Game: A Plague Tale: Innocence
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, PlayStation 5
Developer: Asobo Studios
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Reviewed on PlayStation 5
A Plague Tale: Innocence has been a quite revered title since it launched all the way back in 2019 and is often brought up when people claim that a small studio can craft narrative-driven experiences as good as AAA powerhouses like Naughty Dog or Rockstar. But unfortunately, from whatever time I’ve spent with this game, I don’t see those claims holding any water as I found this game to be a very ho-hum experience.
But before I dwell on further, let’s get into the technical side first. When it comes to visuals, the game does look undeniably beautiful. Whether you are using photo mode or exploring the woods or the dungeons, or the city, it can be seen that all these areas have been meticulously crafted. When it comes to the performance, I did not notice any hiccups in the frame rate on PS5, and it ran very smoothly.
When it comes to the Dualsense haptic implementation, there is nothing standout except for when using Amicia’s sling, which actually felt like swinging a sling. Other than that, they aren’t impactful at all and certainly nowhere near to games like Astro’s Playroom and COD Black Ops Cold War.
Coming to the gameplay, it just feels like an elaborate puzzle. Trying to take out each guard at the right time, trying to lure rats to guards to kill them at the right time, and taking out fires so rats can come out and kill guards, the rats have a big focus in this game puzzle wise, gameplay-wise, and story-wise.
The tools you get are great; they all serve a purpose for puzzles and combat though I’d say the acid gets pretty useless once you get the upgrade for your normal rocks to do its job and the bomb that kills rats is useless as the rats just respawn and most times you use it to buy yourself time to do a puzzle, they just kill you anyway. But overall, they’re all well developed.
The gameplay overall is decent, but there was a lot of missed potential considering how it’s a stealth only game and the enemy AI is extremely limited and dumb, which in turn limit the whole gameplay loop, and for most stealth sections, I was playing the waiting game to go from bush to bush. This made the whole experience feel static and repetitive.
The level design is also quite mediocre, and no location in the game really stands out, which is a shame considering the time period this game is set in; they could’ve tried to implement some crazy ideas. There is a castle that acts as a base for the characters. At first, it seemed like it would be free to explore, but unfortunately, most of the castle was locked.
But to the game’s credit, 2 out of the 3 bosses are quite fun. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised how well executed the final boss fight was, and the second last boss fight was pure fun as it makes you utilize the most overpowered skill in the whole game. And as for the first boss fight, the less I talk about it, the better.
The music in this game is perfectly used and really bodes well with the atmosphere. It is easily the best part about this game and perhaps the only element in which it comes close to touching The Last of Us, the game which has heavily inspired this title.
Coming to the story, this is where this game disappointed me the most. There were a lot of cool ideas like the rats, the Macula or The Inquisition, but ultimately, all that seems like a waste as I couldn’t bring myself to care about its main characters Amicia and Hugo and overall, it felt like the game was trying way too hard to elicit an emotional response from me and it felt pretty amateurish, especially when you pit it against the pinnacle of narrative-driven experiences of last-gen like The Last of Us Part 2 or Red Dead Redemption 2.
It may seem like I am being overly harsh to A Plague Tale Innocence, a game that was only made by a small team of 40 people, by expecting it to meet the standards set by a title like The Last of Us. But I am pretty sure that the developers were well aware that these comparisons would be inevitable when they started working on the game. Also, I feel that the size of the team is irrelevant in the grand scheme of things as Hollow Knight, which was made by only 3 people and it is widely considered as the greatest Metroidvania game ever made. It just feels like that Asobo Studios bit a lot more than they could chew and the end product is a title that looks and sounds beautiful but is ultimately a shallow experience.