A Plague Tale: Requiem review: bigger and fiercer
A Plague Tale: Requiem review: bigger and fiercer
Things never go right for poor Amicia and Hugo. Last time we saw the siblingsin 2019 A Plague Story: Innocence, they just survived being hunted down by the Inquisition amid the plague that swept through 14th-century France, which also brought swarms of flesh-eating rats. Not a very good time. In several points below, A Plague Tale: Requiem, things seem to be going well. The couple finds themselves in a safe city or among those who appear to be friends. There is even a nice little boat trip. But it never lasts – just like the original, Requiem is a tense and brutal stealth game where it’s simple to survive and succeed. The sequel expands on the idea of two kids trying to survive unimaginable horrors with a bigger world and new mechanics and loses some of its novelty along the way, but that basic tension is as good as ever.
Requiem picks up a few months after the first game, with the siblings now relatively safe and sound, having moved on from the horrors of their home in Guyenne. In the beginning, they explore Bordeaux in search of a cure for Hugo’s strange disease, which seems to be killing him, and form a unique bond with the ever-present swarms of rats. At first they find a new home in a town with an expert who promises to help, but soon things (of course) go wrong when a secret order of alchemists decide that Hugo will perform a great science experiment. At the same time, the region is placed under quarantine due to the plague; guards patrol the streets, dead bodies fuel disturbing bonfires, and rats are just itching to find any warm meat to eat. As Hugo’s condition worsens, he begins to dream of a beautiful island and eventually convinces Amicia, sworn as his protector, that a cure is likely to be found there. And so the game becomes a long quest to find this dream island.
basically, Requiem is not much different from its predecessor. At its most reducible, it could be described as a stealth puzzle game that’s also a bit scary. The most important moments are staying alive. This might mean sneaking past guards who will kill them on sight or finding your way through swarms of hungry rats. Sometimes you have to do both at the same time. Finding a safe path is like solving a puzzle: you can sneak around a guard by distracting him, or you can knock down their lantern so that the rats, who are afraid of any light source, will attack. Puzzles become more complex as you gain new abilities and items. Eventually, you’ll be able to use tar to make huge fires, or dust to put out flames, or a strange bait to lead rats where you want.
This was mostly about the original, and Requiem it does the typical video game sequel thing of making things bigger and more complex. Sometimes this works well. Until the end Innocence, the novelty of manipulating rats and sneaking past guards has begun to wear off, and many new additions make the formula more interesting. Once you have a full set of items at your disposal, the puzzles become much more complex and clever (though you’ll still be spinning a lot crankshaft). There were many moments when I really had to stop and think about how to combine various items in order to get out of a seemingly impassable part.
Unfortunately, the game also makes a strong push into the action, which is not the strong point of the series. There are several moments where Amicia is forced to kill, and you’re given multiple killing tools in this game, including a crossbow, a sidekick soldier, and eventually Hugo’s ability to actually control rats and guide them to a fresh meal.
This change makes narrative sense. Great focus inside Requiem how violence changed Amicio. In the first game she is forced to kill to survive, but in the second it becomes a habit. You can see the physical toll it takes on her during the game, and sometimes she even seems to enjoy ending her life. The game seems to want you to feel bad about this, but as is often the case in games, taking the more murderous route usually makes things easier (and more fun) for the player. There is a gap between what you do and how you should feel.
However, the bigger problem is that Amicia becoming a more skilled and effective assassin also takes the tension out of the game. A Plague Tale is at its best when it veers towards horror – the moments when the siblings hold hands in the dark, using a torch to fight their way through swarms of deadly rats. There are some more great moments like this Requiem, including a particularly terrifying sequence in the rat’s nest. When it works, it’s as heart-pounding and terrifying as ever. If there’s one good use for next-gen consoles, it’s the ability to ramp up the horror by adding thousands more rats to the screen. (I was playing on PS5, and the thump of the rat coming through the Dualsense controller made me cringe very unpleasant.) By these standards, the repetitive fights and boss fights feel like an afterthought I had to push through.
When Innocence When it came out, it took a lot of familiar things, like stealth action and environmental puzzles, and combined them into an experience that was unlike anything I’d ever played before. Requiem doesn’t have that advantage. The novelty is no longer there. The puzzles are more complex, the world is a bit bigger, but you’re still doing a lot of the same things. The good thing is that these things remain intense and terrifying, and Amicia and Huge’s predicament is still fascinating to watch unfold. Two games later, I’m still cowering in the place of thousands of wild rats and holding my breath until the kids find a momentarily safe space. Many of the additions feel more like padding than necessary changes, so the sequel doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the original — but that doesn’t make the rats any less terrifying.
A Plague Tale: Requiem releases October 18 on PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC, and Nintendo Switch (cloud version).
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