A Plague Tale: Innocence, an interactive historical novel

Who I am
Marie-Ange Demory
@marie-angedemory

A Plague Tale: Innocence, according to the principles of relative anthropology, is a masterpiece. I want to write it right away, because I waited a few days before putting myself on it. I didn't want my review to be tainted by the excitement of the credits or a single run, so I want to point out that I'm filling this sheet with text after eighteen hours of play, which is double what is required to complete the work by Asobo Studio. This lingering among the desolation of the lands of France in the fourteenth century, in the midst of the Hundred Years War and against the backdrop of the great plague epidemic that decimated the European population at the end of the Late Middle Ages, is not necessary to enjoy the experience ... but when you fall in love, even collectibles need attention. Having played it on Steam, I confess that I even spent a few hours on Ansel, the photographic mode offered by NVIDIA for its GeForces, but no more chatter and we reread after an official trailer to understand together if this extraordinary video game is worth your money or not. 



If you loved the likes of Quantum Break or Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice (our review here), there are no compelling reasons to advise against buying them immediately. A Plague Tale: Innocence is technically flawless, with textures and polygonal models that have nothing to envy to the most renowned triple A and riding the path of architectural photorealism with amazing assets. I've never noticed frame rate drops or pop-ups; no tearing and stuttering effects ruined my game, on the contrary enhanced by an astonishing ambient occlusion given and considered the wide use made of moving light sources. All thanks to the proprietary engine, whose goodness can be seen in the trailer posted above without bringing up the awards won in 2009 by their FUEL or the video results of more recent collaborations (The Crew 2, anyone?). I just point out that some colleagues, trying it on the smooth PlayStation 4, have said that the PC version is more performing, especially as regards the quality of the textures ... but, here it is: when does it not happen?



Setting aside the technical sector, passed with full marks, the real heart of A Plague Tale: Innocence is its story-driven gameplay ... and the editor will forgive me if I do not find Italian terms that are equally effective in explaining how the narrative and game phases have descended on each other without almost a solution to the continuity. There are some videos, of course, but the flow of the story never stops, even in the presence of an area with obstacles to overcome that require a synchronization alien to that of walking simulators. Focus Home Interactive is not a product that belongs to this genre, mind you, but the mechanics put on the plate are not very demanding and if you are among those who only look at the vote it is important to explain it well. Let's take a step back then: A Plague Tale: Innocence it is a kind of stealth game where the user is asked to overcome a patrol or a stream of killer black rats through the stealth movement, distracting elements that free the way just for the time needed to pass further, some killing in the shade of the grass other thanks to the slingshot supplied to the protagonist or, as in the case of small rodents, using static or dynamic light sources to keep them away.

the narrative and arcade phases have descended on each other without almost a solution of continuity

The one just described is just the basic infrastructure; the scaffolding of a functional gameplay to tell the story of the escape of Amicia de Rune and her little brother Hugo, pursued by the Inquisition, towards more serene shores (first) and the discovery (then) of the mystery that lies behind the plague epidemic. I do not want and must not enter into the merits of the plot tout court, but it is It is advisable to dwell on the quality of the writing, of the dialogues, of the characterization of the supporting actors and, last but not least, of the narrative horizon in which everything takes place. If the graphic sector, supported by a medieval soundtrack mainly composed of stringed instruments, allows you to immerse yourself effortlessly in the humid and "dirty" atmosphere of the European peasant villages of that historical period, the screenplay does justice to the drama with which Amicia goes from being a rich daughter of nobles to the status of a fugitive always in danger; to the emphasis with which the relationship between her and Hugo grows, forced by her mother to live, until then, in a few rooms isolated from the rest of the village; to the personal growth of both brothers who must face, in a forced manner, death, pestilence and the horrors of a war-torn land. This is the aspect that, more than all the others, frames the game as a sometimes indispensable masterpiece; it is this knowing how to merge an extended context that ranges from the Franco-English conflict to the Avignon captivity, without sacrificing more introspective themes such as love for a friend or individual sacrifice for the sake of a greater good. In short: you know Mel Gibson's Braveheart? Here, something similar.



Let's go back to the soundtrack for a moment just to explain that was composed by the talented Olivier Deriviere, former author of the music of Obscure (Hydravision - Microids, 2005), Alone in the Dark (Eden Games - Atari, 2008), Remember Me (Dontnod - Capcom, 2013), Get Even (The Farm 51 - Bandai Namco, 2017) , Vampyr (Dontnod - Focus Home Interactive, 2018) and many other lesser-known titles. These are compositions without cantato, in some ways similar to nineteenth-century chamber music in which each instrument has its own particular role, extraordinarily efficient in restoring, even at the auditory level, the sensation of "living" an interactive experience in the fourteenth century AD On YouTube you will find excerpts, so you can get a clear idea - like here - of the goodness of what you will hear (because at this point you should have already bought it, yes?).

the experience is bewitching, with no boring pauses or repetitiveness

We now come to the core of the review, namely a that gameplay object of some criticisms due to its simplicity and linearity. In this regard, I commented with some Facebook friends that although the vagina could also be synthesized as a cylindrical cavity that does not allow particular freedom of movement, it remains one of the great desires of the average heterosexual man due to factors external to it. The same could be said of A Plague Tale: Innocence, where even if it is a long gully in which events occur that in part one is called to "resolve" and in part must be passively endured, the experience is bewitching, without boring breaks or repetitiveness. In practice it translates with Amicia and at least one supporting actor who must reach a certain point of interest, whether it is an escape route or an object to be recovered for the purposes of the story. There are no secondary missions, if we exclude some moments related to other characters and a fair number of well-contextualized collectibles and of sure interest, like the flowers and medical herbs used in those days to treat the sick, tools of daily use useless in the game but exhaustively described in their function or "memories" that frame the historical events in the background.



