A Plague Tale: Requiem's stealth worries me a little, but the story and characters still have a lot of promise.
A Plague Tale: Innocence was fantastic. It turned out to be one of my favourite games of 2019 despite its simple moment-to-moment gameplay because of the outstanding art direction, amazing performances, and compelling story. Requiem's gameplay, flaws and all, feels a little too similar, even though I'm quite interested to see where the plot goes. Back in 2019, when it seemed like Asobo Studio was punching much above its weight, the majority of these problems were simple to overlook. But these same problems are now more difficult to overlook.
A Plague Tale: Requiem Feels Very Familiar is now playing.
Requiem takes place immediately after the previous game and is set in 14th-century France at the start of the Hundred Years' War, amid the Bubonic Plague. The stories in both games frequently dabble in gothic supernatural themes, despite the fact that the settings are accurate representations of France. This is undoubtedly one of Innocence and Requiem's coolest features and what distinguishes it from the majority of third-person adventure games. Everything in the environment is incredibly intricately detailed and has a gloomy gloss.
Like in the original, you take on the role of Amicia, a young girl entrusted with leading her younger brother Hugo through a plague-ridden globe populated by hostile soldiers and plagued by rats. In addition to Amicia's reliable sling, Requiem also features a crossbow. The crossbow, as you might think, is far more lethal than Amicia's sling, but bolts for it are scarce. As a result, most confrontations require a stealthier approach, just like Innocence. You can hurl things to draw an enemy's attention, squeak under confined spaces to remain hidden, and use the vision mode Ratsense to follow an enemy's movements. Ratsense, indeed.
In the preview I played, the initial enemy encounters weren't amazing. Amicia slips into some ruins after being chased out of a charming little pilgrim camp, and troops soon move in on her. It is entirely too simple for Amicia to become trapped in these first few places because they are small and full of dead ends. When a soldier catches Amicia, he knocks her to the ground, Hugo helps her get back up, and the soldier obligingly waits a moment for you to react. Amicia has three options from here: she can run, use a single-use knife to kill the soldier, or stun him with a counter. Amicia will be killed by the guard if she does not intervene.
Although it's good to have more fighting options than in the last game, the early sections don't truly support them. There weren't many ways to approach, and if I was seen and tried to flee, the guards would corner me. Even if I managed to kill a guard or counterattack one, there was typically not enough space to get past the other soldiers. Therefore, my only genuine option was to operate completely covertly. I quickly understood that it would be preferable to simply restart the encounter if I was discovered.
Even while I adore Metal Gear Solid and Splinter Cell and don't mind playing stealth games, being cunning isn't what makes them enjoyable. It gives you the ability to push and prod the simulation and find inventive ways to get around obstacles and threats. I believed that my best chance in these early battles was to distract an attacker by throwing pots into strategically placed armour bins. It wasn't a fantastic method of stealth in the first game, and it doesn't seem to have improved much in this one either.
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Thankfully, as I went along, my options did expand a little. Amicia and Hugo arrived in an open canyon after escaping the caverns. There was room to go about because there was grass to hide in and rocks to climb. Hugo's Ratsense and precise timing allowed me to avoid most of the adversaries. I use the word "most" loosely because I managed to climb a ridge and hide behind a bush to wait for a guard to go by. But the guard immediately spotted me through the bushes and rushed me. I made an attempt to hop down the ridge, but I was stopped in my tracks by an invisible barrier. Amicia was killed when the guard trapped her. The struggle lacked any drama as a result of this AI error and the artificial constraint of the invisible wall, and it ended with a quick demise.
The power to directly command a pack of troublemakers is new to A Plague Tale: Requiem, as is the ability to transform any foe who steps away from an open flame into a snack. If there is a rat swarm nearby, it adds a wonderful twist to combat that enables you quickly eliminate adversaries. You'll need to carefully plan your approach because, save from a few tutorialized encounters, Hugo can only hold the rats under control for a short period of time. These parts appeared to be much more lively. One in particular occurred in an outdoor bathhouse with a field beyond it. There was plenty of room to move, and using the rats to carefully dispatch foes to make place for Amicia and Hugo brought a crucial degree of strategy to the battle.
The quest for a boat was the focus of the second half of the preview, which featured Amicia, Hugo, and a gruff soldier named Arno. The three had to get through a rat-infested subterranean system in the first section of this chapter, which was mostly puzzles. Although the riddles weren't difficult, they did provide a welcome diversion from the combat. You had to carefully illuminate a path through the cave so the party could safely walk through using Amicia's sling and specialised ammunition. As Amicia's toolbox grows, it will be interesting to see how these puzzles change.
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Putting combat difficulties aside, Requiem's story is what I am most anticipating. It was challenging to follow the plot because this preview only had two chapters that occurred about in the middle of the game. However, it appeared that the acting was equally as good as it was in the previous game. In particular, Hugo's voice actor stood out. Despite all the horrifying things he had witnessed, he still had an innocent charm that provided a haven from the harsh outside world.
During my preview, I encountered quite a few bugs, but this is to be anticipated with pre-release builds. Since there are still bugs in the game, the last stages of development are often used to fix them. But with just over a month till the release of A Plague Tale: Requiem, I encountered a number of progress-halting errors that required me to reload encounters and restart entire sections.
Arno once begged me to set his shield on fire so we could get through a rat-infested area. I couldn't light the shield because Arno wouldn't raise it. In another circumstance, I was unable to crouch. I tried switching from a mouse and keyboard to a gamepad and checking the key bindings, but to no avail. I restarted the section because reloading the save didn't resolve the problem.
Even though Asobo Studio has some time to fix these problems, it's important to monitor the bug situation as the game's release date draws near. Although I'd like to think that these problems are unique to me and my setup, in my experience, that's not frequently the case.
Overall, Requiem has my cautious optimism. Even if I ultimately find the combat to be uninteresting, I am quite interested to see where Asobo develops the narrative and its lovable ensemble of characters.
On October 13, A Plague Tale: Requiem will be released for the PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series S, and X. In the upcoming weeks, be sure to keep an eye out for our review.