A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE
If it’s got glowing red eyes and sharp gnashing teeth, it’s probably not your friend
Rats. Lots and lots of rats. Eight thousand, to be precise. That’s the amount of plague-ridden vermin that can occupy the screen at any given time. Although this may be difficult to visualize you’ll just have to take our word for it—Asobo Studio has created something absolutely terrifying. After all, you’re going to feel a certain amount of fear when you have little to defend yourself with, and you’ve just witnessed thousands of rats bubble and burst from the nearby corpse of a fallen horse.
Set during the 14th century in the middle of a devastated France, this dark third-person adventure game follows the desperate tale of Amicia and her younger brother Hugo. During our preview, we discover that Hugo’s blood is infected with an ancient evil. Trying to escape from the Inquisition, it’s your job as the older sister to protect your vulnerable little brother at any cost. Throughout the story you’ll not only be exploring the friction and innocence at the heart of this relationship, but also a brutal and cruel Middle Ages France.
Our demo begins loaded with atmosphere as the two siblings sail down a river towards a nearby aqueduct. This strangely beautiful and mysterious environment is immediately offset by the devastation Amica and Hugo see once they step ashore; laid out in front of them is a sea of dead bodies following a recent bloody battle.
The is our first example of trying to safely navigate Hugo through this horrific environment, both physically and mentally. It especially hits home when he naively asks, “Are we hurting them?” as you hold his hand while walking slowly over the corpses to reach the other side of the field.
It’s just after this moment that we witness the aforementioned horse-carcass-rat-swarm. It seems the only things stopping us from becoming their next meal are the sources of light dotted around the environment, that the rats appear to avoid. These safe zones instantly become a sight for sore eyes, and give you a moment to breathe before you figure out how to move forward. You can also craft a flame torch if you locate the right materials, and it’ll enable you to walk through the mass of vermin. Light won’t always help you, however, because the rats aren’t the only threat. You also have the Inquisition guards to contend with.
The majority of the time you’ll be employing stealth to hide from these guards, but you can also interact with the environment to your advantage. Luckily, Amicia is a cracking assailant with her slingshot, and she definitely puts it to good use by hitting switches and setting haystacks on fire to provide a temporary source of light and safety. She can even knock the lamps from the hands of guards, who, without their lights to protect them from the rats, quickly and traumatically get devoured.
The game is ultimately about survival at any cost, even if it means sacrificing the innocence of our heroes. Towards the end of our demo we saw the children trapped, with their exit blocked by yet another horde of rats. At the other end of this passage was a terrified guard pleading for you not to come any closer, in case you force the rats towards his direction with your torch. You have no choice but to push forward if you want to get through, and the apologies that Amicia offers fall flat upon the ears of the man whose fate you’ve sealed.
“You step ashore to find a sea of bodies laid out following a bloody battle”