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First impression

The idea of a video game centering at 1300’s Europian plague, Black Death, sounds fantastic and horrible at the same time. Rottening bodies all over the streets and mass graves. People avoiding contact with everyone. One person gets sick in a family, soon other members will follow. The origin of Black Death is still a mystery; where it came from and why it suddenly disappeared? 4 years and estimately 200 million people died to the disease. This scenario is perfect for movies and video games, since the mystery can be filled with imagination and even something supernatural.

My very first impression wasn’t good when I saw some of the gameplay videos of A Plague Tale: Innocence. To me, it seemed too tactical and the idea of trillions of rats attacking you at once like a huge wave at a beach, just didn’t work for me. Anyway, I got the game for pure historical interest and I wanted to give it a chance to impress a picky player like me.

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As usual, I didn’t have any info of the story, other than what I commonly know of the Black Death. In A Plague Tale: Innocence the plot tells of a girl Amicia and her little brother Hugo. The plague been taken by his little brother, but for some reason his symptoms are much slower than normally, meaning he has more time to live than ordinary infected person. The game is set to 1300’s France where the plague wasn’t the only bad thing; the Spanish Inquisition was also in the country, making everyone’s life even more miserable. The head of the Inguisition, a man called Vitalis, who wants Hugo, because seems like he is they key for this prayers—whatever they truly be.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is extremely story-driven and includes lots of talking. Every character seem to have something to say and it sometimes gives nice details to the story. The tale is about mystery, bravery, death, innocence and greediness and the story gets new kinds of turns very often, keeping the player on a hook. As of storywise, I like all of it, because it didn’t feel repetitive or boring.

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Gameplay & Controls

The gameplay of A Plague Tale: Innocence is something I liked, but for some it might be too stricting and feeling of running in a straight tunnel. There were lots of areas that had more than one way and secrets to be found, but at least half of the time it was pretty straighforward. Player mostly controls Amicia, who is holding his brothers hand all the time to keep him safe and sure he is following your every step. Amicia can leave him to a safe spot while she goes for kill or searching the area. Her weapon is a sling that can be equipped with stones and other ammo. Those ammos are made from items collected from the surrounding areas, and I never ran out of the materials. It did feel little too easy, as I barely didn’t have to save my ammo or ingredients.

Then there’s the trillions of rats that attacks people like a wave. The rats are afraid of light so having a fire is the only way to be safe. This factor of using the light has been used many different ways in the game, which took interesting turns. The tactical part of the A Plague Tale: Innocence comes from sneaking past the soldiers, solving light puzzles or using the light as your weapon/safe. It was much easier kill the soldiers from afar and when they are not aware of you. When they got too close it was nearly impossible to hit them with the sling. The soldiers varied and they had to be killed with different ways or ammo. No health was presented, if the soldier came too close, then they simply one-hit killed you, also one arrow hit did the job. I never ran away when they noticed me and let them kill me instead, it seemed pointless trying to run away since many areas weren’t that large.
The boss fights were ingenious and different every time making them good add to the game.

The controls were OK, but shooting and hitting the target with the sling was somewhat awkward at times. Amicia moved little clumsily and with tiny delay, but I got used to all that somehwere middle way of the playthrough. Otherwise I wouldn’t add or take away anything from the gameplay or controls, other than make the ammunition little more scarce to add the real feeling of surviving and maybe add more checkpoints.

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I like how A Plague Tale: Innocence looks visually. I used HDR and it was one of the best HDR I’ve ever played with. Everything looked as natural as possible, of course some surroundings and non-important objects were low quality. What bothered me in the beginning was the film-effect on the sides of the screen. I have seen this same style in many games and it adds feeling of a movie, when the sides are little blurrier and lines doesn’t overlap each other correctly. This is a effect that some cameras make to the image, but in this game it could’ve been more toned down. The characters looked nice, but their facial animation were very lackluster and they didn’t seem have much of facial impressions. It was very noticable how all NPCs movements were stiff and clumsy, making it look dated. All of this being just visual impairment and didn’t affect to the gameplay at all.

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OK, in this section I have something to say. I hated the voice acting completely. I don’t understand why they had to have French accent when speaking English? I doubt all the people at 1300’s France even spoked English, not mention perfect English, so they could’ve just ditch the accent, since the French one sounded horribly fake and laughable. I tried the French voice acting and it was much better that way. What made things worse was how the main charcters acted the situations. Amicia had extremely weird voice and it barely changed in different situations. The most annoying was the little brother Hugo, who was whiny and angst all the time. What killed the realness was how they kept speaking loudly constantly, no matter if they were hiding right next to soldiers and some weird reason they couldn’t ever hear them. I understand games can’t be 100% realistic, but this nonestop talking just bothered me, when they could’ve been quiet, adding sense of really being in that situation. Most of the time they didn’t say or add anything valuable to the story or situation and pointed the most obvious things out like they were competing who can talk the most. Some of the voice actors were good enough, but the most player has to listen was the ones who were bad at it.

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Towards the end A Plague Tale: Innocence became rather difficult, but overall the game wasn’t that hard. Figuring out where to go and what to do was easy, but some situations were made obviously so difficult that one second or tiny mistake killed you and some sequences I had to try at least 20 times to go through them. I noticed some areas had more than one way to be cleared (i.e. kill all the soldiers) and player have the option to do the way they wanted. Sometimes after getting rid of the enemies I realized it couldn’t be done more simpler. The sneaking is rather easy and seems like the enemies won’t notice you from their side-eye (like normally humans would), but just directly. It made things rather easier, but also dumber; same kind of feeling like the talking around the enemies. No difficulty levels were available to choose and it didn’t even need any. It was good balance of easy and hard, but I’m sure most players find this game to be too easy.

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Last impression

I’m happy I gave this A Plague Tale: Innocence a chance, because I like this game a lot. The plot, storytelling, idea, gameplay, graphics, difficulty, characters and conlcusion were interesting and new. This game includes many new aspects (at least to me) that it’s Top 3 of my favourite game of 2019, so far. Even though the trillion rats looked ridicilous, but at least they wanted to make sure they will eat you alive if you go too near them. A Plague Tale: Innocence includes so much gore, death, bodies, blood that it will satisfies horror gamers :)  I haven’t read any other reviews of this and I don’t know did anyone else point out the annoyingly bad voice acting, but that was something this game takes a big hit, because I had to listen it the whole playthrough.

A Plague Tale: Innocence isn’t perfect, but the negatives I pointed out doesn’t affect the gameplay at all and I know, for the most players they didn’t bother at all. Anyway, this is something I would spent 50€ any day and it was worth every cent of it. This is how good, balanced, diverse and unique game are meant to do and many developer should take notes of it. A Plague Tale: Innocence has great re-play value, which seem to come rarely these days. I’ll keep close watch at the developer Asobo Studio what they’re gonna do next, since they have other unannounced projects in works.

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RELEASE DATE: May 14, 2019
GENRE: Action/adventure
PUBLISHER: Focus Home Interactive
DEVELOPER: Asobo Studio
PLATFORMS: PlayStation 4
Xbox One

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