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I’ll begin with an omission; I wasn’t a huge fan of the first game in the Plague Tale series. Admittedly, it was a game that started very strong and exceeded expectations, but before long, the game began to show its flaws. Performance issues were apparent throughout, the lack of gameplay variety due to the ineptitude of Amicia in combat was a problem, and as the game drew to a close, the story became more and more preposterous. Culminating in a fight with what I can only describe as ‘the rat pope.’ In short, A Plague Tale: Innocence was a game with potential that failed to live up to that promise. However, with time to reflect on their mistakes, analyze the positive aspects of their initial outing. With the benefit of new, more powerful hardware, the series is back for a second bite of the cherry in A Plague Tale: Requiem.
This game takes place months after the events of the first game, and while things seem calm and serene as you begin this adventure, things quickly change; the Macula begins to wreak havoc again, and of course, with that comes thousands upon thousands of rats. I can’t say I have a particular ill feeling toward rats, but the rat physics within this series has always had a way of sending shivers up my spine. A Plague Tale aims to be everything the first outing was, but better, with new gameplay mechanics, more RPG elements, superior graphics, and a story that promises to be much better paced, and less farcical.
However, we have all been duped before, so the question remains, does this game live up to that promise? Well, that’s what I’m here for! In this review, we look at this game from top to bottom, and assess whether this game serves as a requiem for the lackluster outing that preceded this, or if this game will need its own post-mortem for what could have been, becoming another game in the series that fails to impress amongst a wealth of AAA goliaths. This is our A Plague Tale Requiem Review. Enjoy!
From Guyenne To La Cuna
Let’s kick off with the part of this game that most people are drooling over, the visuals. I’ll begin with the positives, as there is much to be positive about here. Requiem really makes the most of the step up to new, more powerful hardware with refined visuals that put Unreal Engine 5 to great use. Whether it’s the character models, the water physics, the lush foliage, the roaring fires, or the hordes of plague-carrying rats. The game does an excellent job of portraying all of these assets in a hyper-realistic way. It’s perhaps the first next-gen game that matched the Unreal 5 Engine Demo back in 2020, which is a great indicator of quality for future projects.
The visual display would be wasted, however, if Requiem didn’t offer a meticulously designed world for players to get lost in, but thankfully every level of this game is visually very memorable. Each new area feels distinct, while maintaining the quintessential look and feel of 14th-century France. The setting is outstanding, and the game also does a great job of making the built-up cities, the marketplaces, and the narrow streets feel alive with merchants, conversations between locals, wildlife running around, and often children chasing them. It’s clear to see that developers have taken their time to make each section feel truly unique, and in most cases, they succeed.
The aspect of the visuals and design worth the most praise, though, is the way that the artists manage to swap seamlessly between picturesque, serene environments, and gritty situations filled with intense action and terror. One moment you will be picking flowers in a colorful field, or role-playing a siege on a castle with Hugo. Then the next, you will be hiding from Provence soldiers and burning them alive with makeshift petrol bombs in clay pots. It’s that ebb and flow that helps this game avoid repeating the one-note runtime of the first game, and for that, Requiem deserves a lot of praise.
Not Always Im-Macula-Te
While you can’t argue against this game being one of the most visually striking titles of this year, it comes at a price for the player. This high level of fidelity and the immense detail on the screen means that the game suffers from a handful of performance issues. I found that throughout my time with Requiem that the title really chugged along during busy cut-scenes, and during areas of gameplay where the action peaked. If you go for a stealthy approach, you may not notice these issues. However, if you are like me and go in hot and heavy every time, you’ll find that the game struggles to keep up. Especially if there are rats in the area. This would have all been fine if there was a ‘Performance mode’ option to sacrifice visuals for a smoother ride, but sadly the game doesn’t facilitate this.
Then to pile on some more visual criticism, the lip-syncing in this game is appalling. It got to the point that I considered if the game’s character models were synced to the French language for authenticity. However, upon further inspection, they just did a shoddy job here. It was a real immersion breaker at times, and for something as simple as this, it’s disappointing to see that this wasn’t addressed before release. Other small criticisms include some weird animations when sprinting uphill, but overall, the good outweighs the bad considerably.
