A Plague Tale: Innocence has been on my list of goals for the last two months, and it came veeeery very close to being three. But last night I booted back into it, and didn’t leave until I was finished. Er.. Around 1am. Which is not an ideal time to finish up a gaming session on a work night. The saving grace here being that with the lockdown in effect and working from home, I don’t have to tackle the hour plus journey into the office in the morning giving me that tiny extra bit of sleep in to make up for it.
Still — getting into a pattern of staying up til 1:00 on a work night isn’t really a habit I want to form.
The pacing of A Plague Tale is nigh on perfect though. Both in the moment to moment play and chapter lengths as a whole. Each segment never seems to outstay its welcome. Each chapter is just long enough to be satisfying but short enough to induce something very similar to that ‘just one more turn’ feeling of Civilisation or XCOM.
I don’t want to talk to the specifics of the story too deeply. But I will say it is rather well told, for the context of a game. By which I don’t mean to suggest that games can’t have great stories, or even that this one doesn’t. What I mean is that the unlocking of game tools and mechanics and the game’s story beats unfold in lock step. They act in service to one another.
And when you think there can’t possibly be any more tools to add to the kit; something else comes along.
The game constantly presents new obstacles, which to pass relies on your understanding of the tools and the interactions you can create between them and your environment.
The sling forms the basis of many of these environmental interactions. Alongside a helping hand of a little alchemy, and the plentiful supply of reagents found along the way.
Starting out you’ll have access to just your arm and your sling. And rocks. You can throw them at a pile of armor to create a noise, leading the Inquisition guards down the garden path (sometimes literal) while you sneak your way behind.
By the end? Well… You’ll be able to do a lot more. There are peaceful ways through most situations, but as I in half jest mentioned to my brother the other night as he watched me play, ‘It seems murder is always the answer.’ ;) (I should stress again: Peaceful more sneaky options nearly always exist, it just isn’t how I was playing at the time of his observation.)
Which is all the say: The ‘game’ aspects are quite solid. There is a large toolbox to work with to make your way through the world on your own terms and the checkpoints are more often than not quite generous. Which is good. Because there are some you’ll be reset to several times before working out an optimal path for your chosen play style.
But these things aren’t what kept me going. They’re not what kept A Plague Tale on my goals list for several months where other games I likely would have dropped off to be returned to the backlog, likely to be there buried forever.
The story — any ‘gaminess’ as mentioned aside — is good. Or perhaps better to say, the relationships it details and the characters within are good. For much of the game, you’ll be playing as Amicia and Hugo both. Amicia the elder sister thrown into a world of turmoil with the arrival of both the plague and the inquisition. Hugo the little brother who, being a sickly thing and kept apart in his rooms, she barely knows.
Coming into A Plague Tale; I believed the game to be a rather dry recounting of life during the plague. It rather quickly becomes evident that this is not the case. There is a supernatural element which added, to my mind, some much needed spice.
It actually gets to a point where I almost laughed out loud at the borrowing of what seemed to be quite an ‘anime’ trope. I won’t provide the context as that might be too much of a spoiler, but they start talking about breaking thresholds at a certain point in the story, an act that carries both dire consequences and an increase in power. Reminded me very much of the the likes of Bleach or Naruto.
In any case, by the end I was more convinced than ever that the presence of the ‘Innocence’ subtitle was indicative of a plan for this to be a series moreso than standalone game. Convinced and very much invested in seeing this come to pass. The ending of A Plague Tale: Innocence is no cliffhanger. You’ll get the satisfaction of a clear and definitive end from this title. But there are enough hooks that I have a fair idea of where a sequel would go. Or at least; I think I do. I imagine there will be a timeskip involved between the end of this game and the start of the next.
Looking into it now; it appears while there is no ‘official’ announcement of A Plague Tale 2; we have a somewhat substantive rumour. I’m really looking forward to it, Asobo deserves all the success in the world for what they’ve done with Innocence, and I look forward to what that success might allow them to do with a sequel.
I’ll leave you with a screenshot gallery; not every aspect of the game is meant to look pristine and beautiful. Some parts verge more into the realm of (albeit mild) horror!
This was a post for Blapril 2020, the annual blogging event (albeit usually as Blaugust), brought forward to help bring a sense of community during the challenging time of COVID-19. Blaugust is an event aiming to welcome new blogger blood into the fold and revitalise those who’ve been at it a little longer.
The Blaugust Discord is still available to join in, year round!