A Plague Tale: Requiem Is An Improved Sequel In Every Way

Games Reviews A Plague Tale
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<i>A Plague Tale: Requiem</i> Is An Improved Sequel In Every Way

2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence was a great game that blended fantastical plague lore with the realistic setting of France during the Hundred Years’ War. The direct sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, improves on Innocence in almost every single aspect, especially with its expanded variety of settings and ways to approach combat encounters.

Requiem takes place after the events of Innocence and follows protagonists Amicia and Hugo de Rune. Hugo has dreams of a mysterious island that could hopefully cure the Prima Macula, an inexplicable curse that awakens in the bloodlines of certain families, stirring up killer plague-carrying rats that follow whoever carries it wherever they go. They both venture out into the world in order to find this island in order to find this cure. The journey takes Amicia and Hugo to new settings and as such, there is more environmental variety than in the first game. Not only do you have the typical medieval-type settings with ruined castles and buildings, but there are beaches, forests, and mountains. And now that the Macula has awakened inside of Hugo, there are also other environments that delve into the more mystical and fantastical, showcasing Asobo Studio’s imagination and growth since the first game. There are points in the story where the Macula’s power grows so potent that it completely envelops entire areas, covering them in a dark green swirl, giving the impression of an alien planet.

Moreover, the graphics and facial animations are much better this time around. Character animations during cutscenes don’t look as stiff as they did in Innocence, and there are some intense cinematic chase sequences in the game to liven things up from the standard stealth fare. In some instances, Amicia has to outrun humongous, otherworldly waves of rats crashing down on her, and these incredible moments make clear Requiem is a grander adventure than Innocence.

If I had to single out a problem in the game’s design, it would be that its signposting wasn’t always clear or readable. There weren’t often many ways to differentiate between paths that advance the narrative from the ones that held optional collectibles, for example. This caused me to unintentionally progress beyond the point of being able to double back and explore Requiem’s greater environments. There were even times when a narrative objective was unclear. One such goal required me to burn a field of grass in order to uncover a hidden area, but there was no indication that I had to do that. In another instance, I needed to have Hugo control a pack of rats and clear a path, but the game provided little direction as to where exactly I needed to guide them to accomplish that.

What Requiem may lack in clear-level design, it once again makes up for in its expansiveness. There are now more ways than ever to approach enemy encounters compared to Innocence. Amicia still has her reliable sling, but as a more learned survivor and fighter, she now has a crossbow to complement it. Amicia also has the ability to combine her alchemy with pots to create an area-of-effect attack and brings countless new tools to her fight against the plague and the Inquisition. Along their journey in Requiem, Amicia and Hugo meet a number of friendly faces. Arnaud, a knight, and Sophia, a sailor, join their ranks while Lucas, their alchemist apprentice friend, returns from Innocence. These characters usually act as a third-party member based on the story and offer lively, fun banter between them and the siblings, filling in the experience between combat and/or stealth encounters. Arnaud makes references to how the ongoing plague plays out like war, while Sophia often tells stories about her seafaring days. The interactions between Amicia, Hugo, and the companions aren’t unlike the dynamics you’ve seen in other games like it, namely The Last of Us.

Additionally, these characters help Amicia and Hugo out with skills they can deploy. Lucas can distract enemies by throwing particles into their faces, while Amicia can direct Arnaud, another new face, to take on enemies 1-on-1. Sophia also has the ability to distract enemies by burning tall grass, if you opt for the stealthy approach. The standout addition here is that Hugo can now control swarms of rats to consume enemies, as well as use his powers to sense enemy positions. Summoning these swarms gave me an immense surge of power that was missing in Innocence, and it’s immensely satisfying to see soldiers just completely drown in these man-eating rats. All of these options make it so that enemy encounters never feel stale, and if you want to play as an absolute killing machine or a merciful protector, then it’s merely up to how you feel like playing.

Furthermore, the way Amicia’s skills upgrade is really interesting too. She has three branches that correspond with the main three ways to approach combat, but she doesn’t earn numeral experience or skill points. By playing a certain way, the progress bars on her three branches increase on their own and she has a chance to unlock new skills after she completes a combat area. If she goes through an area stealthily, she’ll unlock skills like her footsteps being quieter. If she plays aggressively and kills a bunch of enemies, she’ll unlock a skill that allows her to get up quicker when knocked down. It’s a very intuitive approach to skill progression that acutely builds based on how the player approaches an encounter, and it’s a system I greatly appreciated.

Requiem’s a fantastic puzzle game too. Amicia has to navigate around the flesh-devouring rats, but they avoid light like the plague. Amicia’s expanded arsenal of alchemy includes new materials like tar, which can make flames burn brighter, which will occasionally give Amicia the extra bit of illumination that she needs to make it toward the next light source. Additionally, her crossbow can be used to create permanent light fixtures by attaching a flaming arrow to it and shooting it at wood planks. Sometimes, rat mazes and enemy encounters are mixed with each other, and Amicia can snuff out opposing soldiers’ torches so that way the rats do the dirty work for her. Using up extra materials to take the long route around a puzzle rewards Amicia with a collectible or pieces to upgrade her weapons and pouches, incentivizing her to get crafty and explore the game further. Altogether, Requiem’s puzzles make great use of Amicia’s expanded toolset to build upon the foundation laid out by Innocence and provide players with more dynamic gameplay encounters.

Requiem is a tale about growing up and learning to let go. Hugo wants to be a normal kid without bearing the Macula’s curse, which is why he wants to go to the mysterious island he keeps seeing in his visions. Amicia is simultaneously realizing that sometimes she can take certain situations too far. For example, Hugo calls out Amicia’s hypocrisy, which excuses her killing soldiers if it means the survival of her and her family, yet she scolds Hugo whenever he uses his Macula powers to sic rats on them. The violence Amicia carries out sets her down a delicate balancing act, one which begins to take a toll on Hugo and forces Amicia to consider the consequences her actions bear out for those she purports to protect. Here, Requiem once again reminds me of The Last of Us, which similarly struggles with characters who have a clear goal and an obviously grisly way to accomplish it, and how they make the ends justify the means.

Everything in Requiem is bigger, bolder, and better than Innocence was. There’s more variety in which players can approach situations and it plays and looks great. It offers a fantastic narrative with bigger stakes and conflicts, as well as a bigger cast of characters and complementary tools. And it only leaves you wanting more, which is good, because by the end of the game, you’ll wonder where A Plague Tale goes from here. After the events of Requiem, the possibilities seem abundant.

A Plague Tale: Requiem was developed by Asobo Studio and published by Focus Entertainment. Our review is based on the Xbox Series X|S version. It’s also available for PlayStation 5, Nintendo Switch, and PC.

George Yang is a freelance writer. He’s written for places such as IGN, NPR, The Washington Post, CNN, and Kotaku. You can follow him on Twitter @yinyangfooey