Reviews

A Plague Tale: Requiem review — Amicia de Rune kneels to no one

A Plague Tale: Requiem is a near perfectly orchestrated adventure. Beautiful and devastating in equal measures, the trek Amicia and Hugo take is brimming with heart, excitement, fleshed out characters, and an underlying sea of darkness that at times feels so bleak that you wonder how – or if – the tides will ever turn. I had high hopes for this release after the incredible journey that was A Plague Tale: Innocence, but to say that this surpassed them would be doing Requiem a disservice; put simply, A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of my favorite video game experiences ever.

But let’s backtrack a bit. For those unaware, A Plague Tale: Requiem is the sequel to a fantastic game which released a few years back called A Plague Tale: Innocence, which introduced players to the de Rune family and took us on an enthralling adventure in which the ultimate goal was for Amicia to save her brother Hugo from the ever-growing Macula threat which he hosts inside him, making him ultimately the catalyst for a rat plague. Innocence was widely praised for its acting, storytelling, and unique gameplay which centered on stealth and realism. In Innocence, Amicia was just a young girl and couldn’t compete with the soldiers that she encountered using mere strength, so instead she had to make use of a sling and a variety of different alchemic concoctions. Through sheer will she fought through insurmountable odds and a sea of blood-thirsty rats to prevail.

Requiem is ultimately more of the same but ramped up countless times by a studio that showcases their strengths time and again by taking what made the first entry in this series great and creating a masterpiece of storytelling and gameplay. Despite a few months of reprieve, Hugo is once again being taken over by the Macula within him and Amicia, desperate to save her brother, vows to do what is needed to find a cure. But when does it become too much? Is the life of one person worth so much death? The game, and indeed the player themselves, begins to ask the same question as the death toll rises.

The weakest link of the previous series, the combat – or lack thereof – has been improved immensely this time around. Amicia has learned from her first adventure and is a capable fighter but knows when it is time to fight and when it is time to hide. The rats, already a threat in the first entry, are now such a formidable force it’s breathtaking to behold. The engine used for Requiem allows hundreds of thousands of rats to be on screen at once and the sheer destruction they can cause is incredible. Cities crumble, large groups of people are eaten alive, and intense chase sequences ensue in real-time, with the PS5 effortlessly handling what feels like one of the first truly next-gen experiences. You’ll find yourself watching in shock and awe at many points of the story as the sheer chaos and incredible amount of rats you encounter will often make you wonder how Amicia and friends could possibly survive.

This time around the soldiers are much smarter. They will notice you, even from a distance, and instead of blindly chasing you they will alert their friends for back up. No matter your equipment, Amicia will always fall when confronted with more than a few soldiers at once, so the player must constantly be thinking about silent or creative ways to take out a group without alerting others to her location. It is a constant balancing act of whether to fight or flee, which the game acknowledges as both the player and Amicia herself struggle to determine the correct answer. Enemies range from those easily dispatched with a well placed rock from Amicia’s sling, to those in heavy armor invulnerable to most attacks. Each enemy type requires a different strategy of defeat and enemies are often mixed, keeping players on their toes throughout the lengthy campaign.

The level design is immaculate and downright gorgeous, with locales ranging from cities full of dead to islands littered with flowers, with each area consistently providing rewards for curious players who explore. Likewise, areas where you must overcome enemies or rats nearly always provide players with multiple ways to succeed so they can progress using their preferred type of playstyle. Levels are normally multi-tiered, with plenty of places to hide, buildings to scour for supplies, and ways to lure unsuspecting guards to their death. Often, you don’t have to do the deed yourself as you can use the rats to take out your enemies by simply removing their source of light.

To further help players progress, Requiem has an intuitive skill system which grants abilities based on your play style and is broken down into three tiers: prudence, aggressive, and opportunism. Prudence skills will unlock if you avoid confrontation, allowing Amicia to be quieter and faster while sneaking and to be able to sling items further. Aggressive levels up as you attack enemies head on; allowing Amicia to push enemies into rats and open flames, recover from hits faster, and to use her weapons quicker. Finally, opportunism is centered on using Amicia’s various alchemy-based items, allowing her to carry more ammo and supplies and to retain resources needed to craft.

Speaking of alchemy, Amicia can collect resources such as resin, alcohol, sulfur, and saltpeter found throughout the world to craft a variety of useful weapons which she can combine with her sling or pots to throw. Constantly keeping up a stock of resources is essential to survival, as many areas can only be survived by making creative use of the tools at your disposal. With her resources Amicia can create ignifer ammo which can be tossed via the sling to cause explosions or mixed in a pot to create a burning circle for a moment. Exstinguis can be used to extinguish flames, useful when being pursued by enemies wielding a torch as snuffing out the flame will cause the rats to attack. Stupefacio can cause explosions which blind enemies, while tar can be thrown on existing fires to create larger flames or to create burnable areas on the ground which can then be lit with ignifer ammo. Pyrite will allow you to wield a flame whip to survive situations where you end up overwhelmed, while odoris can be used to attract rats to a specific area. Learning how to use these tools and how to mix them together is essential for survival.