Amicia Bites Back
One of the biggest criticisms that I had for the original title in the series was that the gameplay was very one-note. This was by design, as they wanted Hugo and Amicia to feel weak and vulnerable when faced with the insurmountable odds of battling trained soldiers. However, this didn’t take away from the fact that every section felt like you could only succeed if you evaded everyone, and in turn, this made exploration a slow, and painful experience. Well, the developers seem to have listened as Amicia returns in this sequel with the grit between her teeth, and armed with her trusty sling, some alchemical agents, some clay pots, and eventually a crossbow, you can finally fight back.
What’s great about this is that the game still manages to find a balance. You are still vulnerable, and you still can’t kill every soldier with a few shots with your sling. However, with careful planning, resource management, and an acute understanding of your surroundings, it is possible to pick off all enemies within a stage almost every time. This made the gameplay feel much more open-ended, with multiple pathways to progress through sections.
The developers didn’t stop there, though, as the game works hard to offer more variety holistically too. The previous game felt like an endless series of sections where you would have to sneak past guards, and then inevitably clear a path through hordes of rats. Then rinse and repeat. Requiem still has plenty of these sections, but it makes a clear effort to provide variety through the implementation of set pieces and through exploration-based chapters. There are a handful of sections where you will have to take off running, akin to Crash Bandicoot running from a boulder, but the biggest jewel in the crown is the open La Cuna level.
This chapter allows you to explore the island, complete a series of puzzles, try to piece together the story of ‘the child of embers,’ and also allows you to get to know your companion through shared experiences and anecdotes peppered in as you run around this sprawling level. It’s very similar to the open area found in The Last of Us 2, where Ellie and Dina explore the ruins of downtown Seattle. My only criticism is that we only had one exploration-based section within this game, but I suppose that is a pretty selfish criticism. I’m just happy they got rid of the crowbarred-in boss segments, to be honest.
Then to put the cherry on top of this action-RPG cake, the game actually implements more RPG elements so that players feel like they are growing as they play. Players can now improve Amicia’s tools through the use of workshops, provided they have the pieces and tools to do so, which can be found throughout each level. You’ll be able to improve your combat efficiency, your alchemical skill, and more. This keeps the player much more motivated to explore each area thoroughly, and rewards that exploration. As in the previous game, unless you found a flower for Hugo’s Herbarium, you often were greeted by a dead end.
Needs A Push To Start
While I would love to say that the gameplay improved in every area, that would be a little generous as the game takes a long time to get going, and that is completely down to the game gatekeeping key mechanics from the player. I couldn’t see a reason for this beyond the fact that it wouldn’t have made sense in context with the story. For example, you cannot use Hugo’s sense powers to highlight enemies because you travel with Lucas in the early stages of this game. However, in a game that focuses on stealth, this is a very important tool in the player’s toolbelt, and it led to a weird difficulty spike right off the bat.
This was an issue that seeped its way into the early combat as well. As the player doesn’t have a lot of options early on. You cannot extinguish fires, lure rats, or kill enemies with pot bombs or your crossbow. Which, in turn, made the initial few chapters much harder than they needed to be, and those with less of an obligation to power through than I would probably have dropped off at that point. Thankfully, this does improve about a quarter of the way into the game, but that is a big time investment just to unlock things that should have been included from the start.
Builds To A Crescendo
As you might have gathered, I thought that the first Plague Tale game’s story really dropped off a cliff at the end, and I would wager you would struggle to find someone who disagrees. The concept, the characters, and the setting were all very strong; it was what the writers did with this that was the issue. Well, the good news is that this game fixes a lot of the pacing issues and strange narrative decisions of the first title. This title’s narrative really leans into the strengths of the franchise, honing in further on the dynamic duo of Hugo and Amicia, expanding on the lore behind their ‘carrier and protector’ relationship, and the game also introduces new companions who keep things feeling fresh throughout the journey.
