As I stated in To Kill a MockingGeek and No End of the World During the End of the World, this is a time for hoarding Geek products about the Apocalypse even if you, like me, are broke. After all, there are a lot of sales, the financial crisis will hit us for real soon, and we must prepare mentally for the challenging future that is right ahead of us. I promise I was trying to save, but my country decided to apply new taxes on digital products starting next month. Consequently, when Steam spammed me about one of my wishlist items being on sale, I could do nothing else but to buy it (no excuses here, right?).
Honestly, I regret nothing!
A Plague Tale: Innocence is a relatively new game (2019), and I remember adding it to my wishlist after Steam recommended it to me. According to the platform, it was similar to one of my favorite games (it was not), The Talos Principle (TTP). My hipster-self is proud because I was one of the first 100 people to buy TTP. TTP, which was also recommended to me by Steam after playing Portal (2007), proved to be a genuine jewel that should be played by any respectable gamer.
Anyway, because TTP was so good, I trusted Steam and added A Plague Tale: Innocence to my wishlist immediately. My point here is:
Do not be afraid of believing in Steam recommendations and ratings!
Now, A Plague Tale was on a middle-range price, so even without a discount, it was a reasonably-priced game for everyone. The sale definitely made me want it more, considering my budget restrictions, of course.
The truth is that A Plague Tale: Innocence is a very short and easy game (10-12 hours or so). It is designed like a pipeline, just like one of my all-time favorites, BioShock (2007), which is also story-driven. Most probably, they planned it this way because they had budget restrictions like the BioShock team. Unfortunately, in some parts, the pipeline design feels quite restrictive, mainly when you are walking in forests. In this regard, BioShock did way better hiding the limitations of the world and its lack of financial resources.
There is not much left for discovering considering this type of design. The puzzles are not hard, and if you pay attention, collectables are not that tricky to find. If you are expecting an open world with over 80 playing hours and complex puzzles, you will probably feel a bit disappointed about the price even with the discount.
However, the story is awe-inspiring, just as the marvellous visual design. It is perhaps for the best that it was kind of easy, without falling in boring, because then the player can fully appreciate and enjoy the narrative and aesthetics. Moreover, the story was not extended using unnecesary, filling passages, which is always welcome.
The story is situated in France during the Black Death (The Plague). Amicia, a teenager and our main protagonist, has to find a way to cure her 5-year-old brother of a rare disease and protect him from the Inquisition that wants to capture him.
It discusses a lot of our concerns during the Coronavirus era, but remember that this game is from 2019, so there was no pandemic yet. This way, the game proves the inevitable repetition of essential human emotions and reactions, despite technology and progress, in front of the catastrophic, cyclical, and unavoidable war against a tiny and invisible but overwhelming enemy. The intricated and strong symbolisms, the heartwarming relationships between the protagonists, and the debate and clash between Power, Politics, Religion, and Magic merge in a fascinating story. Moreover, the concept of Innocence is explored in a very intimate way, highlighting the conflict between:
- The protagonists’ young, innocent, kindhearted, and happy childish perspective of life, which leads to harmful white lies in order to protect it.
- And, the dreadful and raw reality of Sickness, Death, Ignorance, Fear, Hate, Abuse, and Power that they discover throughout the game: the corruption they have to fight.
I hope the word Innocence after A Plague Tale implies a second game: one with a different perspective like Ambition, Greed, or Power (Corruption). Still, that should happen if and only if the second game was planned from the beginning (or if Asobo Studio excels at adding stuff). If they decide to use that concept, the transition from Innocence to Corruption has to be well-thought and feel natural.
Let’s be honest, the world does not need another weird transition like the one between BioShock (2007) [the power of the Individual] and BioShock 2 (2010) [the power of the Collectivity]. That was also a great idea, but the execution was done in such a poorly way that it ended up being a total bummer (probably because they were not planning to produce a second BioShock). My heart does not want to feel that disappointed again…
Asobo already rejected the idea of adding story DLCs, so let’s see if that means that the studio wants to create a second game (there are many rumors about that happening) or if the team is completely done with it (it is already a masterpiece by itself, so it would be ok). Note: It just ocurred to me that they may just change the Plague in question (maybe to the Justinian Plague during the 6th Century).
Anyway, this videogame may feel quite limited in terms of gameplay, and there are a lot of context mechanics that you never use again. Nonetheless, considering you are just a teenager with no real fighting/climbing training and your main companion is only five years old, mainly using stealth skills to escape is the most realistic way to face this devastating world and overpowering enemies that will kill you on the spot. Moreover, we know that every nation in the world has its own martial art… In contrast, France has Parkour, literally “The Art of Running Away” (A Meme, 2000 and something).
Since their father is a King of a peaceful land, and they are basically kids and not Assassins nor Templars, they do not know how to Parkour. This means that the characters can do nothing more than hide, run away, and perform some clever tricks.
By the way, your brother should actually be considered one of the most resourceful and helpful child characters in videogame history despite his temperament and limitations just because of his age.
The visuals are so crude and harsh that, at specific points, they can become unbearable, but that is precisely why they aggressively contribute to the storytelling. In addition, another aspect that must not be overlooked is the music. The cords provoke a sturdy void in the stomach. Anxiety and uncertainty are supported not only by the imminent shadows (and rat attacks) but also by the impressive sound of the cord instruments mixed with the pipe organ. Repetitive sounds combined with fast and slow-paced music remind the player of the stressful weight of the Inquisition and the Plague, which are just half a step behind the heroes of the story.
The final battle is a little absurd and, therefore, amusing. I will not spoil it for your own good, but the term rat kid should be revised and contested after this bizarre fight.
I highly recommend you choose English for the voice-over. Spanish sounds like a joke, and even though French voice-over should be incredible since the game is about France, the tone and emotions sound fake. However, it is excellent for practicing your rusty French, because the pronunciation is very clear.
If you have not played it, you should. I strongly recommend this game because, even if it is a piece of cake, it is a brilliant Masterpiece. A Plague Tale: Innocence, without a doubt, managed to overcome many obstacles that The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess (2008) could not (read: Being Sexy for the Sake of Story), constituting itself as a true work of art despite its obvious shortages.
If you already played it, please leave your impressions in the comment section! The Cake will be glad to read what you have to say about this brilliant game!
Hope you enjoyed this slice of cake! If you did, do not forget to share! 😉
Featured imaged recovered from RPP.