There are workbenches scattered throughout which can be used to upgrade your weapons using tools you’ll collect along the way. At these workbenches you can upgrade your sling, alchemy, gear, and instruments. Your sling can become faster, stronger, and more accurate, while alchemy will allow you to carry more ammo. Gear allows you to carry additional amounts of your items, while instruments will help you break down pieces you find that you cannot use at the moment. Workbenches are plentiful and essential, as attempting later areas with non-upgraded weapons will result in far more headaches than necessary. If you’re worried about not being able to find a workbench when needed, there is a helpful ability you can attempt to unlock early on which nullifies the need for tools and allows Amicia to upgrade at any time.

Rats can only attack in the darkness, making light a necessity to survival and as such much of the game is centered around making use of light sources. Many areas will be covered in sparse lighting, forcing players to figure out ways to cross long thresholds of darkness, often while hiding from torch wielding enemies. There’s no end to the creative ways Amicia can find to survive and as the game progresses and you meet up with more characters, new ways to survive will open thanks to your ability to utilize their talents. Amicia can trigger a companion to perform simple tasks for her using L1, allowing players to make use of all characters to solve the sometimes tricky – although never overly complicated – puzzles.

There are many other skills and abilities you and your companions will gain during your adventure, but to mention them here would spoil the surprise. It’s best to go into Requiem with little knowledge of what’s to come aside from the basics and to experience the story as it was intended – I can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.

A Plague Tale: Requiem is nearly 20 hours long and rarely lets up in intensity from its first blissful and surprisingly carefree moments to its exceptional last few chapters. The acting, animation, and storytelling are all first-rate and on par with the best available in the medium. Sure, the story may not be too complex, but the pure emotion and impeccably written characters drive the story to become more than it is. I was so invested by the end that it surprised me, I had become attached to these characters and their plight and wanted nothing more than for them to reach the happy ending they longed for. From moments of pure happiness to moments of crushing despair, every step of this family’s heartfelt journey is expertly told and constantly pounds home the message that nobody can overcome the darkness alone.

On the PS5, Requiem makes good use of the DualSense controller and its features, allowing you to feel the pitter patter of rats as they draw near, to feel the rain as it surrounds you, and to hear the sling as it launches. Anytime you feel the controller begin to shake, you know the rats are near and chaos is imminent. As you sneak past gangs of rats and inch ever closer to them, you’ll feel the controller gradually increase in rumble, adding tension to what is already a stressful experience. It’s all very subtle, but adds to the overall experience immensely.

For completionists, there are souvenirs, flowers, and feathers to collect, providing reason to replay chapters. Additionally, there are three difficulty levels and the ability to toggle helpful comments made by AI companions, to ensure that all players can experience the story without too much frustration.

Despite all my gushing, there are a few issues I’d be remiss not to mention. Graphics do sometimes stutter under the weight of the incredible amount of rats on screen and destruction being caused. It is rare, and seldom affects gameplay, but does happen and once my game did crash. In another unfortunate instance I was being chased and ran through a locked door, leaving my AI companion behind and having no choice but to reset the section to progress. Nothing which occurred ever ruined my experience, but did sometimes pull me out of the game for a moment. In many games I may not have noticed, but with the high quality Requiem achieved at nearly every instance, it made the moments where it faltered a bit more pronounced. That said, since I completed the game there has been a large update and unfortunately I have not had a chance to replay the sections to see if these issues are still occurring, but I’d suspect most issues will be ironed out by the time the game releases to the public.

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Richard Allen is a freelance writer and contributing editor for various publications. While he enjoys modern gaming, he is a retro gamer at heart, having been raised on a steady diet of Contra, Mario, and Dragon's Lair.  Chat with him via @thricetheartist on Twitter.

95

Excellent

A Plague Tale: Requiem

Review Guidelines

A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of the most emotionally satisfying games I have ever played. I was stunned by the emotionally charged, beautifully presented, and impeccably acted story which is brought to life by incredible technical feats which showcase the power of the PS5. Time and again I was surprised by the sheer bleakness that the story was brave enough to dive into and the thrill of watching hope attempt - and often fail - to overcome those seemingly insurmountable odds. Requiem is a story which both uplifts and decimates your emotions at the same time; a story about characters that feel real and that you grow to care and root for. By the end you too will be shouting, “I am Amicia de Rune and I kneel to no one.”

Richard Allen

Unless otherwise stated, the product in this article was provided for review purposes.

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