A Plague Tale: Requiem
“A Plague Tale: Requiem improves on its predecessor with gorgeous visuals and more varied gameplay, but it surely struggles to balance its increased motion and morally nuanced storytelling.”
- Moving story beats
- More varied gameplay
- Higher item crafting
- Astounding visuals
- Clumsy moral commentary
- Weak motion scenes
There’s a selected sequence in A Plague Tale: Requiem that captivated me … after which lost me just as quickly. Returning protagonist Amicia and a latest companion are attempting to fastidiously sneak through an area full of guards (a well-known scene in its predecessor, A Plague Tale: Innocence). As Amicia, I start quietly killing guards by beaning them with rocks and extinguishing their torches to send rats after them. Recent to Amicia’s way of doing business, my partner asks why she keeps killing these guys as a substitute of just sneaking around them. Amicia keeps making excuses, ones that completely mirror my very own twisted logic. “Oh, they were going to get in the way in which, and so they’re bad guys anyhow.” It’s an efficient moment of introspection in a game that’s built around giving players the choice to be the pacifist in situations.
Shortly after, I’m thrown into the stealth game’s silliest sequence. Amicia is backed right into a room and trapped, when guards start pouring in. I don’t have any selection but to kill waves of them with my sling as Amicia gives in to her bloodthirst, locked in a violent mental breakdown as her partner begs her to stop. It’s an over-the-top moment where the sport is forced to momentarily reckon with its violence – it’s almost embarrassed of itself, apologizing for all its gleeful killing.
And yet, not but an hour later, I’m back at it as if nothing happened, killing guards with some fun latest tools and unlocking latest skills as a reward for doing so.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a improbable sequel on several counts. It improves on its predecessor in nearly every way by finely tuning its stealth and navigation systems, adding more gameplay variety, and delivering a visually stunning world that puts games with much larger budgets to shame. Its weak spot comes all the way down to its messy storytelling, which exposes the thematic limits of a medium that’s over reliant on violence as its primary type of interaction.
Meditations on murder
A Plague Tale: Requiem is an even bigger version of Innocence in every way, from pumping up its stealth formula to supersizing its length (the sequel is about twice so long as the primary game). That’s reflected within the narrative too, which matches for a larger-scale story complete with some globe-trotting. Requiem continues the 14th century tale of Amicia and her little brother, Hugo, who’s afflicted with a kind of supernatural disease called the Prima Macula. Amicia is decided to search out a cure, though her world continues to be within the throes of the Black Plague as hundreds of deadly rats have taken over Europe.
Like the unique, there are moments of the story that shine. Requiem is at its best when it’s reflecting on how the young Hugo is being poisoned by the world around him. He’s a sponge absorbing an incalculable amount of death amid other cruelties of the 14th century. In a single heart-wrenching scene, Hugo learns in regards to the practice of slavery. Initially distraught over the concept, he falls further into despair when he finds a stuffed toy left behind by a baby slave. He’s gutted by the concept that even children might be slaves, and much more ruined by the undeniable fact that their captors wouldn’t even allow them to keep their toy. It’s a brutal moment, one in every of many who hacks away at any hope for humanity the innocent boy has left.
While those scenes are moving, constructing on the sport’s ultimate thesis in regards to the struggles of protecting children from the horrors of the true world, the message is muddied by its more overbearing meditations on violence. Like a number of video games, that is one whose principal systems revolve around killing, and its creators struggle to reckon with that. The story routinely pauses to have Amicia query all of the violence she’s committing. Is it ever justified? Is she as bad because the rats that mindlessly devour all the things in sight? And how much example is she setting for her impressionable younger brother?
These can be compelling questions if the territory hadn’t been tread to death by now. As games grow to be more narratively ambitious, but refuse to offer up murder as a primary hook, they don’t have any selection but to slip in some commentary in regards to the ethics of what players are doing. The Last of Us did it successfully, while Part 2 struggled to totally bring home its point about cyclical violence at the identical time that it encouraged players to leap right into a Recent Game+ mode with all their upgraded guns. Then there’s Ghost of Tsushima, which spins its stealth samurai combat right into a moral quandary about honor.
It’s a slipshod attempt that fails to have its cake and eat it too.
A Plague Tale: Requiem goes the same route, attempting to elevate its motion with thematic intent. Nonetheless, it’s a slipshod attempt that fails to have its cake and eat it too. As an example, Requiem actively encourages players to kill enemies moderately than sneak around them. It includes a skill tree that routinely unlocks latest abilities depending in your playstyle. Selecting to kill enemies unlocks various skills that’ll make Amicia deadlier. But even when attempting to keep on with a nonlethal playstyle (which isn’t fully possible), the stealth skill tree culminates in a capability that’ll let Amicia more easily stab armored enemies.
The self-conscious moral waxing isn’t enough to completely spoil an otherwise compelling, though at times overstuffed, story, but it surely’s a hole and distracting try to justify its emphasis on creative killing. If developers continually feel the necessity to soften their motion with self-reflective commentary on violence, perhaps it’s time for those studios to explore latest ways to play — ones that higher reflect the stories they need to tell.
