Time for a game of light, Inquisition, plague rat.
Set in France during the Middle-ages, A Plague Tale: Innocence is an action-adventure game where a young sister and brother must fight to survive both the Inquisition and swarms of hungry plague rats. While the hands-off demo we saw was a proof of concept and won’t be featured as-is in the final game, it left a strong impression with its dark atmosphere, intuitive puzzle design, and warm relationship between the two leads. It’s also sure to haunt your dreams with scurrying, disease-infested rodents.
You control Amicia, 14, whereas little brother Hugo, 5, accompanies you and acts as an assist character. The objective of the demo was for Amicia to rescue Hugo from some Inquisition soldiers and then locate their mother. The obstacles in your way are lantern-holding soldiers and swarms of rats that hate the light, so right from the start it’s clear you’ll need to play one against the other.
Amicia isn’t a fighter, so she must get by on her wits. By launching a stone with her slingshot from a safe distance she can destroy a soldier’s lantern, allowing the rats to close in and eat him alive.
After freeing Hugo, the pair enter the nearby church after hearing a call from their mother. This area proved to be a more elaborate puzzle that required multiple moves to get to the altar on the other side of a swarm of rats. Even though it’s fairly easy to stay clear of the rats (at least in this zone), the sounds of their squeaking and scratching are a constant, unnerving reminder that death by a thousand bites awaits you should you screw things up. Hugo proved to be pivotal here because he can fit into small spaces Amicia can’t reach, in this case to find a torch. A few lit braziers and slingshot throws later and all the obstacles were cleared to a lantern that allowed the duo to progress.
This is where things took an eerie and chilling turn, as the altar led way to a long tunnel lined with the bones of hundreds of human skeletons. The rats refused to follow and there was no sign of life inside save for the call of dear mother off in the darkness. That’s where the demo ended, leaving me with the sense that this game has much more in store than meets the eye.
Both the visuals and the characters were impressive. The moody setting was sharply rendered with excellent looking character models, and the sparing use of light created an ominous environment for all the puzzle-solving. But it’s the caring relationship between Amicia and Hugo that really won me over; their dynamic formed the tender heart to this macabre gameworld.
A Plague Tale: Innocence’s story will last about 10 hours. Creative director David Dedeine teased that Amicia’s toolkit will expand later on with a bit of crafting, giving her new ways to deal with guards and rats.
The release date is still TBA. Published by Focus Home Interactive, it will be available on PC, Xbox One and PS4..