Some of the most brilliant games come from odd ideas. What if you took something that was traditionally background in a game and brought it to the forefront? That’s exactly what A Plague Tale: Innocence is doing, swarming the screen with carnivorous plague-ridden rats, where the only safe place is in the light. To top off the tale, you don’t play as some hunky hero or sexy vixen. Players take on the role of Amicia, a teenager in France helping her sick little brother cross a torn landscape full of those bloodthirsty rats.
Immediately noticeable is the rat tech. The horde swarms , scampering around and over each other, a single hive-mind entity that maintains the individuality of every one of its members. While the studio could have simply and easily made some kind of looping rat-mass texture that seethes and teems across every surface, they instead landed on this much more intense and admittedly almost accidental swarm. The developers have said that up to 5,000 individual rats can be in any given scene.
Amicia can move through them by manipulating fire and objects in the environment. As much as the rats are a danger and a barrier, they can also provide puzzle solutions, like devouring guards so that you can move around them without being seen. It’s kind of hard for a guard to spot and catch you when they’re rat food. There’s something viscerally satisfying about slinging a rock into a guard’s lantern and hearing his screams as the light goes out. While we didn’t get to see a lot of this, there will be the ability to gather materials and craft various items to solve puzzles in different ways.
Puzzle solving isn’t always just about manipulating the light. Sometimes Amicia needed to drop a hanging corpse for the rats to feed on, freeing up a path for her and the kids to move forward. The developers hinted that the way you interact and deal with this threat will evolve throughout the course of A Plague Tale’s 12 hour campaign.
The world, though dark and full of plague, is beautifully realized. One of the first scenes of the demo is the three kids coming across a field of bodies. In an emotionally charged moment, Amicia needs to help the other two forward across the corpses. It’s not an experience that she or these kids should have to go through, yet the three of them need to remain strong if they want to make it through.
The final scene of the demo further casts emotion on the situation. In a world where everyone is trying to survive, sometimes good people need to do bad things, including our hero. Near the end, Amicia obtains a torch which pushes the rats out of the way. Walking through a narrow tunnel, they approach a man screaming for help. There’s only one way forward, however, and pushing through means the man ends up devoured by the swarm of rats. Amicia apologizes profusely, but it’s just a glimpse at the kinds of terrible things these children will need to go through to survive.
E3 2018: A Plague Tale Innocence Preview - Unleash the Rat Pack
A Plague Tale: Innocence is telling a dark and emotional fantasy story where both the heroes and the antagonist they fight against are more unconventional. There’s an enormous mystery surrounding the child’s disease and the origins of the rats, each of which I want to explore more fully as Amicia does whatever she can for survival.