A PLAGUE TALE: IN­NO­CENCE

If it’s got glow­ing red eyes and sharp gnash­ing teeth, it’s prob­a­bly not your friend

XBox: The Official Magazine (US) - - START - Adam Bryant Pub­lisheR Fo­cus Home In­ter­ac­tive De­vel­oper Asobo Stu­dio For­mat Xbox One ETA 2018

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.

Good­bye Toulouse

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”

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