Stealth games come in all sorts of varieties yet few to none involve avoiding both guards and rats so let's travel back to 14th century France and see if this historically inaccurate depiction of the Plague is worth experiencing.
A Plague Tale: Innocence has you control a young lady named Amicia. Although she rarely spends time with her family, she soon finds herself on an adventure to escape a dire situation with her little brother Hugo. Obviously, I don't want to spoil the story at all because it's much better if you see it unravel for yourself. I will say that it's engaging from start to finish and I constantly found myself wondering what would happen next. To complement the gripping tale, you're treated to gorgeous visuals with detailed environments and character models as well as top-notch audio featuring tense orchestral pieces, satisfying effects, and a wonderful voice cast who spend more time whispering than not. I honestly didn't expect it to look and sound as good as it does. Great job, devs!
Thankfully, the gameplay and story go hand-in-hand as you spend the majority of the campaign sneaking around guards and trying to navigate past rat-infested areas. The former is initially accomplished through basic stealth yet later, you gain access to plenty of cool ammo for Amicia's sling. For example, you can melt guards' helmets off, put out their torches so rats can swarm them, and bash them in the head with a basic rock to finish them off. Anyway, rats are a different story as they're scared of light so these portions involve much more puzzle-solving than action. Figuring out how to place lights and use your surroundings to navigate past them is a rewarding challenge and later in the campaign, you can use a variety of gadgets to help you. Sending out a light that attracts rats only to explode the gathered horde with a powerful blast simply feels awesome but you must be careful not to run out of materials in the process.
One thing that A Plague Tale: Innocence accomplishes masterfully is that it creates a consistent sense of tension throughout. Watching Amicia, Hugo, or one of their companions get skewered with an arrow or slashed with a guard's sword is devastating which makes sneaking around stealthily feel all the more crucial. What brings the intensity to a higher level is the layered audio as hearing nearby guards chat while violins slowly build in the background will make you sit on the edge of your seat.
On the other hand, I found there to be plenty of goofy out-of-place moments that took me out of the experience. One such sight is the rat tornados that begin to appear halfway or so through the story. Seeing one come towards you is threatening but it's still absolutely ridiculous and reminded me of Sharknado. Also, one part of the story has Amicia being held captive so her abductors can collect some sweet cash. However, if you get caught while escaping, the guards brutally kill her. Wait, don't they want their money? Why don't they just put her back in her cell? Finally, many characters talk about being bitten in the story but the rats seem to easily devour whoever they come in contact with so who are these lucky souls who only got bitten? Did they taste terrible or something? It makes no sense.
I don't want to complain too much about A Plague Tale: Innocence because it's an overall fantastic game but I do have a few more issues with it. For starters, there are some truly frustrating moments later in the campaign. Before that, the game is as easy as pie. That's not to say that it gets difficult because it doesn't really. It simply becomes irritating. For example, there are no onscreen indicators for the rat tornados although there are for the guards so it's very difficult to discern where the rat tornados are approaching from. You also have to walk backwards at one point but you can't move the camera around so you can easily get snagged on a wall and die. Replaying these parts is incredibly annoying, especially after hearing the same lines of dialogue a dozen or so times in a row.
Finally, the way that Amicia moves is quite stiff and she tends to hop from side to side far too easily which conflicts with the gameplay premise of trying to avoid rats at her feet. I found myself having to push up on the left stick to move Amicia forward then use the right stick to rotate her and the camera because whenever I used the left stick to turn her, she would hop around and sometimes die as a result. I can't believe such a small girl controls like a tank. That being said, you do get used to the way she moves after a while.
If you're in the market for a consistently immersive tale with gameplay that's filled with genuine tension then A Plague Tale: Innocence is a must-play game. Just be prepared for a few aspects to regularly take you out of the otherwise engaging adventure.
- + Gripping story with complementarily engaging stealth gameplay featuring cool gadgets
- + Gorgeous graphics and top-notch voice cast
- + Awesome and consistent sense of tension
- - Movement controls are far too stiff and jumpy for carefully weaving between death traps
- - Some parts can be exceptionally irritating
- - Plenty of silly aspects feel out of place