With the 2019 title A Plague Tale: Innocence, French developer Asobo Studio and publisher Focus Entertainment delivered a harrowing tale of Medieval horror, a teenage girl desperate to keep her brother safe, brutal soldiers of the Inquisition, and rats. Lots and lots of rats. All of that seems to hold true with the studio's follow-up, A Plague Tale: Requiem.
I recently got the chance to play through chapters 6 and 7 of A Plague Tale: Requiem, getting a closer look at some of the ways that Asobo Studio is building on its prior success, expanding the scope while also keeping things from getting too unwieldy. There's more work to be done, but based on what I've played, this could easily be one of the best games to play in the back half of the year.
A dark, beautiful world
As I entered the story partway into the game, there's a lack of context for a few things, but it's safe to say that at this point, things aren't going well for Amicia and Hugo de Rune. Once again, the two are on the run, being pursued by soldiers as Hugo's mysterious powers continue to become more and more unstable. In search of help, the duo are headed to an island that may provide needed answers.
Compounding the danger, Amicia has taken a head wound, and it's causing her frequent headaches at inopportune times, making it harder and harder to care for her brother despite their savage pursuers. It's worth stopping from time to time, not just so she can catch her breath but also to admire the jaw-dropping countryside. Early on into my play session, Amicia and Hugo can take time to rest on a swing. It's a small moment, but one that clearly means a lot to the pair, who've already been forced to give up so much early on in their lives.
A Plague Tale: Innocence was already a great-looking game, but mere minutes into playing this, it quickly becomes apparent why A Plague Tale: Requiem isn't being developed for last-gen consoles. It's gorgeous, with wide-open spaces packed to the brim with detail. Warm lighting creates a sunny scene where the duo can breathe and provides a moment's reprieve from seething rats in turn.
Being better looking hasn't made it lose that detailed density. Players make their way through a sizable encampment at one point, with villagers and animals bustling around them. At one point, Hugo runs through a huge flock of seagulls, laughing as feathers fly. Individual characters look incredible, and the cloth physics seem like a notable step up from the prior game. During the over-two-hour runtime of the preview, I never saw Amicia's new crossbow clip with any part of her model.
Enhanced gameplay and design
These improvements aren't restricted to visuals however, as it's also just a bigger game in most other facets. Like A Plague Tale: Innocence, this is a third-person stealth game, but it's here that one of the largest improvements in Requiem shows itself, with wider level layouts that allow for more options than its predecessor.
You have multiple routes and options for getting through most areas, with side passages, optional vantage points and more, all of which is really appreciated, as the fact sections in A Plague Tale: Innocence were very straightforward was one of my few complaints.
The original game juxtaposed its scenery well, going from the hellscape of battle aftermaths to bright castles on the turn of a dime, but here the actual level layouts feel similarly varied. Caves filled with wrecked ships and teeming hordes of rats give way to stormy coastlines, while it's not just for looks. Often, you'll find there's more than one way to get to a designation, evading enemies entirely, though at the expense of not finding some of the vital upgrade materials scattered through the area.
One section saw Amicia and Hugo trying to flee across a quarry and nearby dye pits, some of which have become filled with rats. Here, you can take advantage of some of Amicia's new skills. She's older and stronger now, and while she still can't take on a knight in combat, she's more than capable of taking enemies down on her own, strangling them with her sling — or stabbing them with a knife, though this is risky since knives are also used for opening select supply caches, à la The Last of Us — as well as taking foes head-on with her crossbow.
The crossbow feels good to use, and while the addition of a secondary ranged weapon might at first seem strange, it quickly finds a different place in usage across combat and puzzles. Bolts are rare, but punch through leather armor and instantly kill anything outside of a heavily armored knight, making it a secondary weapon in most instances.
To Amicia's dismay, Hugo can also still use his powers to control swarms of rats, though this ability is limited and can't be used too much without overloading the poor boy, so it's not an overpowered get-out-of-jail-free card, but rather, yet another wrench in the toolbox of destruction this unlikely pair of survivors can utilize.
More polish needed
Not everything was perfect across the preview though, and there's definitely some wrinkles for the developers to iron out. A Plague Tale: Requiem crashed entirely once when I was tinkering with the graphics options, and I experienced some strange slowdown in a few select areas.
Whenever Amicia and Hugo would leave or enter a particularly large area, this slowdown would occur for a few seconds. It didn't interrupt the vast majority of gameplay, but considering how consistent it was, this is something that the developers can hopefully fix.
As mentioned above, A Plague Tale: Requiem is being developed exclusively for Xbox Series X|S, PC, and PS5, so it's safe to assume that the game will be taking full advantage of the internal ultra-fast SSDs of the latest consoles. Some stutter could certainly be expected if playing off a PC with a hard drive (assuming it would even run) but considering the preview I played was running on a Samsung 850 SSD and RTX 3070, I hope this build can be smoothed out a little more before launch.
Not long to go
Despite having two entire chapters to play through, it feels like I've only gotten the barest glimpse into what is next for Amicia and Hugo. The stakes remain high, the gameplay is better, the graphics gorgeous, and the levels provide more options than before.
There are still issues that I'd like to see taken care of before playing through the full game, but with A Plague Tale: Requiem going gold back in August, there's more than enough time for the developers have things polished by launch. I'm eager to see the rest of the story and learn just what dark twists Asobo Studio has in store for this duo.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is currently slated to launch on Oct. 18, 2022, across Xbox Series X|S, PC, PS5, and Nintendo Switch via cloud streaming. It will also be available day one on Xbox Game Pass.
A Plague Tale: Requiem
Asobo Studio is back with a sequel to its 2019 adventure. Amicia and Hugo are once again being pursued, but the teeming hordes of rats might be the greatest threat of all. Requiem is promising to deliver a new story with this brother and sister, while also introducing a crossbow, wider levels, and even more gorgeous graphics.
Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
With Xbox Game Pass Ultimate, you get access to a wide library of titles, including Xbox first-party games on day one, as well as certain third-party games like A Plague Tale: Requiem.
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