A Plague Tale: Requiem continues the story from A Plague Tale: Innocence in a perfect way. Though its gameplay can become repetitive, this doesn’t take away from what is one the best games to come out this year
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a triumph, as it’s one of the finest games out there from a narrative perspective. The story surrounds two siblings, Amicia and Hugo de Rune, as they fight for survival in 1348 France. The pair face not only soldiers due to the current discourse in the country (the Hundred Years’ War), but also the bubonic plague (The Black Death) which is sweeping its way through the continent of Europe.
The way in which A Plague Tale: Innocence concludes clearly indicates a sequel, and I, for one, simply couldn’t wait to revisit this world, even if on a deeper level, I wished Amicia’s story was over. Not because it’s not one that’s worth telling, but because the teenager has already been through so much. Nonetheless, as soon as Focus Interactive announced A Plague Tale: Requiem in June 2021, I knew I’d have to revisit the heartbreaking world of A Plague Tale.
Before I dive into what transpires in Requiem, allow me to briefly recap the story from Innocence, as the sequel takes place a mere six months after the conclusion of the original game. In the 2019 title, you take control of 15-year-old Amicia de Rune, who must protect her five-year-old brother Hugo at all costs when the pair must flee their family home after soldiers invade, which results in the death of their father, Robert.
From there, the pair set off on a harrowing journey, one full of perilous encounters, each of which could very well be their last. You see, Hugo is sick, and has been since birth. Thus they desperately need to find a doctor to help him, though their search soon turns to their mother, Beatrice, an alchemist, as she tries tirelessly to find a cure for her son. However, it turns out that Hugo has an affinity with the bubonic plague and possesses the ability to control hordes of rats.
A Plague Tale: Innocence concludes with Amicia, Hugo, their mother, and an apprentice known as Lucas searching for a new home, and, as you can see in A Plague Tale: Requiem, they succeed in finding one, for a time, at least. The sequel begins six months later, and you get to see the siblings and Lucas go on a playful adventure through the luscious French countryside.
In a game of make-believe, young Hugo is the king, but an evil sorcerer (Lucas) hunts him. Thus the de Rune must evade him and turn the tables on the ghastly villain. This segment serves as an introduction to the title’s stealth mechanics, something I love, as it lulls you into a false sense of security as you take part in a joyful afternoon of childhood tomfoolery. Eventually, the alchemist apprentice must return to his studies, but adventure time isn’t over for the de Rune siblings.
Eventually, the pair come across a river, and this is where you learn to use Amicia’s sling as Hugo throws items into the river for you to hit – this is so you can defend his kingdom against would-be invaders. After a while, a young boy joins your game, but he abruptly leaves in a panicked fashion. I couldn’t help but wonder what the rush was, though deep down, I knew it must be to do with The Black Death.
Oh, how wrong I was, an afternoon of making childhood memories turns into Amicia and Hugo trying to escape with their lives as despicable bandits kill the residents of a nearby village. In the end, Amicia is caught, but this is where you discover that the six months between the games didn’t result in a cure, as Hugo unleashes a swarm of rats to protect his sister.
After regrouping with their mother and Lucas, the group must once again evade the bandits, after which they find a new home in South France. An idyllic location that screams ethereal beauty, with a bustling marketplace and happy citizens. Unfortunately, this stunning town isn’t long for this world. The bubonic plague is here, and Amicia’s despair at this fact cuts deep, especially when she reaches the conclusion that it’s their fault. They brought the rats here.
I could go on and on about the narrative in A Plague Tale: Requiem, but I don’t want to divulge too much of what awaits the de Rune siblings. However, I can say with complete absolution that this is yet another story of survival. It cuts deep and offers even more insight into Amicia’s psyche. A teenager that’s been through so much yet finds the strength to carry the weight of the world on her shoulders and fight for those she loves.
The character development in this game is second to none. Truly, I’m continuously blown away by the fortitude the heroine displays, and how she grows throughout the journey. Long gone is the innocent girl from the previous game, yet she maintains her kind and caring nature. The horrors around her might shape her physically and alter how she sees the world, but emotionally, she doesn’t lose who she is.
Furthermore, the way in which you get to mould Amicia in combat is fantastic to me, as you progress each individual skill tree through how you approach each encounter. For example, should you fully embrace the game’s core gameplay element, stealth, Amicia learns how to become one with the shadows, as it were. In contrast, if you make more use of her sling, the young girl becomes more formidable in a physical way. It’s an interesting mechanic that lends itself perfectly to not only the gameplay but Amicia’s character development as well.
Besides Amicia, the character design remains just as strong as it is in A Plague Tale: Innocence, as Hugo continues to grow, despite his illness and young age, while those around the de Rune siblings all have a role to play in this world, at no point does anybody feel out of place.
At its heart, much like its predecessor, A Plague Tale: Requiem is an action-adventure stealth game with a heavy emphasis on the latter. In terms of gameplay design, I can’t fault it. As you feel the tension, you know that one wrong move spells the end for these characters. However, as a sequel, I feel that Requiem could be a bit more innovative. Yes, what makes the first game so special should most certainly feature, but it also has the opportunity to break the mould and venture into new and exciting territory.
For instance, Amicia is a seasoned survivor at this point, so an instant death when caught could be a little less frequent, give the girl more opportunities to show her resourcefulness. I’m not saying remove the feature entirely, for that takes away the fear of death, but allow Amicia to continue her impressive growth.
Furthermore, no matter how much I love the story here and enjoy the frequent encounters, it does begin to feel repetitive, which is a crying shame, though I can say that the puzzles you come across on your journey add a much-needed dimension. Trust me. The pressure gets to you when hordes of bloodthirsty rats wait for you to mess up. Do yourself a favour and keep a source of fire nearby when in dark locations, less you succumb to The Black Death and become yet another tragic fatality in one of the most devastating pandemics in history.
Graphically speaking, A Plague Tale: Requiem is a triumph, as it demonstrates a grotesque beauty in a world ravaged by famine, disease, and war. Better still, on PlayStation 5, the game performs wonderfully, though there’s a framerate drop on the title screen, but as this doesn’t impact the game’s performance, I shan’t slate it. For now, we’re yet to get our hands on the Switch version, but when we do, we’ll update this review with our impressions of how A Plague Tale: Requiem performs on the platform.
However, for the story alone, I must recommend you play it, especially if you’re a fan of the original game. It’s about family and survival in a world that features one of the most catastrophic events in history, all while offering a unique narrative that sheds new light on this part of history. Furthermore, despite some repetitive gameplay, I can’t deny that the design is excellent and is sure to satisfy those that enjoy stealth-based mechanics.