Improving on the unique
Though its narrative struggles to align with its gameplay, Requiem solidifies Asobo Studio as one in every of the best stealth developers around today. Like A Plague Tale: Innocence, making it through a chapter here requires a mix of careful sneaking, puzzle-like navigation, and a touch of alchemy. Each of those elements has been expanded in Requiem, making it feel like there’s no golden path through any given stealth section.
As an example, I’m given far more selections when faced with a guard this time around. Just like the previous game, I actually have the choice to sneak around one quietly, kill him by launching a rock at his head with my sling, or turn stray rats against him by utilizing crafting resources that’ll extinguish flames, which act as protected zones from the light-sensitive creatures. Amicia has a couple of more recipes at her disposal though, as she will use tar to create a flammable zone or augment shots with an odor that’ll lure rats. So when attempting to filter out two guards directly, I could launch a pot of tar at them and follow up with an ignifer slingshot that lights them up. Alternately, I could launch a pot of extinguis at them, putting out each their torches and the vampire they’re standing around, serving the rats a feast. Or perhaps I could leave them alone entirely, sneaking through an adjoining constructing as a substitute and easily tossing a rock to cause a sound distraction.
Requiem’s strength as a sequel largely comes all the way down to its added variety.
Each tool might be augmented with every alchemy type via a more streamlined weapon wheel, and that’s just a little change that goes a great distance. It’s much easier to pick out a tool, quickly cycle over to an ammo type, craft a couple of shots, and let it rip, allowing me to be far more reactive if something goes mistaken. With the choice to pour any mixture right into a pot that could cause an area effect, I’m in a position to think just a little larger and more creatively as I tackle a bit.
That positively impacts the fundamental navigation too. Specific sections of the sport force Amicia to make her way through an area stuffed with rats by utilizing her tools to distract them and create fiery protected zones. This time, it feels less like there’s one solution to every puzzle. I can use tar to expand a flame’s range, throw a pot of ignifer to temporarily scare off rats, or launch a smelly arrow into wood to attract the rodents’ attention. If I get swarmed, I can use a pyrite whip as a last-ditch effort to fight the herd back for a couple of seconds. There are more decisions to be made in any given section, loosening any restrictions present in the primary game.
Requiem’s strength as a sequel largely comes all the way down to its added variety. Moderately than showing its full hand upfront, it’s at all times introducing latest tools, alchemy recipes, and AI companions that bring a special twist every few chapters. In a single section, I’m traveling with a knight who I can sic on guards like an attack dog. In one other, I’m with a partner who can use a crystal to reflect a flame’s light and create a moving protected zone. Each idea brings a momentary twist to the established formula that deepens its potential for puzzles.
The one slipup comes when Requiem tries to lean into motion. Several scenes throw Amicia into battles where she has to take down waves of guards. Considering that her arsenal is just a rock that must be wound up before throwing and a crossbow that may only hold a couple of shots directly, these busier encounters stretch the boundaries of tools meant to be utilized in a methodical fashion. Amicia also dies in a single or two hits, which works in a stealth setting, but becomes immensely frustrating when attempting to fight enemies in small arenas while archers with magnetic aim fire from behind. Several of those encounters left me with dozens of death screens.
The combat issue is interlinked with Requiem’s narrative woes. In attempting to pump up the scope with more straight motion, Requiem creates problems for itself. Systems originally built for stealth aren’t a neat fit for faster motion set pieces, and characters spend several of those scenes attempting to contextualize the violence in a forced manner. Requiem feels more comfortable when it’s not attempting to follow in The Last of Us’ footsteps.
Though parts of the sequel struggle to maintain up with an increased scope, that’s actually not an issue on the technical side. Requiem is one in every of the best-looking games I’ve played on this still-new console generation, punching well above its weight class. With Amicia and Hugo departing their plague-infested hometown, Asobo Studio gets more opportunities to color colourful European landscapes stuffed with vibrant greenery and vibrant flowers. That creates a more striking juxtaposition any time players are tossed right into a rundown village that’s been ravaged by rats.
It makes for a number of the most jaw-dropping imagery I’ve ever seen in a game.
Later moments lean into sublimely supernatural imagery, allowing the artists to construct more otherworldly spaces. Every moment — each the attractive and horrific — are rendered with an astonishing amount of detail that I’d expect from a heavily-funded Sony exclusive, not a sequel to a modest game that bordered on “eurojank” territory.
Requiem’s most impressive (and grotesque) magic trick comes from its literal tidal wave of rats. Upping the series’ ante within the wildest way possible, rodents don’t just passively loaf around in swarms this time. More cinematic sequences find Amicia sprinting away from tens of hundreds of rats as they swallow entire towns behind her like a monsoon. It makes for a number of the most jaw-dropping imagery I’ve ever seen in a game, pushing the boundaries of contemporary tech to create the type of spectacular imagery that could make video games such a special medium.
A Plague Tale: Requiem deals with the complexities of growing up, and that theme is satirically baked into the sport itself. It learns from its predecessors’ mistakes to create a stunning adventure with more confidence and personality. Nonetheless, that growth spurt presents some awkward challenges, because the sequel struggles to balance its own identity with what’s expected from a more mature game in today’s landscape. Chalk it as much as some adolescent growing pains — we’ve all been there.
A Plague Tale: Requiem was reviewed on an Xbox Series X attached to a TCL 6-Series R635.