E3 is an awesome event where game developers get to show off their latest and most exciting concepts. You see amazing multi-million dollar AAA titles, but it’s often the smaller titles that you see behind closed doors that surprise you the most. Developer Asobo Studios brought us in for a demonstration of their game A Plague Tale: Innocence and I honestly didn’t know what to expect. At first it looked like a few other adventure games I’d seen…and then I saw the rats.
A Plague Tale: Innocence takes place in the 14th century, in Southwest France, right around the city of Bordeaux. In our demo, a 14 year old girl named Amicia, her 8 year old brother Hugo, and a young boy named Lucas are trying to escape from the war-torn area as soldiers patrol, looking for refugees.
Making our way towards an aqueduct on the distance, we crest a hill and stumble on a mass of dead bodies from a very large battle. As the three trudge through the dead bodies, crows picking at the dead, we find the bloated corpse of a horse. Carefully pushing past it, it begins to wriggle, exploding as rats burst from its stomach, pouring out in a river of blood and gore. These rats are full of plague, but they are afraid of light. Staying close to the nearby torches, we steer clear of them, but the ever-present threat lurks in the distance.
Using our igniter, we are able to light a nearby brazier to keep the creatures at bay, but now the beasts have multiplied. Literally thousands of rats ebb and flow, the little monsters seeking our flesh. As the light from the brazier burns low, the path we just left closes behind us.
The central plot is certainly about survival, but it’s suddenly very clear that it’s as much about making hard choices as it is about the rat menace. As we gather saltpeter and sulphur to continue to light fires, we encounter a guard using a lantern. He is able to push the rats back towards us, but given the choice of our own survival versus his, a quick rock from our sling breaks his lantern, and we let the rats do the work for us. This creates a distraction, and our trio is able to sneak past this checkpoint.
During our demo, we saw several instances of puzzle solving around using light, as well as different ways to deal with the guards in the game. Lowering a trebuchet allowed us to position light in a way to create a path, and similarly, snapping a chain on a nearby sling creates an opening for the team to enter a siege tower. Dealing with simple guards often means dealing with their light source, but armored knights are a little harder to handle. Pulling out a jar, we throw it into the sea of rats to attract the attention of a guard. This causes him to turn around, exposing his lantern, letting us hit it with a rock to end him. Using a brazier on a rolling cart, we push through the sea of rats, but that’s short lived as it gets stuck in the mud. Picking up a torch makes you able to cross a sea of rats, but it also makes you highly visible, forcing you to ditch your light sources frequently. Every light source is short lived, and (at least during our demo), no light source is used the same way twice.
During our demo, we briefly see a crafting table with a bevy of options, but the developers were hasty to say that they were eager to show it, but that’s for another day.
I came away impressed with the core gameplay loop of A Plague Tale: Innocence. It’s clear that this game is equal parts light management, rat control, and hard choices about the sanctity of life and your place in it. It’s nice when you get surprised at E3, and A Plague Tale: Innocence looks like one to watch.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is coming to Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC this fall.
Stay tuned for our continued coverage of E3 2018 here at GamingTrend.com