end of innocence
In the video game industry, miracles are rare and they are carefully recorded. In 2017, the French Asobo Studio – hitherto known, among other things, for the game Ratatouille (ironic) Where Monopoly More – decide to embark, in partnership with Focus Home Interactive, on a mysterious adventure game against a backdrop of the Black Death and the Hundred Years War. A risky undertaking that could have been devastating for the company if it had met with failure. However, through the passion and faith that has been placed in HAS Plague Tale: Innocence (and a good word-of-mouth), the game had a pleasing triumph. It could very well have ended there, but Asobo decided otherwise.
After several months of expectations and apprehensions, A Plague Tale: Requiem arrives on the Game Pass and takes over from its prodigious predecessor. With the same protagonists and picking up where the story left off, this sequel was meant to surprise again without betraying the spirit of the original. We are very happy to write that it is a bet taken up brilliantly.
Too bad for the South, it was nevertheless good
To respect the wishes of the game developers, we will avoid revealing key points of the plot or explaining how it unfolds. Note, however, that at the end of A Plague Tale: Innocence, Amicia de Rune was still looking for a cure for Macula, the strange disease of her brother Hugo at the origin of the scourge of rats invading the Kingdom of France. Always plagued by various threats and in search of answers, the duo is heading this time towards the south of the country. The opportunity for Asobo to make us enjoy magnificent scenery, largely inspired by the landscapes of Provence.
A Plague Tale: Requiem fits like the perfect extension of its elder, taking up everything that made it its strengths and charm. With already well-developed and endearing main characters (and in particular its heroine), the game could just as easily have rested on its laurels without seeking reinvention. However, it is not ambition here that is lacking. Well aware of the value of its mythology, Asobo offers us not only a second part faithful to the qualities of the first, but absolutely exacerbates its potential.
Our characters thus progress through the different settings of the game by phases of exploration alternating with phases of infiltration (and sometimes interspersed with a few puzzles). A fairly classic gameplay that is often punctuated by throwing stones to distract the guards. However, here, simplicity easily rhymes with efficiency. All the more when the slightest evolution in the mechanics of the game intelligently impacts the writing of its characters. Freer, more brutal, Amicia discovers talents with the crossbow, melee, and therefore more options to progress in the levels. As time passes, our heroine gently embraces the violence of her world.
Just one bad day
when night meets day
Like other absolutely brilliant works of the video game genre, the gameplay is anchored in the narration and involves us in a natural way in the reality of its world. In the manner of a Dishonored or a Red Dead Redemption, acting brutally in the game puts us in tune with the cruelty of its story and the moral collapse of its characters. If such a theme were introduced in Innocence – with the use of rats to the player’s advantage and the very meaning of the plague for humanity – here everything breaks out in order to confront the player with a tangible and extrapolated horror from its medieval surroundings.
It all starts with the brilliant idea of taking advantage of a rarely exploited mythology. Using the heritage of an underestimated French Middle Ages, Asobo manages to invest in it all the esotericism and the fantastic necessary to develop the ideal setting for his scenario. More than ever with this game, A Plague Tale also becomes an apocalyptic tale (the black plague having in its time evoked the end of the world). All the elements are close at hand and – after the war, the inquisition, the rats – mysticism and disharmony are put to work to test our heroes, but also the common sense of the players.
The Den of Dread
To our delight, the game fully exploits its horrific potential. Since this time he rubs shoulders with cultism and folk horror, A Plague Tale: Requiem allows himself to quote his classics of genre cinema. Well aware that his nights belong to the rat and to a less subtle and more powerful supernatural anguish, HAS Plague Tale instills in its sunny and pastoral days a more insidious evil. Resuming from Midsommar and even more frontally The Wicker Man (you can have fun looking for the direct references), the game finds a remarkable balance between its various inspirations and tones.
Since the game does not disperse and only relies on its main plot, it benefits from a narrative that is always very condensed. Each episode organically leads the scenario from one scene to another., always chaptered, and never letting subsidiary tasks weigh down his pace. On the contrary, Asobo allows itself to offer us a semi-open world during certain key sequences of its progression, to ventilate its breathless action and increase its contemplative nature.
Far from being an opportunistic gimmick, these exploration breaks become perfect calms before the storm. The opportunity to put the game’s multiple settings – and Olivier Derivière’s excellent soundtrack – at the service of its story. Between the crushing sun of the Provencal Colorado, the villages eaten away by disease and misery, and the lost paradises surveyed by tides of rats, everything contributes to the construction of a world at the frontiers of reality. An absolutely essential immersion so that A Plague Tale: Requiem may succeed in gently dragging us into its fascinating descent into hell.
You have to see it to believe it
She is a long way from this Amicia who, after her first murder with a slingshot, lost all her means and had to continue on her way to protect her family. HAS Plague Tale: Requiem is ruthless, and if he lets the characters’ humanity, tenderness and fraternal ties soar, it is to better bring out the immeasurable fury that resides in the heart of his heroine. Perhaps this is the game’s greatest feat: the writing of the main character, Amicia of Rune (even leaving aside all the other characters). It is his transformation that serves as the skeleton of the game, even more than that of his brother, who was more in the foreground in the old part.
Thanks to Hugo’s abilities, Amicia becomes more and more one with the nocturnal world, that of rats and the supernatural plague in the face of another, more human scourge. Although she herself is threatened by the tides of terrifying rodents and must cling to the flames for protection, they quickly become a neutral force (still deadly, admittedly). facing an even more colossal adversary that will plunge our protagonist towards implosion. A cathartic evolution in which the player can easily get lost and feel all the stakes. The symbolism is also very strong, Amicia’s sling being both her strength and the fragile tension that holds her life to the end of a thrown stone.
No mercy for the brave
The rest of the cast is no exception. Whether allies or antagonists (some are both at the same time), and especially newcomers, all are bathed in a saving ambiguity. Evil is never unjustified, but always unjustifiable, and each blow given receives an even stronger response. It’s exhilarating to be equipped with more and more weapons and means throughout the game, to indulge yourself in the ball of fury and gradually shift from fleeing bunny to cunning predator. But it doesn’t come without cost and fits the game’s whole narrative strategy as well as its tragic development.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is thus not only the second chapter of a very good game. It is the accomplishment and a virtuoso rise to power. Always skillfully dialoguing between beauty and horror, gentleness and cruelty, mythology and realism, the game often becomes a work lyricalon the edge of wonder.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is available from October 18, 2022 on PS5, PC, Xbox Series X/S, and via Xbox Game Pass. It will soon be available on Nintendo Switch via the Cloud.
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