If you have followed our coverage of A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, on Push-Start; you might have noticed that in recent weeks, I have grown a little disillusioned with it. The constant barrage of the ever same press releases, unnecessary montages, and increasingly odd clips, led me to believe that the final product may be not all that Focus Home Interactive would like us to believe. But now after spending close to a dozen hours with A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, I can say that the above statement is true, as this particular release is even better than the publisher has suggested.
The first impression, which A Plague’s Tale: Innocence is not quite up to scratch. As from the get go, the title does not look as incredible as it did on some of the pre-release screenshots. However, while it may not be an equal to God of War in terms of visuals, it is definitely its superior in terms of performance. As A Plague’s Tale: Innocence runs at iron-clad 30fps from the very start, all the way until the very end. It doesn’t hitch, it doesn’t stutter, it doesn’t slow-down, it simply just works – as Todd Howard would say.
Don’t get me wrong, A Plague’s Tale: Innocence is a great looking game – but it is clearly not the AAA release which some may have expected. Textures, models, and lightning effects are downright incredible. However, the minor details such as character interactions with the environment, reflections, and most importantly animations, leave a lot to be desired.
While on your quest to save your brother, you will often be tasked with crawling under obstacles, jumping over barriers, and climbing up walls. And unlike in games such as Uncharted, or even the recently released Days Gone, the character interactions during those sequences seem a little archaic, and backward. When you are ducking underneath a fallen tree, you simply crouch down and walk underneath it – Amicia (the main protagonist), doesn’t tuck in her chin, push away from the trunk, nor does she use her arms to pull herself back up while on the other side. And while lack of such extensive detail is not exactly problematic, it does come across as a little jarring and out of place, when imposed against the title’s impressive, core visual presentation.
A single standard playthrough of A Plague’s Tale: Innocence sixteen chapters should take you no more than seven hours. But if you decided to go for all the trophies/achievements, collectibles, and character upgrades, then your total play-time will clock out at around 14 hours or so. Which is respectable considering that A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, doesn’t retail at the full, AAA price mark of £45 – £55. But if you are used to the 20 to 40 hours grand tales which have seen the light of day in the recent months, then you may be a little disappointed with A Plague’s Tale: Innocence replay ability – as such is rather limited.
As you had a chance to read above, A Plague’s Tale: Innocence features upgrades, which in-game are managed through crafting. The crafting itself is quite free flowing, and easy to use – then unfortunately the economy surrounding it can be both quite infuriating, and tiresome. As in-game, you are limited to carrying only a certain number of resources, and those are used to both craft your upgrades, and ammunition for Amicia’s slingshot. However, there is simply not enough room, even with the first two capacity upgrades, to carry enough items to both continue upgrading Amicia’s kit, and constantly craft new ammunition. Playing through A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, you will constantly find yourself beneath the rock and a heard place, where you’ll be forced between upgrading your kit, to expand the flexibility of it; or craft ammunition, in order to make the title’s insta-death stealth sections easier, and less infuriating.
A Plague’s Tale: Innocence does feature the dreaded insta-fail sections. But fortunately, those are not the bread and butter of the core experience. As the title in question is full of diverse sections where you get to solve puzzles, explore, and surprisingly enough fight hostile NPC’s. But the latter form of gameplay, especially within the final third of the game, will only be available to you if you decide to sacrifice your kit upgrades, for special ammunition, as certain hostiles can only be taken down using acid pellets, and special attractors which direct the in game rat hordes towards hostiles.
If you had a chance to play the recently released Days Gone, and fell in love with the Freaker hordes, then you are going to fall in love with A Plague’s Tale: Innocence’s Plague rats, as that work in a very similar manner to the Freaker hordes. Plague Rats always bunch up in hundreds, if not thousands of units, and when given an opportunity, they will devour both the main protagonists, and any of the friendly NPC’s which may be travelling with you at the time. And no, the hordes do not affect the framerate in the slightest. Even in chapter 14, where you are surrounded by four massive hordes, an abundance of hostile NPC’s, and extensive lightning effects – A Plague’s Tale: Innocence is as snake slithering his way through the grass.
All the pre-release materials for A Plague’s Tale: Innocence featured solely Amicia the main protagonist, and Hugo her five year old brother. However the final release features a plethora of friendly NPC’s, from alchemist’s apprentice, through thieving siblings, all the way down to a blacksmith’s son, and those are more than just scene setting, as all of the above-mentioned characters can be interacted with, and are vital tools in your journey to salvation. If you go into the title unaware of their existence, then you are going to be pleasantly surprised as they are all decently written, and it easy to relate to them in one way or another.
Narrative wise, A Plague’s Tale: Innocence is excellent. As the core tale of survival of Amicia and Hugo is just a part of a greater plot, and such encompasses the armed conflict between France and Britain, the Holy incursion of the title’s main antagonist force, The Inquisition, as well as a handful of subplots relating to both hostile and friendly NPC’s. And even hour into the game, you come across a man who has been driven mad by the loss of his son to the plague, and what ensues after your first encounter culminates in an incredibly satisfying finale which does not just serves as an end to the man’s storyline, but also build’s Amicia’s character and allows her to evolve from a two-dimensional Mary Sue, into a bona fide, first class hero.
Overall the story of A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, and its subplots are sublime. However, just like everything, those have their own issues. One of them stems from a very Tomb Raider ‘esque moment where Amicia laments after killing a man with her slingshot, only to deck two more soldiers mere minutes later. And the other, is directly related to Hugo who can, and does often act like an unbearable brat – which can get a little, if not incredibly annoying. By the time I’ve reached chapter ten, I was hoping that there is an option to just throw him into a horde of rats, because I was done dealing with his mood swings. And while I personally detested him through and through, then my view of him is entirely subjective, and some will likely appreciate him more than I did.
To conclude, all that really has to be said about A Plague’s Tale: Innocence, is that it is a neat adventure game, which has significantly exceeded my expectations, and while those were not very profound to begin with, then even I have to admit that A Plague’s Tale: Innocence is ten times the game which I, and many others expected it to be. It may not have some of the certain AAA qualities, due to its clearly limited, AA budget – then ultimately it offers an experience, which is above and beyond games such as Anthem or Fallout 76, and feels like a breath of fresh air in the always online, games as a service, world.