It's true: everything proceeds in a linear way, without frills, but the mechanics with which you can overcome enemies and rats, carriers of plague and instantly lethal, change in each of the seventeen chapters of which the title is composed. Human opponents can be distracted, making them move from their position, attract and then follow them on the sly, hit with the slingshot putting them out of action if they do not have a helmet but also fall asleep with an alchemical concoction prepared ad hoc, burn to free them from the armor so as to make them vulnerable or lure them out of the light of a torch, perhaps by turning off the one they carry, in order to have them devoured by the black plague mammals. The latter, refractory to light, can be removed by lighting a brazier, made to "shine" with the appropriate preparation, attracted elsewhere with a stinking potion and animal meat or thrown indirectly at opponents who will involuntarily offer their lives allowing the protagonists to move in direction of the target.

the mechanics with which enemies and plague rats can be overcome continue to evolve

The game system is very diverse, constantly grows by adding items to the radial menu from which they can be selected and prepared thanks to a crafting system indeed very simple, characterized by the collection of a dozen useful resources both for the improvement of the sling as well as for the preparation of particular projectiles based on stones. I don't want to go into detail because the discovery of these variables, as I wrote a few paragraphs ago, is an integral part of the narrative of which A Plague Tale: Innocence is full. I can however anticipate that alchemy, understood not as a philosophical practice but as a chemical and metallurgical discipline, is the common thread running through almost every facet of history (and not only by Amicia de Rune and Hugo). If you really have to find a significant defect in the structure, it can be identified in the evolution of the level design that follows, hand in hand, that of the inventory. On some occasions this relationship seems false, it is true, but it is a "limit" of an infinity of other titles belonging to every possible genre, from point and click graphic adventures to FPS. It goes without saying that if you don't like guided experiences and only want to eat battle royale or MMORPG, "this is not the droid you are looking for" (semicit.).

USEFUL INFO

I played A Plague Tale: Innocence thanks to a PC code provided by the publisher, enjoying it at 1080P and full details even with my shy GeForce 1050Ti.

Duration
  • Indicatively it will take you about ten hours, but if you let yourself be captured by the collectibles and, in the case of purchase on PC, by the photographic mode ... well: it could take even double.
Structure
  • It is basically a third-person stealth adventure in which the narrative is king.
  • There is a crafting system to improve the slingshot, the only weapon supplied to the protagonist, and create alternative bullets.
  • There are different types of adversaries, humans and animals, which can be silently overcome or, if necessary, eliminated without being discovered.
Collectibles and Extras
  • There are three types of collectibles, ranging from flowers and medical herbs used in that historical period to some useless objects but which frame the events in the wider context in which we move. They are well made and functional for diving.
Game Card
  • Game Name: A Plague Tale: Innocence
  • Release date: May 14, 2019
  • Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One
  • Dubbing language: English
  • Texts language: Italian

I just checked the character count and I'm running out of space, so I close with a dispassionate tip aimed at those who love the work of Ninja Theory, Remedy Entertainment, Naughty Dog and all the other development teams that make koinonia between action and narrative their raison d'etr: buy A Plague Tale: Innocence. Play it without getting distracted, with headphones and, in the case of purchase on the master race, equip yourself with a good pad like that of Xbox One. Just know that the title signed by the French of Asobo Studio is not an open world and that its purpose is to entertain you with a type of interactive romance of which not many other contemporary examples exist. Buy it and support the cause of those who believe that this medium should not be measured with the span of freedom of an infinite inventory, of a map without borders, of submissions all the same for the pure pleasure of grinding or competitive multiplayer. Buy it because it's a good game, one that stays under the skin even if you are a hard-hearted veteran anesthetized by the love of simplicity.

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Review by Roberto Turrini
Graphics

Flawless, clean, no bugs or frame rate drops. It is a jewel, almost more unique than rare. The advice is always to watch the trailer that accompanies the review.

90
SOUNDTRACK AND DOUBLE ROOM

The soundtrack, signed by Olivier Deriviere, follows the keystrokes played in the rooms of the noble palaces of the Late Middle Ages. It's a brave and effective soundtrack, mostly composed of string solos. The dubbing in English is equally excellent, with an acting impossible to fault.

90
GAMEPLAY

As I wrote, the gameplay is arcade and linear, with rather limited "rooms" in which you have to find the correct sequence of actions to escape human and animal opponents. These are mechanics that are efficient in allowing the narration to guide events, the dialogues to be recited at the right time, the player to let himself be carried away by the story and fall in love with the protagonist.

85
Total Rating scale
90
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