(sharon) #1

A Plague Tale: Innocence


TWO KIDS YOU’LL DEFINITELY GIVE A RAT’S ARSE ABOUT ALEX SPENCER


PUBLISHER FOCUS HOME INTERACTIVE / DEVELOPER ASOBO STUDIO / RELEASE DATE OUT NOW / COST £44.99/$49.99


The two siblings are forced to flee
their home and seek safety in the
surrounding countryside – safety
which the narrative continually
refuses them. There’s a plague-
ridden town with a population of
crazed witch-hunters. A battlefield of
French and English soldiers, happy to
temporarily put aside their differences
and focus on murdering a couple of
kids. And then there are the rats. Oh
dear god, so many rats.
A Plague Tale is set in 1348, the
beginning of the Black Death’s
rampage across Europe. While we
all now know it was the fleas which
really carried the disease, the game
is not afraid to point the finger at
their rodent mounts. And so Amicia
and Hugo find themselves facing off
against chittering hordes of rats,
which flow like water into any unlit
space. Look closely at the writhing
mass of tails and glowing eyes and
you’ll realise the rats’ movements
don’t make much sense, but the
overall effect – a wave of skittering
darkness – is shudder-inducing.

There are two
cardinal rules of
storytelling: one,
never kill off the
kid; two, never ever
kill off the dog. A
Plague Tale breaks the latter rule in
its opening ten minutes, as a poor
hunting hound gets pulled, yelping,
into a mysterious hole in the ground,
gnawed at by unseen mouths. From
there, the story repeatedly puts its
cast of children in harm’s way – and
you genuinely fear for their lives,
because you don’t quite know what
rules it’s willing to break.
The children in question are Amicia,
a young French noblewoman, and
her sickly younger brother Hugo. At
the start of the game, their peaceful
lives are disrupted by the arrival of
the Catholic Inquisition, searching for
Hugo. What exactly they want from
this small, mostly bed-ridden child is a
complete mystery, but the Inquisition’s
troops quickly demonstrate they’re
willing to massacre an entire estate to
get at him.


For its first few chapters, the
game alternates between evading
murderous adults and swarms of
rats. The former sequences take
the form of a traditional stealth
game – watching patrol patterns and
waiting for your moment, throwing
rocks to cause a distraction, making
excruciating dashes out of cover as
you quietly pray that guard’s turned
back stays turned for just one second
longer. The rat sections, however,
flip the script delightfully. Instead
of sticking to the shadows, you’re
constantly seeking the torchlight
which will repel your furry foes, finding
new ways to move fire from place to
place – something closer to a puzzle
game. Eventually, the two halves start
to intrude on each other, challenging
you to combine both styles of play
within a single area.
The game does a good job of
establishing both sides as real
threats, and the kids as genuinely
vulnerable. As Amicia, you constantly
lead Hugo by the hand, his tiny fingers
wrapped around hers and clinging on

short
cut

WHAT IS IT?
A stealth adventure
featuring plagues,
rats and religious
persecution in 14th
century France.
WHAT’S IT LIKE?
Fellow siblings-in-
danger classics
Brothers: A Tale of
Two Sons and Life Is
Strange 2.
WHO’S IT FOR?
Rodent enthusiasts
and amateur
historians who aren’t
picky about accuracy.

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