality of our equipment, as well as their efficiency of use — just something of note: remember to only take calculated risks while looking for them, else you'll end up losing progress unnecessarily.

And since traumatizing us with scenes of innocent children getting murdered in cold blood by the common folk is indeed something the game enjoys doing without sparing a breath, that means losing progress in this context would be the same as dying over and over (and over) again to test whether or not the river is safe for crossing… for science, of course! To make matters even worse, getting sighted while going for a quick run to the nearest convenience store for pesticides won't be as easy as you'd think, thanks to enemy awareness being noticeably better than the norm.

When exploring, finding the option that is the least expensive, resources wise, should always take priority over consuming rarer brewing ingredients for, as is to be expected, they are harder to come by. For this reason, observation should be fundamental in finding the best method of progressing without inflicting much damage in one's own back pocket.

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When exploring, finding the option that is the least expensive, resources wise, should always take priority over consuming rarer brewing ingredients for, as is to be expected, they are harder to come by. For this reason, observation should be fundamental in finding the best method of progressing without inflicting much damage in one's own back pocket.

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Upgrades to our basic toolset allows our character to aim faster, hit with increased accuracy, and carry more ingredients on their pouch. Though not really necessary for completing the game, these small changes do make quite a big difference overall, and are a great way to somewhat marginally increase our odds of survival.

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All in all, it is a game that thankfully doesn't have too much handholding, and you really have to think in order to get around. It goes laps around the development of friendships in dark times and the terror that comes with losing a loved one, outlining the necessity of sticking together so as to find comfort in one another. Be prepared to get emotionally invested with characters whom you'll be worrying your skin off as they put themselves in increasingly dangerous situations to save a planet that doesn't deserve being saved in the slightest, with the obvious exception being the other animals that also happen to live in it.

As much as I hate to admit, A Plague Tale wasn't the easiest of games, from the perspective that you need to pay a lot of extra attention than you'd normally need in similar games so as to not wind up tripping. From experience, besides a very basic aim-assistance that makes shots a tad bit harder to miss, the game really wants you to stick out your neck and attempt to understand how things work, rather than relying on systems to work things for you.