A Plague Tale: Innocence summarized: Gripping story and well-written characters.
Set in medieval times in France and during the spread of the plague by ravenous rats, you play as Amicia, a young teenager who has to take care of her five-year old brother, Hugo, amidst the growing crisis. To make matters worse, a cult called the Inquisition is trying to capture Hugo due to a strange condition he has that they think may lead to a cure for the plague, and they're willing to kill Amicia in order to get their hands on him. This forces Amicia to to terrible things in order to keep him safe, and this leads to heartbreaking situations that make you want to reach through the screen hug the poor kids.
The dynamic between the siblings shines against a grim backdrop riddled with corpses, Inquisition soldiers out for blood, and thousands of Bubonic Plague-carrying rats. A Plague Tale does an admirable job of making its young protagonists appropriately vulnerable to the surrounding dangers as you move through them from a third-person perspective, but the stealth gameplay and puzzles rarely feel imaginative. As a result, the stakes of this seemingly perilous world are undercut.
Fantastic gameplay mechanics and design
A Plague Tale: Innocence is both a stealth game and a puzzle game, with the two styles often crossing paths and merging to create fun, interesting challenges. As Amicia is a thirteen-year old girl, she can't do much to fight against fully armed and armored Inquisition soldiers or swarms of rats conventionally. This means that she and Hugo need to use cunning and strategy to get through the horrors that lie in store for them. This ranges from distracting and tricking guards to figuring out how to scare rats away with light. It sounds simple and easy, but the game is designed in a way where every new situation feels like a engaging and enjoyable challenge to figure out. The presentation of the game is also fantastic, featuring beautiful graphics, a superb musical soundtrack, and great overall voice acting.
The siblings had never had much of a relationship growing up as mid-14th-century French nobles, but when Amicia is suddenly forced into the role of young Hugo’s protector, they quickly need to learn to trust one another. This theme drives the story in interesting directions and is also smartly reflected through the gameplay. The majority of the 17 linear chapters see you controlling Amicia, with Hugo holding onto your hand by default. You can let go to move quicker, but if you leave him for too long he will scream and attract the attention of soldiers.
Stellar presentation and atmosphere
One of the best aspects of A Plague Tale is its world, which has an ominous emptiness to it. Well, at least when it comes to living things that aren’t overwhelming waves of terrifying rats. It’s not uncommon to come across mass graves of those who died from the Plague, and in one particularly somber sequence you actually have to walk across an entire field of bodies. Most of the living that you come across want to kill Amicia, Hugo, and various companions that help you throughout their journey. This foreboding atmosphere matches the dreariness and depravity of the areas you’ll explore, from darkened forests to abandoned castles to ghostly villages to Inquisition camps, though they all look far more dangerous and daunting than they actually are.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s story of two orphans surviving in a world ravaged by the Black Death is compelling and the stealth gameplay that runs through it is fine-tuned, but the rat-infested world looks more dangerous than it actually is. Everything from the alchemy abilities to the layout of levels feels a bit too guided and the prevalence of crafting materials removes the need to make decisions about how you want to get past your enemies. The story stands out as a result, but there’s not a lot of freedom to experiment or consequences for reckless decisions.