A Plague Tale : Innocence combines fantasy and the Black Death to tell the heartfelt survival tale of Amicia (or Hugo) and Hugo (orphans). The grim backdrop of Inquisition soldiers looking for blood and thousands upon thousands of Bubonic Plague carrying rats makes the dynamic between siblings stand out. Although A Plague Tale does a great job making its young protagonists vulnerable to the dangers around them, you can only see the world from a third-person view. The stealth gameplay and puzzles are not imaginative. The stakes in this world seem low, despite it being perilous.
As mid-14th-century French nobles, the siblings never had a close relationship. But when Amicia is forced to take on the role of Hugo’s protector, Amicia quickly learns to trust each other. This theme is cleverly reflected in the gameplay, which drives the story in new directions. Hugo will hold onto your hand for most of the 17 chapters. To move faster, you can release the button but if you let him go for too long, he will scream at you and draw attention to soldiers. Except for a few puzzles I rarely felt the need or desire to let go.
Hugo can be sent to do tasks such as climbing through windows and unlocking doors, just like other “escort missions” games. Hugo and Amicia act together, which is a departure from most escort mission. Hugo is helpless but you don’t need to do much more than hold his hand. As the story progresses, this works on a thematic level. The gameplay aspect was also simple and enjoyable. Some games have a lot of annoying escort missions.
A Plague Tale’s world is one of its best features. It has an ominous, empty feeling. At least it’s not filled with terrifying rats and overwhelming waves of living things. You may find mass graves of Plague victims. In one very sad sequence, you will have to cross an entire field of bodies. Many of the living you meet want to kill Amicia and Hugo as well as their companions who help them along their journey. The foreboding atmosphere is a match to the depravity and darkness of the places you will explore, including abandoned castles, darkened forests, ghostly villages, and Inquisition camp. However, they all seem far more dangerous than they are.
Although A Plague Tale gives the impression of being very open, you are often guided by dialogue or screen clues to your next simple task. Although this helps streamline the story and eliminates unnecessary filler activities, I felt the need to explore more of the world and be challenged by it in meaningful ways. Sometimes, A Plague Tale can feel like it is pushing you towards safety instead of letting you see the whole picture of the fascinating worlds. All levels are different, and each one is richly detailed. The setting is shown to help cement a tone for a story that blends real history and fantasy in unexpected ways. Amicia’s and Hugo’s relationship is the main focus, but the story around them adds to its already compelling narrative.
You can create materials that increase the alchemy skills, but they are difficult to adjust. You can find enough supplies in each level. A Plague Tale doesn’t encourage you to think about how efficient your strategy is for solving a puzzle. You don’t have to be wasteful or careless to make it to the next level. There you will find more. You can get upgrades for your sling or abilities from workbenches, making resource management all the more important. These crafting and skill system use by A Plague Tale is not time-consuming nor tedious. I appreciate that. However, these features lower the stakes by making it easy to do everything and eliminating the need for difficult decisions.
Hugo and Amicia meet other children from all walks of life while trying to avoid the Inquisition. Amicia can call on these companions for help in a variety of ways, including turning cranks to solve puzzles, picking locks and removing soldiers. Although they don’t add any depth to the mechanics of the story, their presence is a great help. Lucas, a young scholar, offered valuable insights into the fantastical such as alchemy and rats. The dialogue is well-written, and the actors are able to perform small talk as well as critical cutscenes.
The Plague Tale: Innocence tells the story of two orphans who survive in a world devastated by the Black Death. It is compelling, and the stealth gameplay that runs through it works well. However, the world is more dangerous than it really is. Everything, from the layout of the levels to the alchemy abilities, feels a little too planned. The availability of crafting materials makes it easier to decide how to defeat your enemies. Although the story is compelling, there isn’t much freedom or consequence for making reckless decisions.