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When A Plague Tale: Innocence launched in 2019, it was a welcome surprise. Through the tale of Amicia and Hugo’s journey and a narrative driven primarily by…well, rats, it became a resounding success for Asobo Studio, both critically and commercially. A Plague Tale: Requiem promised a larger, more expansive journey that expands upon the narrative elements in the original. Will it meet the hype, then, and outdo the original? Or does it merely have a rat’s chance? Journey with me.
Requiem opens with familiar faces, and it’s not long before you sink right back into accompanying Amicia and Hugo on their continuing adventure to solve the heart of the mystery surrounding the Prima Macula (Hugo’s affliction). Requiem takes place six months after the events of Innocence, with Hugo trying to cope with his newfound power and Amicia mentally working through the prior events.
Immediately, you are struck by the presentation which whisks you away to 14th century France in absolute splendor. It’s clear that Asobo focused their efforts heavily on imagery, and it’s an aspect that will continue to take your breath away throughout the course of the game.
Environmental details are staggering, and while the gameplay levels are generally linear with more confined spaces than, say, an open-world adventure, it has allowed the environmental artists at Asobo to truly demonstrate their talents. There is an artistry to the graphical style of Requiem, and it is not only stunning but fitting given the setting, and it makes for some remarkable vistas.
Complimenting the already gorgeous presentation is extraordinary lighting. When combined with the sheer variety of locales and backdrops, I say confidently that Requiem is one of the most impressive graphical showcases to date. And thanks to clever U.I. design, you are able to experience it uninterrupted. And, yes, there is a photo mode to capture all of the beauty to your heart’s content. Truth be told, some of my captures look more like paintings than screenshots, which I honestly believe is by design.
To address the rat in the room, I played on the Series X using the 40FPS mode, though players without HDMI 2.1 and 120fps screens will have to settle for 30, reportedly. While disappointing on some level, I can say that, even as someone who plays shooters at 120fps daily, it didn’t detract from my experience, save for a few drops in very heavy sequences.
A Delight for the Ears
It’s almost unbelievable to write, but as impressive as the game is graphically, it’s even better audibly. The soundtrack is again a mix of classic violin and orchestrated sequences which dynamically fit the intensity of the gameplay in each moment. It is, quite simply, brilliant.
Just as impressive is the sound direction, which is presented in full 3D (and supports Atmos on the Xbox Series consoles). I’m a stickler for game audio, and when I say this may be the best sound direction I’ve heard in a game yet, even when compared to other Atmos-enabled titles, I mean it. From voices echoing at the proper angle and distance-based intensity, to environmental details dripping with detail from every angle, it’s shockingly good. It fundamentally adds to the gameplay experience in a way few games achieve.
I Would Walk a Thousand Miles
Onto the journey itself, then, and the experiences within. If you’ve played A Plague Tale: Innocence (and I highly recommend it as Requiem is a direct continuation), you will be familiar with what to expect from one level to the next. A lot of time is spent working through puzzles with companions as you attempt to avoid the everlasting mischief of rats. At times it can feel a bit tedious, which is further hampered by movement that isn’t always as intuitive as you’d like it to be.
I often got annoyed with some of the navigation as the variation between character movement speeds is jarring. While in some instances it matches the pace of the area or scripted-moment, as it should, in others it’s nothing but frustration as you move too slowly for the environment. Outside of cinematic sequences, I wish it maintained a continuous level of character movement speed for all areas.
Complicating navigation is the age-old issue of companions, as well. While they are generally not a nuisance, I had several instances where I was trying to attack or perform a needed action where they interrupted. Getting caught while trying to attack enemies because your companion blocked the whole screen, I believe, is the dictionary definition of maddening, and it had me yelling expletives that were far more graphic than “Aww, rats!”
Fortunately, the companions themselves help to amend such frustrations. Along the way you’ll meet a couple of new characters who become meaningful figures in the game and add a lot of depth to the interactions you’ll have throughout. These relationships make your travels more engaging as they are well-written and add a little variety to the gameplay, which is otherwise fairly monotonous.
A Journey to Remember
The moment-to-moment gameplay doesn’t detract from the narrative, thankfully, as Requiem ups the ante significantly when compared to Innocence. Uncovering the truth behind the Prima Macula and the origins of The Order is a broad adventure with very memorable moments. It feels as though the team at Asobo took some queues from Naughty Dog as there are times during Requiem where I felt genuinely moved – with accompanying cinematics and score that emphasize the poignancy of the moment. Other times, the scripted set pieces ratchet up the action and are so well choreographed they would make Nathan Drake proud.
It’s this contrast from one critical moment to the next that keeps you engaged and anxious to continue discovering what’s over the next horizon – even if there are some small frustrations along the way. But it’s clear Asobo has found a winning formula and evolved their approach to be even more impactful. The final few chapters of Requiem and its dramatic conclusion will sit with me for some time.
Through it all, the relationship between Amicia and Hugo continues to be the primary focus, and it’s their bond that is the heart of Requiem. Over the course of the 20+ hour journey, you will be met with a wide-range of shared emotions, and, as Amicia, you feel the weight of responsibility of caring for Hugo. There are also “collectibles” to be discovered which further emphasize the bond and catalog your travels and memories together, which is a nice touch. If I have one complaint, at times Amicia’s dictation can be a little exhaustive. But it wasn’t a major detractor given the scope of the game.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the bugs I experienced along the way, which primarily revolve around the checkpoint system that could use some polish. I had multiple checkpoints which would restart me in near unwinnable situations, with one forcing me to restart a chapter entirely. One or two would be forgettable, but when you lose an hour or two of play due to poor game saving, it definitely puts a damper on your session. When combined with a couple of full crashes and annoyances like character scripting failing and, thus, forcing you to replay checkpoints, I began to get rattled. Hopefully some future updates will resolve the majority of these.
Small annoyances aside, A Plague Tale: Requiem is absolutely a journey worth taking. Asobo has crafted a tale with memorable characters across an expansive voyage which was a joy to play through. It hits with more heart than expected, and the final few chapters cemented themselves into my mind with some of the best cinematics I’ve enjoyed in recent memory. Now don’t be a rat – go play it!