The rather unknown French development team Asobo Studio has provided us with a surprise hit this year, called A Plague Tale: Innocence. In a nutshell, players control the fate of a young sibling couple in the Middle Ages, while the focus is on the horrors of the plague, the inquisition and persecution instead of sword fuels and violence. The game offers playful elements that are not quite as deep as in other games but are coherent and underpin the story. You are not merely watching an interactive film in the Middle Ages, but moving through this dark chapter yourself and experiencing the personal drama of the protagonist.
The journey begins in France
In France, 1348, players take on the role of 16-year-old Amicia, who not only has to face thousands of rats, but also the Inquisition and the plague. While at the beginning you are still taking her for a walk through the autumnal forest or roaming through the picturesque estate of the de Runes, the events soon turn upside down. The Inquisition devastates the Château in search of Amicia's five-year-old brother Hugo, who is afflicted with a mysterious illness and therefore spent almost his entire life with his mother in a room. While the Inquisition brutally slaughters every farmhand, the two children are able to escape and set off in search of the alchemist Laurentius, who can supposedly help Hugo. The alienated siblings are suddenly alone and have the Inquisition on their backs. While Hugo is mostly being steered through the game world by the hand of his sister, he doesn't become a burden but often helps us in the course of the story.
Fortunately, Amicia and Hugo not only meet rodents, sick people and soldiers, but also a few allies who help them with their adventure. The story of the game quickly picks up speed and remains exciting until the end. At no time does the game feel stretched, as each chapter continues the story and contributes to the character development of Amicia, Hugo and some side characters. While the protagonist is not a great warrior, she is only armed with a slingshot and alchemy potions. Stones are usually only used to distract guards or to extinguish or ignite light sources, which have a very special meaning in the game - the deadly rats hate it.
No child's play
A Plague Tale: Innocence is about children, but is certainly not a game for them. At no time does Asobo Studio shy away from introducing the protagonists to the horrors of the time. Throughout the adventure you'll find yourself in picturesque woods, looking at beautiful buildings, interesting little villages or fascinating ruins in a snowy landscape, but you'll also meet insane people, watch soldiers being eaten alive by rats, or climb over the piles of corpses on a battlefield where English and French met.
The game proves that action is not always needed, but that even a small team can create a wonderfully exciting adventure. Considering the gameplay only, A plague Tale: Innocence works well and is well implemented, but also not very profound. Combined with its gripping, grandiose story, however, it becomes a real class game. The developers manage to tell a thrilling story of around 15 hours from beginning to end about two great, comprehensible characters, in which not only the cruelties of the Middle Ages but also certain values are conveyed. If you can do without sword fights and permanent action and have no problem with thousands of screaming rats, you shouldn't miss this game.