I tried to stop and make notes while playing the first three chapters of A Plague Tale: Innocence, but the pace kept demanding my full attention.
Those first three chapters are so unrelenting, absorbing, and heart-wrenching I could not take my eyes off the screen. Unsurprisingly, then, I’ve come away from this preview absolutely desperate for more.
A two-hour playthrough flew by and not only gave me a good idea of what Asobo Studios and Focus Home Interactive are going for in this action/adventure, it offered plenty of food for thought as to what comes next.
Set in the Kingdom of France during the 14th Century, you play as a young woman called Amicia de Rune who has decided to go on a hunt with her father, Robert, and her dog, Lion.
Equipped with a slingshot and a playful demeanour, Amicia begs dear old dad to tackle the Knights Challenge she attempted as a girl.
Dad’s not convinced, though, and instead decides he’d rather introduce Amicia to the sights, sounds, and smells of the beautiful forest, the perfect opportunity to show the player how stunning this game actually is.
I was continuously marvelling at the collective foliage, the wind sweeping through the trees, and the glistening skyline that beams so broadly. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one striking and wonderous looking game.
Which makes its turns to darkness all the more startling and memorable. But then, what do you expect for a game with Plague in the title?
Outside of its opening minutes, this is a very dismal and dreary game, full of challenging themes and shocking moments. The contrasting themes the game plays with throughout are directed quite marvelously, to the point where even Game of Thrones could learn a thing or two.
But the game really picks up when the Amicia is first introduced to the Inquisition and her brother, Hugo. Circumstances dictate that she becomes his guardian in a big wide world he’s never explored. Which is quite useful considering his youth and innocence.
If Hugo had his way, he’d be picking flowers and putting them in everyone’s hair or offering them up as presents. But not everyone is happy to see him or Amicia. 14th Century France isn’t the friendliest of places, especially when there’s a terrible plague about.
You’ll have to hold Hugo’s hand, keep him out of sight of travelling guards, and quieten him when he’s scared. But on the other hand, rely on him to crawl through tight spaces to unlock doors, and help you push crates to reach seemingly out of reach ledges.
There’s even a boss battle of sorts to consider and protect him from, one where you’re both grossly outmatched.
I think that’s what I like most about A Plague Tale: Innocence, you’re constantly presented as the underdog. Each of the three chapters requires you to overcome odds. There’s anxiety and concern at every turn, always something to think about or be defeated by.
Sure, there’s the option to craft and evolve your slingshot, increasing its accuracy and potency. But you’ll soon learn it’s nowhere near enough to fight against the horrors that lie in wait. Least of all 100 rats scampering all over each other to devour your carcass whole.
Basically, if you liked the character development through companionship and dramatic nature of The Last of Us, you’re going to feel right at home in this depiction of 14th Century France.
Three Chapters is all it took to hook me into A Plague Tale: Innocence, and despite a few minor bugs and hiccups, I am very excited to dive back into this world to see where the story takes me next.
A Plague Tale: Innocence releases on PC, PS4, and Xbox One on May 14th 2019
Preview code kindly provided by Koch Media. Played on PC