Preview: A Plague Tale: Innocence
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s opening chapters showcase some very different tonal beats, ranging from classic stealth ‘throwing rocks and other objects to distract guards’ gameplay to a frantic flight from enemy forces through a night-time forest that was extremely well executed.
And then there’s the rats…
Going into the preview build of the game as an Albertan, living in Canada’s one rat-free province, rats don’t seem like all that scary of an enemy, especially not something menacing enough to base a game around. The opening levels of the game put that thought to bed in convincing fashion.
A single rat might not be that big of a deal, but thousands of them carpeting the ground in a writhing furry mass that can strip skin from bone in seconds is another thing entirely.
The vermin are set up as the game’s primary enemy early on, with even the invading soldiers fearful of the destructive force the swarm can bring to bear, so it feels natural that the game’s hero, Amicia, a young girl tasked with getting her brother Hugo to safety, would be absolutely terrified of them.
As Amicia, gamers will need to carefully manage light and shadow to stay safe while moving through rat-filled environments, creating a gameplay loop that at times feels more like a puzzle game than an action-adventure. Having to outwit a horde of rats using moving light sources or finding ways to lure them away with bait adds a level of strategic thinking that most adventure games just don’t demand.
You’ll also need to be cognizant of your interactions with Hugo, who isn’t well either physically or mentally. He can’t be left alone for too long, for example, or he starts making noise that can attract enemies of either rat or human persuasion. He also can’t handle some of the terrain, so Amicia needs to stick close to him, sometimes even carry him along the way. His small stature does allow him access to areas his big sister can’t reach, however, so he’s not without his uses.
By the end of the preview levels, I was curious to see what the rest of A Plague Tale: Innocence will provide when it hits shelves in mid-May on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The first few levels offer up a blend of puzzle, stealth, and action-adventure genres that work well together, and with the rats providing a dash of the horror genre on top it makes for an intriguing package.