A Plague Tale is an intriguing adventure game that delivers a great emotionally strong story. The story follows the life span of a sister and brother who must struggle their way through a horde of ravenous rats that will not spare a moment to kill anyone that gets in touch with them and bloodthirsty soldiers who need them dead.
Developer Asobo Studio has pulled out another Ninja Theory here using A Plague screenplay and crafted a world that’s full of attention to detail, feels visually magnificent, and rivals a big budget blockbuster readily. The storytelling is exceptional and keeps you on the edge of your chair. It is not the most original storyline however, the thing that matters the most is that it the pacing of this narrative works out nicely. The writing is solid with some fantastic character drama which makes you feel like part of the sport’s world.
A Plague Tale revolves around the struggles of Amicia and her brother Hugo as she desperately tries to keep him alive and away from harm. Set in a bleak word inspired by the history of the 14th-century middle ages when plagues and deadly viruses used to spread through rats. This works as a game mechanic itself where Amicia and Hugo have to find a way to protect themselves from a swarm of rats. The only weakness that they have is an aversion to light making it the core of the gameplay loop.
The journey of Amicia and Hugo is not an easy one. During the course of their journey, they witness unspeakable horror and atrocities committed by the ruling forces. The main human threat is a group of inquisition soldiers who are after Hugo. Throughout the game’s story, you will encounter these soldiers and have a choice of approaching them through stealth or taking them head-on, which doesn’t always work.
As formidable the human threat is in the game, the real problem doesn’t arrive until you witness the swarm of flesh-eating rats. They don’t care to differentiate between a friend or foe and decimate anyone that comes in contact with them in seconds. As the real threat, they do have a weakness with the use of light and exploiting it carefully leads to one of the many survival puzzles offered in A Plague Tale.
As Amicia and Hugo make their way through this dangerous world, they have to avoid the deadly rates and inquisition soldiers. Fortunately, Amicia has a few tools of the trade that can help her overcome most of the obstacles. Since light is the weakness for the rats, puzzles usually revolve around finding a source of light to make your way to the next checkpoint. Amicia can craft some materials that can help her light things like a torch. She also has a sling used to throw rocks at inquisition soldiers however it is not as effective and mostly used only as a last resort.
Stealth is something that I have always hated and with this game, it does test your patience many times. The lack of a proper checkpoint system also hurts the flow of the game if you fail a stealth sequence, it is frustrating to do it again. As such, A Plague Tale is not exactly the most pleasing game in the gameplay department. It is the story that will keep you focused and always guessing what comes next. The emotional moments in the game are amicably handled making you seem connected with the two leads. You will feel a personal connection and do your best to protect them.
The linear focused approach to Stealth makes it dull. You don’t really have much of a choice in how you approach every encounter in Stealth so it just becomes a habit of learning the enemy patterns. Most of the Stealth sections focus around small, self-contained levels and enemy AI just patrols around their set limits letting you plan your escape. It is uninspiring as well as bland. I do understand why the devs decided to go with this approach since it ties to how they were trying to tell the story. Still, the gameplay ends up feeling weak along with the controls so the first impressions are usually not that positive.
Amicia has to guide Hugo throughout this journey. She will help him climb obstacles and protect him from any harm that comes their way. Hugo is also used to solve some door puzzles in a traditional way when you discover a small crawl space, he goes inside to reach inaccessible locations or unlock doors. If you have played a lot of other partner-based games, there is nothing new that makes a major impact or impression here. The core of this gameplay mechanic hinges on the bond established between Amicia and Hugo, and if you feel connected to them, you will feel more emotionally invested in their every action.
Overall, I have to say that A Plague Tale surprised me in ways that I never expected from the game. The story and the character development in the game is top-notch and the production values easily rival big games industry blockbusters. The game excels at narrative and environmental storytelling making it one of the top adventure games released this year. If you want a good story and can compromise with some monotone stealth mechanics, this easily gets a recommendation.