Wednesday, October 5

A Plague Tale: Requiem Feels Very Familiar

I’m a little worried about A Plague Tale: Requiem’s stealth, but its narrative and characterization still have lots of potential.

I loved A Plague Tale: Innocence. Despite its straightforward moment-to-moment gameplay, it ended up being one of my favorite games of 2019 thanks to the fantastic art direction, wonderful performances, and gripping story. While I am very curious to see where the story goes in Requiem, the gameplay–faults and all–feels a little too familiar. Most of these issues were easy to overlook back in 2019 when it seemed like Asobo Studio was punching well above its weight. Now, however, these same issues are harder to forgive.

Requiem takes place shortly after the first game and is set in 14th century France during the Bubonic Plague, at the outset of the Hundred Years’ War. Although both games are set in a realistic depiction of France, the story often flirts with gothic supernatural elements. This is easily one of the coolest things about Innocence and Requiem, and what sets it apart from most third-person adventure games. The world is so wonderfully detailed and everything has a macabre sheen to it.

Like in the original, you play as Amicia, a young girl tasked with escorting her younger brother Hugo through a plague-stricken world infested with rats and occupied by hostile soldiers. Along with Amicia’s trusty sling, Requiem introduces a crossbow. As you’d expect, the crossbow is much deadlier than Amicia’s sling, however, bolts for it are hard to come by. This means that, like Innocence, most encounters demand a stealthier approach. You can throw objects to attract enemy attention, squeeze under tight spaces to hide from view, and track an enemy’s movements with a vision mode called Ratsense. Yes, Ratsense.

The first few enemy encounters in the preview I played were not great. After Amicia gets chased out of a lovely little pilgrim encampment, she stumbles into some ruins and soldiers quickly close in on her. These first few areas are cramped and filled with dead ends, making it far too easy for Amicia to get trapped. If Amicia gets caught by a soldier, he knocks her on the ground, Hugo helps her back up, and the soldier conveniently waits for a second to give you a chance to react. From here, Amicia can stun the soldier with a counter, kill the soldier with a single-use knife, or run. If Amicia fails to react, the guard will kill her.

It’s nice having more options in combat than in the previous game, but the first few areas don’t really support them. There weren’t many avenues of approach and when I did get spotted and tried to run, I’d get cornered by guards. Even if I did counter or kill a guard, there usually wasn’t enough room to get past the rest of the soldiers. This meant that pure stealth was really my only option. I quickly realized that if I got caught, it was best to just restart the encounter.

I don’t mind stealth games–in fact I love Metal Gear Solid and I’m a diehard Splinter Cell fan–but being sneaky isn’t what makes those games fun. It’s how you can poke and prod at the simulation, allowing you to get past enemies in creative ways. In these early encounters, I felt like my best bet was to throw pots into conveniently placed armor bins to draw an enemy’s attention. This distraction-based approach to stealth wasn’t great in the first game, and it doesn’t seem to have evolved all that much here.



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