A Plague Tale: Requiem
Developer: Asobo Studio
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Genre(s): Adventure, Survival Horror
Platform: Xbox Series X|S (also available on PS5 and PC – Windows)
Age Rating: PEGI 18
Release Date: 18/20/2022
A code was provided for review purposes
Plagues, rats, war, illness, death and rats again. No, this is not a shopping list of everything needed for a great Halloween party, this is 14th-century France, and this is Amicia and Hugo’s story. Not just that, this is an adventure with so much to explore across islands that are shrouded in mystery, fantasy and grief.
This year has been dominated by goliath single-player games such as Horizon Forbidden West, Elden Ring (I know it’s not just single-player) and soon God of War Valhalla; read on to find out if A Plague Tale: Requiem can match up to them.
Requiem is a third-person survival horror and the sequel to 2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence, which follows the story of the De Rune family, more specifically, the young siblings Amicia and Hugo. The latter is infected with the gruesome Macula, an ancient curse that makes him dangerous to those around him. The curse attracts swarms of deadly, infectious rats that destroy everything in their path and the only way to stay alive is to stay in the light.
Set six months after the events of Innocence, 15-year-old Amicia, voiced by the amazing Charlotte McBurney, and her 5-year-old brother Hugo are in desperate search of a cure that will stop the devastation that follows them. However, following a powerful vision that Hugo has of an island with healing powers, there is hope that their problems can be solved. After fleeing their home of Guyenne following the events of the first game, the siblings are travelling across Southern France, joined by their mother, Beatrice, and Lucas, a young apprentice alchemist and returning friend from the first game. You are also joined by a couple of new faces who help you along the way.
The squad work together for Hugo and face many obstacles on their path, such as the aforementioned rats and what’s left of the invading English army in the country. There is also the new threat of The Order, an organisation of alchemists who want to provide refuge for Hugo and the family, but you soon discover they are not as welcoming as they appear.
As Hugo begins to realise his powers, it presents another challenge that Amicia has to overcome. It is not just Hugo trying to battle his inner demons, but Amicia’s role of protector also has consequences for her and for anyone around them.
As alluded to, in a year with major single-player releases, such as Horizon Forbidden West, it takes a lot to stand out, especially as we begin to enter a big window of game releases (new Mario + Rabbids and Gotham Knights alone released in the same week as Plague Tale). However, it will be a surprise to this reviewer if Requiem is not in the conversations for GOTY.
So Many Emotions
What is clear from the start and what makes A Plague Tale: Reqiuem so appealing is the emotional narrative that makes the desperation of the two young protagonists so believable and makes you so invested in their journey. The first game was often compared to The Last of Us and the sequel also carries a lot of similarities because of how narrative-driven the games are.
The way the relationship between Joel and Ellie is brought to life in TLOU is similar to how Amicia and Hugo’s story is portrayed. The more I progressed, the more I wanted nothing but peace and solace for them, which was a similar feeling for Joel and Ellie in my recent playthrough of TLOU. A Plague Tale has a lot going for it and does enough to stand out on its own without just being a TLOU alternative.
One thing that is striking is the backdrop of emotions surrounding Amicia and Hugo that gradually builds throughout the story, especially when they lose control of their actions. With Hugo, it is expected because he is so young and cannot yet fully comprehend how powerful the curse inside of him truly is. On the other hand, in Amicia’s case, it is different. She feels she is the sole protector of Hugo and is desperately trying to save her younger brother. In doing so, this leads to her tapping into a dark, vengeful side, fuelled by the constant trauma she is forced to deal with. It is often the responsibility of Hugo or Lucas to try to snap her out of murderous rampages and remind her of the task and that murder should only be done if there is no other choice.
The way this dynamic is portrayed is so well done, and with Amicia, again, it is a reminder when she loses control, that she is still just a child. She has had to grow up fast in war while trying to protect the world from her brother’s curse and keep him safe at the same time. Watching how she takes on this challenge while repeatedly taking beatings and yet still refusing to give up, is what makes Amicia such an amazing protagonist.
There is a nice balance between intense gameplay, cutscenes and tender moments during chapters. One of those tender moments that stood out was towards the end, after a heavy scene, and trying to figure out where to go next, I entered a side room and Amicia stops and takes a minute to let out emotions before continuing. It was small moments like that helped the pacing of the game feel natural.
