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A Plague Tale: Requiem dials up the horror of the rats, but shows restraint in its approach to violence


When we last saw Amisia and Hugo de Run at the end Plague Story: Innocence back in 2019, things got better for the orphaned rat fighters. They escaped the clutches of the French Inquisition and the hordes of plague rats that were after them, and the pair hoped to find a cure for the cursed taint running through Hugo’s veins.

Alas, as I take their journey in the sixth chapter of the upcoming sequel Asobo, Plague Tale: Requiem, Amitsia is going through a particularly terrible time. Not only does she have an open gash on her head that makes her unsteady on her feet, but there are rumors in the nearby pilgrim camp that something bad happened in the last town they passed through. Just something that’s hard to tell with the five-chapter context missing from my previous build, but a pack of guards following the siblings’ trail quickly makes it clear: several people have died in that town, and they’re pointing the finger right at the knife, the slingshot and Amitia’s crossbow.

As you’d expect from a sequel, Amissia has a lot more tools at her disposal than she did fighting the Inquisition back in Innocence. In addition to the two new weapons she packs along with her trusty slingshot, she’s gained more in-depth knowledge of what she can do with them, such as backstabbing enemies if she can get close enough and resisting grabs and a throw with a gap. creating hits. She could probably make a great apprentice to someone like Eivar or Corvo with the right training, but thankfully there’s still some rawness in her demeanor (not to mention poor little Hugo still clinging to her arm) , which makes these new eliminations look like a last resort.

The name of the game in A Plague Tale: Requiem is probably still stealthy, but the frequency of shiny things clinking noisily from your slingshot has been greatly reduced – at least from what I saw during the two-and-a-half-hour demo. They were replaced by slow and steady crawls across long stretches of grass, ducking behind waist-high barriers and twisting under wheels and rock crevices to slip past patrols undetected. All in all pretty standard stuff, but the way it’s presented feels a lot more natural, like you’re actively choosing your route through these protected danger zones rather than following a trail of shiny images.

The ability to distract unsuspecting enemies with rocks and pots remains, of course, but Amisia has at least learned to use the latter better. Instead of simply using them as a distraction tool in Requiem, she can now imbue them with the same alchemical recipes previously assigned to her slingshot, creating wider and more powerful areas of effect for her lighting Ignifers and rat-drawing Odoris crystals. Most of these alchemy tricks will be familiar to Innocence players, but it’s nice to see so many of them already unlocked, as Odoris crystals in particular were a real late-game addition in the predecessor, Requiem. There’s even a brand new one on display, tar that sizzles and burns on contact with an open flame and can be used to wreak havoc on heavily armored soldiers with torches, as we’ll soon see for ourselves in one of Requiem’s ​​close-quarters boss battles.

With a spare knife on hand, Amisia can one-hit enemies for silent destruction – as long as no one else catches her in the act.

Making his way through the abandoned quarry – Art the same one that was shown at E3 by Microsoft and Bethesda a couple of months ago – a huge big giant blocked our way. Rocks and crossbow bolts are useless against his thick armor plates, but that fireball and chain he’s wearing? Now we can work with. I shoot the flames with resin from Amicia’s slingshot, and the blast stuns him for a few precious moments, long enough for him to stay behind and fire the latch that holds his armor. Again, it’s a similar trick to how we had our first battle at the beginning of Innocence, but here the tight, claustrophobic arena and the sheer scale of this screen-grabbing metal man casts those familiar moves into a new, more dangerous light . With his armor ripped away, all that’s left is to drive a tarred crossbow arrow straight into his chest, which also ignites in such a cruel and painful way that I cringe. Maybe it was a little unnecessary, tar bolt. Maybe regular would be better.

It seems the development team doesn’t want Amissia to become another Ellie in Requiem, immune to the horrors she inflicts on others.

Indeed, the damage these deaths are doing to Amicia’s well-being is perhaps greater than ever. The first game drew several comparisons to Naughty Dog The last of us, the development team doesn’t seem to want Amissia to be just another Ellie in Requiem, immune to the horrors she inflicts on others, and you see that discussion unfold through the stilted and complicated conversations she has with her brother Hugo. He’s still a wide-eyed child compared to his battle-hardened sister, but he’s also not as innocent as he once was, and the more questions he asks about what happened – both in the city and to all those soldiers behind them tail – the harder Amisia has to work to justify its actions.

This conversation also carries over into the next chapter of my preview build, revealing that Requiem, as you might have guessed from its subtitle, will take a more reflective, celebratory tone towards the increasing level of violence. This is something Hugo also has to reckon with as his macula induced rat powers begin to mature. For example, a new ability he gains in his career allows him to sense the blood flowing in the veins of nearby enemies, giving him Batman-like detective vision to help them identify threats.

A young girl prepares to throw a flaming pillar into a cave
Pots can now be filled with Amicia’s alchemical recipes, which help create more paths through rats hiding in the dark.

