One of the highlights of Focus Home Interactive’s What’s Next event was getting to dive into A Plague Tale: Innocence for an hour. It’s a game that features a lot of tropes we’ve grown fond of over the years, but just because it’s familiar doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable. A Plague Tale tells the story of two siblings, Hugo and Amicia, doing what they can to survive during The Black Plague. According to the developer, the main goal is to demonstrate the evolution of their relationship.
From the start, I got a lot of The Last of Us vibes, which was later confirmed during an interview I had with CCO, David Dedeine. You start off playing as Amicia, a teenage girl learning to hunt in the wilderness. During this section, I couldn’t help but be captivated by the beauty of the lighting and environment. I later learned that lighting plays a huge role in the game, but I didn’t get to that point during my short time with the demo.
During the tutorial section, you learn one of the main mechanics of the game that involves throwing rocks by hand or with a slingshot. While playing, you will have to utilize stealth to sneak around and use your slingshot to distract enemies. This mechanic works well enough, but I hope that most of the game doesn’t lean too heavily into flinging rocks because it’s something we’ve seen time and again.
Throughout most of the first chapter, your job is to protect your brother, Hugo, as you escape towards safety. Since there are guards everywhere, you use rocks to distract them in order to sneak by without being seen. It’s a very familiar trope of throwing a rock, waiting for the enemy to walk towards it, and walking behind them before they turn around. Again, this isn’t a bad mechanic, it just feels very video game-y and sort of undermines the whole point of the game, which is the relationship of the two siblings.
You can watch a gameplay trailer here.
Keep in mind, I only played the first chapter and a little bit of the second one, so I can’t confirm if the stealth mechanic is heavily present during the entire game. However, if the main goal is to focus on an evolving relationship, these traditional video game mechanics seem to be added on just because they have to be. There’s a more elegant way to mix gameplay with the main goal of the game.
A Plague Tale Innocence Preview – Commanding a Relationship
Something like the command system works a little better, since it directly involves Amicia and Hugo. You can instruct Hugo to stay and hide, or to go ahead towards a specific objective. Again, this is something we’ve seen before, but it’s a little bit more in line with the evolution of the siblings’ relationship.
Luckily, Hugo holds his own and is a competent AI partner. Unless a scripted sequence occurs in which he must separate from Amicia, he stays glued to her and doesn’t seem like he will get in the way of completing an objective. It’s hard to get an overall impression of how their relationship will blend with gameplay, but from the hour I played, it didn’t blend as well as I’d like. Keep in mind, I only played for an hour, so our full review may offer some additional insight into the full scope of the game.
Aside from my worries about how the mechanics will work with the goal of the game, my time with A Plague Tale was positive. The game will apparently emphasize narrative and from what I played, I was already hooked on finding out what would happen. The performances were captivating, and kept me engrossed, and the aesthetics are absolutely beautiful. It’s got this intriguing blend of realism, with a hint of taking artistic liberties with the colors and I absolutely love it.
There is a lot of mystery introduced, as well, so hopefully, if done right, you’ll want to stick around to find out what happens. Towards the beginning of the game, you are prompted to select from different family types, each with their own flags that resemble Harry Potter houses. It’s unclear how these different family types will impact the game, but if they’re different enough, you might have multiple reasons to come back.
A Plague Tale: Innocence has the potential of being a really fascinating experience with an emphasis on narrative and characters. It’s no easy task to mesh that idea with video game mechanics in a way that feels natural and organic, but I’m willing to give Asobo Studio the benefit of the doubt. Still my fear is that this will end up being one long escort mission, with a vision that’s at odds with the gameplay, but we’ll have to wait for the full experience to find out.
A Plague Tale has gone gold, so it will be out next month on May 14, 2019.
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