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A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE  Focus Interactive. Asobo Studio

This is a tale about escape and survival, set in 14th Century England - the Middle-Ages. Amicia and her sick brother Hugo are rescued from Lord Nicholas and the Inquisition, by their mother, Beatrice, and sent on their way to find Doctor Laurentius in the hope of a cure for Hugo.

They run off with their dog, Lion, with you controlling Amicia (mainly in third-person view) and she, in turn, instructing Hugo.

From the onset it is obvious to the player that violence is not something you are particularly good at, and generally any attempt to attack anyone is a recipe for your death.

Amicia does have a slingshot and she is a very good shot (as long as you are as you control her targeting and letting go of the stone) but unless she can get a direct and powerful headshot, which might kill or knock out the target, she is better to aim away in another direction and hope the noise distracts them and gives them cause to go seek out the cause of the noise. During the short, but just long enough, period the guard (or distraction target) is out of the way of Amicia and Hugo's journey you should be able to sneak through without alerting them. If you take too long or allow them to see you (Amicia) then death is virtually instant and most certainly violent. You will resurrect in a few seconds at the start or if preferred the last checkpoint/save. 

 

The journey you are on is long and fraught with danger, often bloody and gory and surprisingly swift.

My experience of playing suggests that this is a trial & error game whereby you continually move, act and die, eventually opening the direction you need to move in or where you need to hide. Piece by piece, death by death, you can build up the route required. It should become easier but sometimes because you anticipate where you need to go it is easy to turn too quickly and miss the turn and hit the wall before sliding along into the correct route - mostly when you make any error you are caught by the chasers and killed. Blood spatters upwards but the actual act of violent death is not shown. The gore and blood is certainly in your face but in an arty fashion.

 

I have tried adjusting the controls but cannot seem to make the movement and/or dodging any smoother so I am unsure whether this is a game hiccup or just specific to my playing and controller. One fumble in movement, one attempt to fight, your game is over. Discretion and stealth are you only really true friends, although there are a few onscreen NPCs who are willing to get in the way of the INQUISITION at times to offer true aid.

Folk who put themselves out to help you are often subjected to the full force of the Inquisition. Amicia soon realises that the hordes of rats are afraid of fire and that they can be manipulated and turned into the path of her adversaries giving her and Hugo time to move on. Throughout this adventure you slowly get some perception that Hugo may not be quite the innocent you first thought, this may be your first indication.

During play you will control Amicia most of the time but for short periods of time she will be automatically 'busy doing something' and this is when Hugo requires your attention and skills. Controlling him may comparably use the same actual disciplines as controlling Amicia but there are differences in his actions to hers, he can be more fun in a 'pleasantly evil' sort of way.

 

I have a long way to go in this game because I keep getting stuck in loops - I run, I dodge, I die, wash-rinse-repeat. I have to keep taking breaks from it and go back afresh, like doing a Crossword when a word will not release itself from your inner thought process so you walk away and then come back to it later and it just clicks. Approaching it without having been concentrating for a long while previously (ie not tired) generally allows me to manouevre past any obstacle (usually the 'obstacle' is a group of armed assailants - the Inquisition?) and onto the next puzzle.

 

Plague, rats, the inquisition, special blood, unusual powers, heroism, thieving, armed adversaries, puzzles and even a duel (of sorts) await the players of this atmospheric adventure. It falls a little short of being of the full-on action-adventure genre seeing as there are more puzzles and manouevres than combative action.

Graphically the characters often appear like those seen in oil paintings, pastel shades and skins of aenemic pallor, which with the often dark and dingy streets and inner buildings completes the 14th Century atmosphere exceptionally well. The voice acting is very good.

A PLAGUE TALE: INNOCENCE is a game full of bamboozling challenges, stealthy dexterity and thoughtful actions. There are a myriad games of similar genre as this one, but only a very few that come even close to the way players can be drawn into having empathy with the characters under their control. I truly enjoy the thrill of the chase and the escape from the scything blades, even though I am forever trapping myself against a wall or in a cul-de-sac by my poor dexterity.

I am happy to say to you, dear reader, that if your want is dark mysterious exploits into semi-supernatural experiences then there is little need to look afar.

© Chris Baylis 2011-2015