(sharon) #1
The Black Death caused an estimated 75 to 200 million deaths between 1347 and 1351

desperately. When they hide, and a
soldier closes in on their location, you
can hear them breathing with short
sharp pangs of terror: it all adds up to
a very tense atmosphere.


Worried sick
This tension helps carry the game
through some slight repetition. There’s
a lot of throwing rocks at handily
placed boxes of armour to lure out a
guard, a lot of using your slingshot to
break chains and drop something from
above. Over the course of the game,
your toolbox opens up and it becomes
more possible to fudge your own
solution, but most sections – whether
stealth or puzzle-based – have a
single correct answer.
What really holds it all together is
the story. It’s not exactly complex –
you essentially spend the game going
from A to B, encountering something
grisly, and rerouting to C – but it’s
easy to invest in these children, and
there’s a constant underlying sense
of mystery. Why does the Inquisition
want Hugo? Is his sickness a variant


of the plague, or something more?
In fact, is this the Black Death from
history, or a supernatural sickness?
There’s a sense that fantastical
elements are creeping in at the edges
of A Plague Tale’s historical setting,
but for the most part it keeps them
there – at the fringes, just out of sight.
Early in the game, you might overhear
panicked villagers talking about
vampires. Are they just struggling to
comprehend the spreading plague,
or could they be onto something? It
adds another strand of tension to the
narrative, as you keep waiting for the
other shoe to drop.
Of course, that’s nothing next to
continually fearing for the safety
of these two kids. Eventually you’ll
become inured to seeing guards catch
up with Amicia, or rats overrunning
her, biting at any soft flesh they can

find as they drag her to the ground.
They’re just game over screens,
and if you’re anything like us you’ll
eventually start seeing a lot of them.
But the story never lets you settle – it
never guarantees the safety of Amicia
or Hugo – and, even as some of the
mechanics grow a little stale, that
keeps A Plague Tale feeling breathless
across its 12-hour runtime. Q

BORE-CRAFT
At its best, A Plague
Tale is a tightly
focused game.
There’s no
open-world
nonsense, not much
in the way of
collectibles... but
there is a crafting
mechanic. You can
scoop up resources
to craft equipment
upgrades and also
ammunition for your
slingshot. The latter
often isn’t optional,
and can be the only
solution to a puzzle,
forcing you to spend
the bits you were
saving for an upgrade.
Crafting feels like a
distraction, sending
Amicia off into corners
to hoover up
resources when she
should be running for
her life.

“There’s a sense


that fantastical


elements


are creeping


in at the edges”


FAR LEFT Many of
us, as kids, were
told not to play
with fire. Not
so, it seems, for
Amicia and Hugo.
RIGHT Moments of
tenderness
between the two
kids help you
invest in their
relationship.

OXM VERDICT
A simple stealth
game, elevated by
its tense
atmosphere and
characters.

8


ABOVE Escaping a
rat-infested
area is a
genuine relief.
And a reason to
seek out the
nearest shower.

More Xbox news at gamesradar.com/oxm THE OFFICIAL XBOX MAGAZINE 089

REVIEW