A Plague Tale: Innocence Enhanced Version
A Plague Tale Shows New Signs Of Life In Enhanced Edition
In 2019, The Crew developers Asobo Studio released A Plague Tale: Innocence on consoles and PC. Far from their multi-vehicle street racing presence, A Plague Tale was an action-adventure with elements of survival horror. At the time of its release, the game was praised for its rich storytelling focused on its characters. The story centers on protagonists Amicia and Hugo, siblings who are forced to confide in each other in order to survive.
The playable protagonist, Amicia, is a young huntress who accompanies her father and their dog during one of their walks. After practicing her aim with a rock sling, her dog comes across a wild boar. Chasing after the boar as a potential source for dinner, the warm autumn environment slowly mutates into something sinister. Eventually, the leaves darken, sludge begins to form, and a mutated corpse of the boar is left in its wake. A more horrific scene is shown later, as the lovable family dog is seen in its dying breath before being taken into the abyss. This is only the beginning of young Amicia's problems as she comes home to find her father executed by guards. In moments, the guards are after her and her brother, killing everyone without prejudice as they try to escape.
A Plague Tale Has Parallels With The Last Of Us
The atmosphere that A Plague Tale sets is a unique one, focusing on atmosphere rather than "jump scares" to promote its horror. Amicia is defenseless, only having a rock sling to her name, and no combat experience whatsoever to put up a fight. If Amicia is caught, it usually spells death for her as the moment she's captured she will be executed. The first time this happened it took me by surprise as it showed how messed up the world was. In A Plague Tale, everyone will kill anyone to reach their goal. Guards will stab poor Amicia, a literal child, without hesitation. Villagers will chase the siblings all over town with the intent to kill out of paranoia of the plague. There are very few that the duo can trust, as anyone they can trust wound up dead.
This reminded me of The Last Of Us of all things, specifically in the way stealth is played during certain segments. Players of TLOU will recall certain enemies, specifically the "bloater," who can and will instantly kill the protagonist upon detection. The concept of hiding, using noise as subterfuge, and using wit will ensure survival. The player death animations between A Plague Tale and The Last of Us are brutal, cutting short just before it gets gruesome. Even Ellie, in comparison to Amicia, are both young ladies with the end goal being to survive. These are where the similarities to The Last Of Us will end, as again Amicia cannot fend for herself.
Family Matters, It's All You Can Trust
The most she can do is stun an enemy for a brief period by hitting them with a rock. Otherwise, she can fling rocks at metal objects and break pots to distract enemies, using that opportunity to sneak past. It's bad enough that Amicia had to witness her parents' death before her eyes, but it's even worse seeing her little brother Hugo. Even through the death and destruction, Hugo bears a childlike innocence that tugs at Amicia's dread and patience.
Amicia's love for her little brother is boundless, keeping him close at all times and showing general concern. The voice acting for A Plague Tale is one of the better performances I've heard in a while, with the actors exhibiting emotion from their characters. In certain areas where Amicia is being chased, Hugo is left to unlock a door barring their path. Amicia's screams and pleas for her brother to hurry are intensified as the leader of the villagers close in on them. It makes the player feel a state of helplessness, waiting for something to happen as their enemies close in.
When the player is reminded that they cannot defend themselves, the tension is felt. This allows A Plague Tale a sense of immersion not found in most games. In times of a moment's reprieve, players are tasked to solve puzzles to figure a way out of a locked door. Some require Alicia to shoot at objects out of reach to push crates that lead to higher ground. Others involve finding other ways around a barricaded path. The game gives players a chance to catch their breath until they are placed in a situation where they have to break into a sprint yet again.
A Plague Tale: Innocence Is Another Hidden Gem Unraveled
The PS5 exclusive features for A Plague Tale: Innocence includes haptic feedback which can be felt as early as the main menu. Each option offers a slight pulse and in-game, each footstep gives a similar pulse. The adaptive triggers work for aiming and sprinting, going from a partial press to a full press. The improved load times help in keeping immersion through each chapter as well.
Overall, A Plague Tale: Innocence is an impressive display of using the environment and characters to set the tone for a story. Rather than using jump scares and cheap methods to instill fear, the game uses player emotions instead. While the gameplay is deceptively simple, it is through its safe sense of security that makes the feeling of dread more abundant. At the very least, the dread is felt from the game's intended effect rather than the dread of playing the game itself. That's more than what I can say for other games I've looked at in the past.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch. An enhanced version was released for the PS5, Xbox Series X, and Series S.