There were never times when the story felt rushed or like it was dragging its heels when moving on to the next point in the story. In the twelve hours, it took to complete the story, no chapter felt too long or too short. It felt like being part of a TV series, which Plague Tale could easily be adapted into.
The way every location was presented was so vibrant and each setting felt distinctive. The towns’ markets that had food stalls with brightly coloured fruit, plants and other goods were so detailed and brought that immersion; it felt as real as it could possibly be without actually being there. There were optional interactions with many people in these villages, such as market sellers and goat herders, these interactions brought life to the game, similar again to how Ellie could interact with Jackson residents in TLOU2 or Nathan Drake walking through the market in Uncharted 4. It was also hard not to be blown away by the scenery such as the mountains in the distance.
The level of detail in the scenery helped especially to elevate the darker scenes. Wading through water filled with dead bodies would be memorable in any game, but the level of detail in this game was always a reminder that at its core, this game is a survival horror, and this is not a friendly world. The world that this story takes place in, although pretty, is ultimately not a kind one.
Another aspect worth mentioning is the soundtrack. Again, it is another feature that pushed the themes well and paired nicely with what was happening on-screen and made the harder-hitting scenes more memorable as a result.
The gameplay combines action and stealth. You are not limited to just one and there is often a choice in how you want to get through most sections. The game does encourage you to play stealthily. Most of the time being spotted by enemies does often lead to you getting killed very quickly, even with a full arsenal. As you progress though, you obtain many variations of weapons and tools to use, all of which can be upgraded with scraps you gather along the way.
The many weapon variations offer possibilities to go full 14th-century ninja or brute depending on your playstyle. Once you have all of the weapons, it is quite a lot to choose from, but you are presented with many opportunities to use all of them frequently. Certain weapons do work best on certain enemies, and it is down to you to work out their weak points and how best to target them. Hugo’s ability to manipulate rats can be used to distract and devour enemies, again this was a unique gameplay mechanic that I used often whenever possible.
The companions you gain along the way give you a helping hand, each of them offering unique skills. You can control when and how these skills can be used, either in combat or to help with a puzzle. This was a cool feature whenever there were opportunities to use your companions and gave you creative ways to get through chapters.
Another gameplay element involved, as mentioned, is solving puzzles. The main aim of them mostly involved manipulating light sources to keep your path clear of rats. These puzzles were not totally dissimilar to many single-player games that have come before (any of the Tomb Raider or Uncharted games say hello), but the pressure of trying to stay in the light to keep rats away while trying to stay hidden from enemies was intense and completely unique.
Although there was hardly anything ground-breaking, the puzzles were still creative enough to feel like the gameplay was moving along at a reasonable pace and not prolonged. As mentioned, trying to find light sources and figuring out how you were going to create a path through vast amounts of rats in the dark was always fun.
Overall, the gameplay was smooth. The only gripe one could hold is the lack of a bow and arrow, which felt like an obvious weapon to have in this setting. You do get a helpful crossbow, and admittedly the gaming scene is saturated with bows, so it is not a big loss. Solid gameplay overall.
Pushed to Its Limits
There were a couple of incidents in sections containing huge numbers of rats with explosions that suggest the game is perhaps pushed a little too hard and as a result crashes were experienced. The game is on next-gen consoles and PC, and I am glad because it felt like technical and graphical features were utilised to their fullest potential. You can see this most clearly with the level of detail of the environments.
The crashes that I experienced, though never fun to have, were never so bad that they made me feel like I wanted to stop playing. The game has a forgiving checkpoint system, so it does not take long to get back to where you were. The game runs extremely fast as well and can match Ghost of Tsushima with its impressive load-screen pace.
Overall, by the time I completed the story, I wanted more immediately. Hopefully, there is more to come from this world because I am not quite ready to let go of it.
I would not put this game alongside TLOU or God of War (2018), because that would be an elite-level single-player game. I would place A Plague Tale: Requiem in the tier below. It matches those games in cinematics and storytelling, but to me, although I did not find much wrong with the gameplay, the combat just could’ve been more compelling. Alongside that, though Requiem is filled with cool moments of exploration, slightly more of that side would lift the game to an even higher level for me.
There are not too many faults to be found, I just hope that this game gets some good recognition in the weeks after its release. I would encourage fans of dark narrative-driven games to give this series a go.
Rapid Reviews Rating
4.5 out of 5
You can purchase A Plague Tale: Requiem from the Xbox game store here
You can find and read our reviews on OpenCritic.