Then the game manages to rectify its issue regarding portraying the villain from the first game. Plague Tale Innocence was very poor at building suspense and intrigue around these nefarious entities, which inevitably led to a grandiose, over-the-top boss battle that was laughable. However, in this title, the big bad is kept in the shadows for the vast majority of the game, building suspense until the big crescendo at the end of the game. An ending which I’m happy to say, does stick the landing.
In general, this game’s story succeeds purely due to the much-improved pacing. The game knows when to pile on the tension, when to turn to all-out action to relieve said tension, and when to keep things light and breezy and give players so respite before they brace themselves for evading capture, killing soldiers, and using rat mind control again. I won’t delve any deeper into the narrative here, as I would hate to spoil anything, but I will simply say this. This is a story that is told expertly, and while some things can feel a little convenient at times, it’s well worth experiencing at least once.
Plagued With Poor Replayability
‘At least once’ is the key term there, because if you want to play this game over again, you will run into the same issues as the original game. As an avid achievement hunter, I was keen to complete the original game in full, which meant getting all the collectibles. However, upon completion of the main story, I found that to do the necessary clean-up, you would need to complete chapters in full to register these items to your collection. Well, would you believe that this has carried over into the second title? A lot of these chapters run for quite some time, with more dense chapters taking upwards of 45-mins to an hour to complete.
It’s a small gripe, but it’s a flaw that could have been easily irradicated with a more refined chapter selection menu, or simply through allowing the player to get the collectible and then check out without having to see off the rest of the chapter, but alas, it seems that I’ll have to play this game on autopilot to wrap things up.
If you were a huge fan of the stealth mechanics within this game, enjoyed the plague setting, or enjoyed the action RPG and narrative elements of this game, then you may find that these games listed below are right up your alley. Check them out below:
- The Last of Us Part 2
- The Uncharted Series
- God of War (2018)
- Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla
- Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
- Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons
Overall, A Plague Tale Requiem is a game with peaks and valleys, but thankfully, unlike the first in the series, this game gets better as time goes on, leading to an experience that rewards players for sticking with it. The initial hours drag on as the game fails to let players off the leash and give them the tools needed to succeed. However, once Amicia and Hugo team up once again, things begin to flow nicely. The gameplay is much more open-ended than before, with more scope for combat if that’s your usual approach. The game’s story is much better paced, much more cohesive, and the supporting cast is much better written and voice-acted. Plus, the game looks staggeringly gorgeous, blending bleak and beautiful seamlessly. I won’t pretend that the performance issues went unnoticed, but they were tolerable for the trade-off of hyper-realistic vistas and locales.
In short, this is a game that fans of the first game will adore, and also one that casual gamers who couldn’t stomach the first game will have an easier time enjoying. A gripping story of overcoming hardship in spite of the odds, graphics that blur the lines of reality, and accessible gameplay that action-RPG fans will love. If that doesn’t sell you on this one, I don’t know what will.
Callum played through the entire storyline, traveling all the way to La Cuna in search of Hugo’s phoenix. He spent around sixteen hours doing so, collecting the vast majority of the moments and feathers, and upgrading most of his tools too. He will likely loop back and do a second playthrough and pop the platinum trophy. If only the chapter select option had been fixed.
Question: When Is Plague Tale Requiem Set?
Answer: The game is set in the 14th Century, in a reimagined dystopian era of history during the time of the Hundred Year War. This war between the English and the French rages on throughout the plot of this second outing, with politics playing a key role in the squabbles that Amicia finds herself in. However, when the rats burst from the ground, it’s every man for themselves. This story is a supernatural spin on the true-to-life events of the Black Plague.
Question: How Long is a Plague Tale Requiem?
Answer: This game is a pretty long one, and some will feel that it perhaps overstays it’s welcome, especially because it is so similar gameplay-wise to the first game. Players will need to invest anywhere from 12-20 hours to complete this game. You may need to invest an extra ten hours if you want to gather all the collectibles too.
Question: Is There More Than One Ending?
Answer: Without spoiling anything, there are two endings that you can choose from based on your actions in the final chapter. Both will be available to you regardless of your actions in the previous fifteen chapters, so don’t panic about being locked out of a certain ending. Best to drop a hard save if you want to see both of these outcomes.