Gaming in a post-apocalyptic setting where a virus has wiped out much of humanity is sure to strike differently after 2020, but even in earlier times, 2019 A Plague Tale: Innocence it was quietly highlighted that it transported these now-worn tropes to a historical period, you might call it The last of us in fourteenth-century France.
While its action-adventure stealth gameplay didn’t exactly set the world on fire, it had a lot more going for it, from the period’s rich and often grim details to the central relationship between Amicia De Rune and her ailing younger brother Hugo (yes, oh! acting from children who are not annoying!) as this pair of brothers from a family of nobles become fugitives hunted by the French Inquisition, as well as an alarming number of carnivorous and disease-spreading rats.
this sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiemthen allows French developer Asobo Studio to up their game, creating an even more ambitious story on a larger scale (after having developed 2020’s Microsoft Flight Simulator, certainly knows a thing or two about innovative technology), hence the decision to make this a next-gen exclusive. But does he nail the landing, or does he bite off more than he can chew?
loss of innocence
Set six months after the events of the first game (as there is no recap of any kind, we recommend newcomers play Innocence first), the De Rune brothers have become inseparable with their troubles seemingly behind them as they journey to the sunny south. from France.
Beautiful new sights and vibrant cities are a mature demonstration of why Requiem has left behind last generation as we get to take in a lot more scenery with great drawing distances, while a mix of busy crowds and audio makes it feel like a bit of virtual historical sightseeing. That said, even on PS5 this can have an occasional performance hit while we still catch moments of ambient popups and that super-fast SSD doesn’t prevent noticeable moments from loading between certain scenes.
Similarly, the bright and colorful serenity of the first city you visit soon gives way to the horrors lurking in other neighborhoods, greatly amplified by Amicia’s audible wince as she resists retching at the sight of corpses piled on top of one another. . Before you know it, the rats, less animal than a simple swarming entity that moves like a terrifying organism that consumes anything in its path, are back, as they are intrinsically linked to the condition of Hugo, the Prime Macula. .
And of course, there’s a new enemy hunting Hugo who wants his power for his own twisted ends, while as his protector, Amicia will do anything to find a way to cure him of his condition.
look for the light
Fortunately, you have some new tools to help you. Requiem’s strength comes from harnessing technology to do what hasn’t been possible before. While a lot of what you see is terribly bleak, especially as there are times when you’ll see hundreds of thousands of rats on screen actually sweeping through cities like a tsunami, light is just as important and something you can control.
With the help of some alchemical recipes, Amicia can use light to keep rats at bay, while another item you learn to craft can amplify the flames and spread that light to create more space to traverse safely. You can even turn off the light, which has sadistic uses like blowing out an enemy soldier’s torch and turning it into food for rodents.
However, when accompanied by Hugo, the poor lad’s connection to rats means he can also take command of them at certain points to hunt down unsuspecting enemies or even use them to detect their location, the latter however a bit disappointing as a supernatural power when we’ve already seen a middle-aged man doing the same thing with just his ears in The Last of Us.
Unfortunately, these novel mechanics are also grouped with more archaic stealth tropes, like crouching in tall grass or puzzles where you push heavy carts very slowly, while watching the same animation of Amicia closing a door behind her and throwing the bolt close with a heavy latch once you’ve reached a safe checkpoint. There’s a constant tug-of-war in the game that builds up but then falls short of expectations, most evident in open environments that all too often expose their limitations, like frustratingly invisible walls or where you end up losing your way due to poor signage.
Twists in the story
Requiem’s blessing, as well as its curse, is its narrative. We already mentioned the comparisons the original had to Naughty Dog’s masterpiece, and while this sequel isn’t exactly copying its task, it’s hard not to feel like some elements are a poor imitation of various plot points in the last of us part 2from Amicia’s rage-fueled transformation into a battle-hardened warrior to even featuring slavers as enemies in one chapter.
While fans are still divided on Ellie’s controversial arc, it made sense. But with Amicia, going from moments where you have a choice between being stealthy and avoiding confrontation or being more aggressive (where directly or indirectly dispatching an enemy can draw vocal disapproval from one of your teammates) only to being forced into bloodthirsty murder sprees when the plot dictates makes for a severe narrative whiplash. In fact, the entire story is something of a rollercoaster ride going in some pretty crazy directions, though its twists and turns elicit less shock and surprise than bewilderment and sometimes sheer hilarity as one implausible scenario piles on top of another.
It’s a relief that the voice actors somehow manage to put on decent and likeable performances, even when situations, particularly a couple of your new allies, sometimes stretch credibility. Most important is the strong emotional core between the De Rune siblings, especially Amicia, who goes through a physical and mental wringer. It’s almost enough to keep it inverted to get it across the line.
A Plague Tale: Requiem Verdict
A hot mess of a game, really. For those who have played Innocence (which is pretty much a must, though sadly no longer on Game Pass), it’s great to spend time with Amicia and Hugo once again, the family bond between two brothers is still a rarity in gaming, as well as the devastating lengths one will go to in order to protect their loved ones. There’s also a huge benefit to developing exclusively for next-gen platforms, as it opens you up to more expansive and impressive environments and technical feats with more lighting and those terrifying hordes of rats.
But a bigger game doesn’t equal a better one, as its ambitions are thwarted by a hackneyed design, with a plot that’s all over the place, while some novel mechanics are undermined by more hackneyed ones. It’s not all doom and gloom, as Requiem sometimes reaches out and brings back the light, but in the aftermath, it eventually overshoots and ends up consuming itself.