A Plague Tale: Requiem Review (Xbox Series X)
Release date: October 18, 2022
Publisher: Focus Entertainment
Developer: Asobo Studio
Platforms: Windows, PS5, Xbox Series X/S
*MINOR SPOILERS BELOW*
A Plague Tale: Innocence was an unexpected hit for me. I had randomly come across the game in 2020 and the premise sounded so original, that I had to give it a shot. (I mean, c'mon, a third-person stealth action game that takes place during the Bubonic plague? Sign me up!) The result was me losing sleep over stunning storytelling and rat-infused hellscapes, all the while discovering one of my top games, in the span of a single weekend.
Unfortunately, thanks to adulting, it took me a bit longer to finish Innocence's highly anticipated sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem.
The sequel takes place six months after the events of Innocence, where Amicia and Hugo de Rune have found sanctuary away from their now defunct hometown back in the region of Guyenne. With the help of their mother and her apprentice, Lucas, they continue to search across medieval Europe for a cure to Hugo's infection -- the Macula. Recall that the Macula is an ancient supernatural disease that infects a destined carrier and allows said carrier to control hordes of diseased rats. While the exact selection of carrier is never revealed, in the previous and this game, we know once it erupts, it is followed by periods of plague.
When it comes to lore, A Plague Tale: Requiem fills in most of the gaps left in the first installment. We learn the Macula had one previous known carrier that appeared almost 800 years prior and was responsible for the Justinian Plague. The Justinian Plague was a real plague in the 530-40s and just a few years ago, was confirmed to be the same strain responsible for the Black Plague, which is depicted in the Plague Tale universe. I won't reveal much more as the exploration of the origins of Macula are central to the plot development.
We continue to play primarily as Amicia and the instances where we are able to play as Hugo are limited to walking around and of course, briefly controlling our pestilent friends. In terms of mechanics, everything that worked well in the first game is polished off in this one. I found Amicia's combat skills were much smoother comparatively and the alchemist elements were upped with the addition of new incantations. Your ability to craft combinations is taken to the next tier as well, with Amicia being able to combine her alchemist abilities with tangible items like arrows and pots.
The gameplay follows much of the same format as the first installment but has now been tailored to include more combat. By comparison, I found that stealth was less of a go-to for missions this time around. To me, this is more due to the direction the story takes and is reflective of the growth Amicia has encountered over the course of the last several months. There were some frustrating moments, particularly with the aforementioned stealth levels where it would sometimes take me an hour to navigate around dozens of guards. This was very noticeable in the third act of the game, so be prepared to take your time.
The environments really shine through in this sequel thanks to the current generation of consoles and Asobo's stunning game engine. I lost count at how many times I stopped and opened photo mode in an attempt to capture the beauty of this medieval world. Even past the roaming flowering fields and dense deciduous forests, the more horrifying backdrops are equally mesmerizing. The rats are a tenfold increase from the previous game, with the game's engine allowing developers to render over 30,000 rats at time, compared to 5,000 in Innocence.
When it comes to story, the developers really outdid themselves. Character development takes a front seat throughout the game and as a result, we are more explicitly exposed to the stress the last several months have taken on Amicia. The overwhelming burden of trying to save her brother paired with the darker decisions she has been forced to make, result in the player walking in the shoes of a desperate girl who is struggling to come to terms with her own limitations and inevitable fate. These ideas are further reinforced in several battle and cut-scene sequences periodically throughout the game. Without revealing too much, rebirth and reincarnation have heavy hands in the mix and are immediately foreshadowed in the prologue of Requiem.
To help develop the characters further, there are several collections that can be acquired throughout the game. We have the reintroduction of Hugo's flower collection, alongside a feather collection (reflective of our themes), secret loot chests, and souvenirs. The souvenirs are story deviations that provide players with some deeper heart-tingling insight into the dynamic between Amicia, Hugo, and their companions.
To support our protagonists, Requiem introduces two new secondary companions that help drive the themes forward as well. Arnaud, a former knight now partnered with smugglers, acts a swordfighter for the siblings in a handful of chapters. Similarly, a smuggler named Sophia accompanies the Amicia and Hugo through much of the third act, lending a generous hand in the stealthier aspects of the gameplay and fulfilling the role of a motherly figure for Amicia.
At the time of this review, there were some minor glitches I encountered, but nothing game breaking. For instance, there were a couple times I would get separated from Hugo and the game would not allow me to reunite, so I would have to restart from a checkpoint. Similarly, picking up a torch would glitch me into corners that would also require reverting to the last checkpoint to fix.
A lot of the flack the game does receive from reviewers, is for its ending, which depending on how you see it, is either the best or worst way to wrap up the series. Personally, I found it to be the only possible ending given how the journey of Amicia and Hugo unfolds in this game. Furthermore, many were quick to criticize the drop from 60FPS in the first game, to 30FPS in the sequel. On the Series X at least, I found the game to render beautifully and encountered no issues during the more frame heavy sequences.
Overall, A Plague Tale: Requiem serves as a worthy successor to the first game, providing players with 15-20 hours of intense action and storytelling that expands the wonderful universe Asobo Studio had established in A Plague Tale: Innocence. In addition to a fantastic new depth of character development for our young protagonists, you can expect breathtaking environments, entrancing scores, and a variety of gameplay to keep each chapter fresh and engaging.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is currently available on PC, PS5, and Xbox Series X/S for $59.99 USD. For Xbox Game Pass users, you can find it on both the PC and console version of the service's base tier subscription.
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