MORE RATS THAN YOU CAN SHAKE A BURNING STICK AT.
A Plague Tale: Innocence (or “Plague Tale” as I will conveniently call it for the rest of the review, SEO be damned) is a gripping Naughty-Dog-esque story-focused game by developers “Asobo Studio”, who – bizarrely – worked on Microsoft Flight Simulator but also – perhaps more memorably – they’re developers behind the Xbox One Exclusive, “Quantum Break”.
Plague Tale Review
The game sees it’s protagonist Amicia and her younger brother Hugo survive plague-stricken France during the mid-1300s. Throughout their journey, they will uncover the secrets and mysteries of their noble family’s past and face daunting trials while avoiding the Inquisition and fighting back hordes of blood-thirsty rats.
And when I say “hordes”, boy do I mean it. I have no idea how these guys got so many rats on-screen all at once while still making the game look as graphically marvellous as it does. Sure, it’s no God of War or Uncharted 4, but man, this game really looks great. Their use of lighting, in particular, is really effective.
The story is a steep and slippery slope into spoiler-town and I don’t want to ruin anything for you as it really does have a fantastic story with some really great moments which you should experience for yourself, but the great thing about this game is that it’s not just a story on wheels, there’s a really solid puzzle mechanic which is consistently present throughout the game and keeps you on your toes;
I know I already said it, but I’m going to say it again. Holy cow, there are a lot of rats in the game. There will literally be thousands on-screen at a time. If these rats touch you, you’re bonemeal. Within seconds they will swarm and engulf Amicia if she so much as dips her toe in the plentiful pools of fur and red eyes which bare their incisors throughout many of the game’s stages.
So how could anyone possibly survive, right?
Well, that’s where things get interesting. They don’t like the light. They typically live underground and burrow through the earth (not very rat-like, I suppose, but as you’ll learn they aren’t your typical rat) popping out of the ground to attack villagers and animals all across France.
So, naturally, they won’t go near daylight, can still be found in basements or cellars and won’t go near an open flame. Using this wonderful fact, you can carve a path for Amicia through the story by using fire, daylight and even a very well-built alchemy system to ward off and – in some cases – eviscerate the rats.
At multiple points in the game your goal of getting from point A to point B will be hindered by the presence of these rats (have I said rats enough yet? It’s starting to look weird…) and you’ll need to use the environment to solve a puzzle, often very satisfying and sometimes intense.
Stealth also plays a large role in the game. Being just a young girl, Amicia doesn’t stand much of a chance in one-on-one combat with a knight of the inquisition, but she does have a trusty sling which was given to her by her father and she’s light on her toes.
When you’re not warding off rats you’ll often be avoiding the Inquisition, using alchemy and the sling (an incredibly gratifying weapon by the way) to distract and often even kill them.
And if you’re not doing either, then you’re probably doing both. Some of the greatest moments in the game come from using your wits to get inquisition guards eaten by the rats. For example, some guards carry glass lanterns to keep the rats at bay, but by breaking them with your sling you open them up to a whole world of pain.
All in all the game’s chapters amount to a fun, simple adventure through a captivating story filled with clever puzzles and I enjoyed it end-to-end.
If I had to think of a complaint about the game, I have three.
Firstly, often when there’s no nearby action in the game, the characters dry up completely, and they just stand there like planks waiting for the next interaction, it kills the immersion pretty quickly as you suddenly become very aware that you’re just looking at 3D models.
Secondly, they leave a lot of questions unanswered by the end of the game. A lot of things the rats do within the final few chapters of the game are confusing and seem to be leading up to a bigger reveal but ultimately it’s never explained.
And lastly, Amicia has a smudge of blood on her nose for the entire game and I don’t have a clue why. Sometimes entire weeks will pass between chapters and lo and behold, there’s Amicia, still with that smudge on her nose.
It’s not a deal-breaker by any means but it did admittedly bother me a little.
My Plague Tale Platinum Trophy Experience
When I started my playthrough I had the advantage of a bit of advice from MrZhangetsu, who had just completed his playthrough.
He told me there were two trophies which prove difficult to get in the same playthrough and that in order to get them both with the minimum amount of time spent on a second playthrough I should hoard upgrade materials like they’re rare Pokemon cards and focus on upgrading Equipment first.
With that in mind, I played through the game, keeping my eyes widely peeled for upgrade materials and collectables, focusing on upgrading the equipment.
By around chapter 12, I had all equipment upgrades and 2 out of 6 sling upgrades (you’re forced to buy the first one and I got the second one early on by accident). I had convinced myself that by the end of the game I absolutely could finish all the upgrades in a single run.
I was wrong.
When I finished the game I only needed one more sling upgrade and had only missed 2 collectables, a gift in the first chapter and a curiosity in the 3rd chapter.
Naturally, I used chapter select to go into the first and third chapters for those missing collectables and then began a partial playthrough of the game from Chapter 10.
I did this because the game remembers which upgrades and materials you had at the start of that chapter the last time you played it and at chapter 10 I had all of the storage upgrades, which are vital for being able to carry enough materials for some of the sling upgrades.
From there on, I just played as normal, a little bit faster as I’d done it before and knew all the puzzle solutions and material locations from my first playthrough. It took around 2 hours to get far enough to get that last upgrade where I finally platted the game.
It was a fun and simple plat, so long as you’re vigilant about collectables and materials, otherwise you can make things really hard for yourself.
I’d say it took me around 13 hours in total to platinum and was certainly worth the time. I actually kind of wish it was a longer game because it really was great fun and I was really drawn into the story.
Plague Tale Trophy Tips and Tricks
As I already stated, you’re going to want to be very careful with collectables and upgrade materials. No trophies are missable because you can use chapter select, but you can almost double your time-to-plat by not managing resources and keeping your eye out for collectables.
The two upgrade trophies are as follows:
Not a toy anymore
Fully upgrade the sling
Handful of pockets
Fully upgrade the equipment
There are a few alchemical munitions you can make which require Fabric and Leather. Avoid these wherever you can. There is almost always an alternative solution which will allow you to avoid using things like Luminosa.
In situations where these ammunitions are the only way to proceed, then look around because the game will give you back the leather or fabric you used somewhere nearby. For example, most Alechmist carts can’t be reached without Luminosa, but you’ll always find replacement leather inside the cart.
It’s good to note, too, that if you need to go back to a previous level to get a collectable, you can quit back to the main menu once you have it, as it will save the fact you got it without you finishing the level.
The rest of the trophies are simple, there is just one more tip to give you though, for this trophy:
Stay with the Captain
This one is pretty misleading. You need to get through some doors which Captain Nicholas passes through in Chapter 14 before he can close them, staying with him will usually result in you getting shut out and having to take the long way. If you go ahead of him, though, and get through the doors before him you can slip under a cart near the door and wait for him to catch up, causing the trophy to pop.
Again, make sure you explore everywhere. You’ll not only find collectables and materials but also sometimes trophy locations such as the Blacksmith’s forge. Abuse the “Reload Checkpoint” option too.
If you waste resources by accident or realise you didn’t actually need to use Luminosa for a certain part or figure out a way you could have got a misc trophy, reload the checkpoint and try again. There’s nothing to lose as the game checkpoints frequently. You just need to hope your checkpoint isn’t so far into the level that you can’t get back to what you need.