It’s 1348 and a plague bred by rats has flooded through rural Aquitaine, which has recently been invaded by the English army. A young noble girl, Amicia de Rune, must fight for her own life and that of her brother, Hugo – who is infected with some strange version of the plague ravaging the countryside.
Developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Home Interactive, A Plague Tale: Innocence makes brutal work of 14th-century plague politics as the player is forced to take on the role of an unarmed caretaker who must use stealth to avoid conflict in this action-adventure horror game.
The game is played in a third-person perspective, which lays bare even more critically the caustic nature of the plague and the tension of attempting to stay alive while being hunted by both humans (the English military) and the unseen supernatural forces behind the plague.
Due to Hugo’s apparent illness, villagers hold him responsible for the sickness, but the British believe that Hugo is actually the cure to the plague.
Plague Tale’s cinematic style uses shadows and light in order to crave out environments and create claustrophobic spaces even out of open fields and forests. In many scenes, Amicia must scuttle in darkness and hush as she crouches to avoid enemies or can guide herself only by the light of her torch.
Amicia’s torch serves the dual purpose of lighting her way and keeping the plague rats at bay – but it can also be used to herd or lead them into enemies. She is also equipped with a slingshot that she can use to create distractions or stun guards long enough for plague rats to overwhelm and kill them. It is also possible for her to kill human opponents outright with headshots.
In torchlight is safety but A Plague Tale is about stealth and puzzles
Throughout the game, there are numerous survival puzzles that involve using the torch and slingshot to open up new areas. This is done by distracting, scaring or directing the hordes of rats in order to gain access.
On her journey, Amicia will also craft special equipment such as sulfur stones that ignite braziers – and further ward off rats from their radius – and create stink bombs that attract rats. She can also craft special ammunition and supplies such as fire suppressants that can be used to extinguish torches carried by enemies.
Because Amicia must accompany her brother at all times and keep him safe, the game works under an ever-present tension. She can leave him for a short time in order to execute missions, but if she leaves him by himself for too long, he can start to panic and attract unwanted attention.
As a result, players must think strategically about how they approach any stealth situation to keep Hugo safe and get Amicia through the challenge.
A Plague Tale: Innocence released on May 14 and is available for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.