A Plague Tale: Requiem Review – Murphy’s Law With Rats

    Title: A Plague Tale: Requiem
    Developer: Asobo Studio
    Release Date: October 18, 2022
    Reviewed On: PS5
    Publisher: Focus Entertainment
    Genre: Adventure

I want to say that after playing through 2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence, our protagonists, Amicia and Hugo, have had enough. However, developer Asobo Studio has other plans for the duo with the release of A Plague Tale: Requiem. Outside the optimistic opening, the young siblings don’t have a moment to catch their breath as their old rat pals close in and the world around them crumbles. Survival is the only thing on their mind that weighs on the pair as they find themselves at their breaking points.

A Plague Tale: Requiem has a deceptively cheerful opening. As you learn a few of the game’s mechanics through imaginative play, we are led to believe that Amicia and Hugo are doing alright. Along with their mother and Lucas, the group is on their way to cure Hugo of the strange illness that seems to call out to the plague-filled rats. Of course, this will require the help of some powerful alchemist, but as they continue their journey, it seems both of their roles are much larger than they could have imagined.

Much of the story is told through conversations between gameplay portions as Amicia walks from one area to the next. I will say this way of telling a narrative is distracting in a game like this because Asobo decided to make their environments so gorgeous. As the characters chat, my eyes can’t help but want to check out the group of NPCs going about their daily lives, or maybe I’m simply drooling at the wonderful rain effects. Thankfully, the more critical aspects of the story are kept to the cinematics, but, damn, this game sure is beautiful in the most nightmarish of ways.

Still, you almost have to assume that calm moments don’t last very long for the group. Death and destruction follow closely behind them anywhere they go. I felt some of Amicia’s choices were selfish. She doesn’t care what happens to anyone outside of her group. It’s almost comical how anyone who tries to help them meets a gruesome end moments later. Regardless, they press on, and the pacing develops a rhythm as the group uncovers the truth about Hugo’s powers and his strange dream.

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The gameplay is not as on-rails as Innocence. While there are moments when you are forced to take a particular route, the way you play evolves Amicia’s survival skills. Using stealth, brute force, and tools will add to her experience in those areas. As you progress through the game, my Amicia may be completely different from yours. Depending on how you approach encounters, new skills will be obtained, forcing you to be a little more aware of your playstyle if you wish to unlock specific abilities.

Further, there are multiple paths to a destination in many cases. You can easily charge your way through some encounters and possibly survive, but players will have an exciting time scanning the environment for a more straightforward path. Amicia will die after two consecutive hits, but she can access a few melee options. If she’s holding a knife, she can unleash a counter-attack or even stun an enemy to choke him out. Every tool acquired has a few different use cases and understanding them makes encounters feel more like a playground for figuring out the coolest way to get through unseen. A consistent stream of new mechanics is introduced that keeps late-game encounters fresh. Still, the developers seem to understand Amicia’s OP nature by the end game, so enemies do become more difficult.

Aside from your soldiers, there’s the issue of rats. These creatures play more into the puzzle nature of some of the areas. You’ll need to navigate through environments while interacting with fire to progress. The tools have use cases in these encounters and ways to expand the fire’s light, use smoke to put out flames, or even use tar to create paths to safety. There’s a lot of handholding in the opening chapters, but I was happy to see the developers ease off a bit to test player understanding of these tools.

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Amicia begins to transform through this entry. You witness her breaking moment as she knocks down every obstacle keeping her from her goal. I loved how the people around her began to act around her because of this, but that didn’t limit much of the game from feeling coincidental. While she steals the show regarding character growth, elements of the story come off more as set pieces. There’s just too often that it relies on scenes of chance and luck that lean too heavily in their favor. For example, even after killing a handful of guards, they are thrown in jail instead of killed on the spot, or Lucas creates some brand new tool when Amicia needs it.

There’s a simple crafting system that encourages exploration to find items. I appreciated that you could access crafting and equipable items from a menu or the HUD. Further, there are multiple difficulties and various options for accessibility to enjoy the experience. This is a gorgeous game where beautiful scenes of flowery fields can instantly switch to dark caves of death. The music opts to heighten the experience from time to time, but it often sits in the background of the adventure, just waiting for a build-up. In some situations, the character writing can come off as cringy, but the voice actors played these roles flawlessly. This is especially true as we witness Amicia’s change in attitude.

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A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of the must-play adventure games of 2022. It builds on what was lacking in narrative and gameplay elements of its predecessor and provides players with a heart-racing sprint of an experience. The low points of the pacing are merely used to catch your breath until the next encounter as you see Amicia’s own innocence fade. Coincidental set pieces aside, there’s a lot to love about this game, and I urge you to find out for yourself. However, this may not be for you if you have an uncontrollable fear of rats.

Score:
9/10
A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Azario Lopez

Hanging out max, relaxing all cool.