Another allows Hugo to go full rat, allowing him to command the horde directly through a first-person perspective to gobble up any guard foolish enough to leave without a lantern. It’s terrifying, but wonderful – although this long-awaited fantasy of power also comes at a price. The first few times when Hugo needs to take control of the rats to protect Amisia, who is becoming more and more intoxicated, you can do so freely as much as you like, spinning and careening around the environment in your screaming wave of death. But just as Amisia yells for Hugo not to get lost in his own nightmare, the tiny guy becomes startled and ends up unleashing a veritable tidal wave of rats that threaten to devour not only him, but the injured sister he’s trying to protect as well.

From now on, Hugo has a stress meter that you’ll need to take into account when using his abilities, creating another obstacle that prevents players from dipping into rat form too often. Some might argue what’s the point of adding new abilities if the game doesn’t want us to use them, but personally I think that restraint is far preferable to a pointless Last Of Us or Assassin’s Creed style kill fest. Having these kinds of limitations makes each use of these powers more significant than your other normal abilities, and the fact that they’re bone-crunchingly terrifying to perform also emphasizes the severity of their effects. These are unpleasant and unsatisfactory means to an end. Effective, yes, but they definitely don’t sit easily.

A swarm of rats approaches a soldier from behind in Requiem for a Plague Tale.
Riding the rat wave in first person has a real visceral pulse.

A soldier was eaten by a tidal wave of rats on the beach in A Plague Tale Requiem
Seeing that wave engulf a person in three seconds is…something else.

However, like Innocence, Requiem knows when to get off its moral high horse and give players a reprieve from the growing direness of Hugo and Amissia’s situation. Amisia’s somewhat exhausted state in these demo chapters meant there weren’t many moments for light-hearted frivolity, but Person still managed to work with them to ease the tension. Besides his great interest in flowers, Hugo now takes special pleasure in collecting the feathers of stray birds, and his childlike joy and curiosity remain intact amidst the chaos. He can still be a bit of a brat at times, much to Amisia’s dismay, but he remains a playful little grandpa that you want to protect. The game itself is also infinitely richer and more colorful to the eye, and even the bleak, stormy, rain-drenched coastline they sneak through towards the end of my demo is punctuated by flashes of the yellow, white, and red garb worn by guards in the distance.

Accompanying them on this airy beach is the novice Arno, a lone knight on the run who has apparently had a falling out with Amisia (and may have given her that nasty head wound that has caused her so much trouble). When he’s around, tempers are always on edge, but eventually even Amisia sees that he’s quite a capable Hugo handler when her efforts to rein in her over-excited brother prove futile. During this second (or rather seventh) chapter, they enter into a complex alliance, and after a particularly unpleasant encounter with a swarm of rats in an infested sea bay, Arno agrees to fight alongside them and share the brunt of the battle. He’s basically a bigger, badder version of Rodrik from the first plague tale, able to fight soldiers on his own with a sword and shield, and act as a handy puzzle crank when Amisia is needed elsewhere for platforming.

A group of characters talk in a cave in A Plague Tale Requiem
Arno is a prickly presence in the seventh chapter of Requiem, but he knows a handy pirate whose boat can take them to the island Hugo dreamed of to help them find a cure for his rat powers.

Again, this is all very much like Innocence. But Arno quickly shows that he’s much more than just another hole in Rodrik’s mold to be managed as Amicia pleases. For starters, he’s a grown man and a very efficient killing machine, providing a well-observed foil for Amicia in her brother’s eyes. In the end, the knight is romantic, brave and daring, but will Hugo ever be able to match Arnaud’s actions with those of his sister? During my demo, there seemed to be hints of a few cogs spinning behind his wide, saucer-like eyes, but whether Requiem will push that point further remains to be seen. I hope so, because everything else I saw in my demo points to a team that cared a lot about how these characters matured throughout their journey. It would be a shame if Asobo didn’t interrogate these themes further in the later chapters of Requiem, and it would be an absolute travesty if these strong foundations ended up being nothing more than a prelude to an Assassin’s Creed knockoff. I mean, the first game ended with you fighting a rat dad, so it’s not out of the question is what I’m saying.

That said, I hope Asobo delivers on what they’ve shown here in these (probably) middle chapters of A Plague Tale: Requiem. It’s got everything you could want from a capable sequel – a wider variety of powers that build effectively on what came before, and enough twists and ripples in familiar beats to keep it feeling new and challenging. Heck, they’ve even tidied up the mastery menu and added a Skyrim-esque skill set that unlocks additional perks and buffs simply by performing an action repeatedly, rewarding stealth and aggressive playstyles in equal measure. In other words, it’s a textbook sequel, and I’m excited to see what lies beyond those turbulent waters when A Plague Tale: Requiem launches in full on October 18.

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