Asobo Studio arrives with arrogance in the autumn window of the videogame market with its A Plague Tale: Requiem, sequel to the already acclaimed title that had prompted a large part of the critics and the public to look with curiosity and admiration at the work done by the French team, supported by Focus Entertainment . We say with arrogance because in recent years the Bordeaux team has definitely been able to put the accelerator on their productions, after dedicating themselves for an entire life to matrix tie-ins Disney e Pixar. With the releases of A Plague Tale: Innocence e Microsoft Flight Simulator, however, Asobo Studio has made sure that the bull's eye moves in its direction, prompting us to look closely at the events of Requiem, released on October 18 on consoles and PC. We'll tell you about it now in detail.
A Plague Tale: Requiem: The plague that struck Provence
It is 1349 and, without going too far into the narrative context with the risk of delivering some spoilers, Hugo De Rune and Amicia flee their hometown, a land devastated by war, rats and the Inquisition. Very little has passed since the end of the previous chapter, set in France and in 1348, therefore a year before, at the height of the Hundred Years War. We had left the two brothers in a position to be able to start a new life, put behind them the plague that was so gripping not only the population, but Hugo himself. The Macula, that supernatural power lay dormant in the blood of some noble families, begins to be preponderant and cumbersome in the head of the little boy, who, despite having learned to maneuver the rats that infest the city, has to deal with the hatred that spreads among the people towards him.
Now, as they cross Provence, the hope, also shared with Beatrice and Lucas, is to find not only some peace, but also a solution to the Macula. In this setting, different from the harrowing Aquitaine war, we are going to denote even more the contrast that lives between the oppressive reality of the Middle Ages, especially in the period of the Inquisition, and what Provence has always been able to offer with its unexplored environments and fascinating at the same time, faithfully reconstructed also thanks to the consultancy of medieval historians, led by Roxane Chila. Over the course of about fifteen hours, a few more than Innocence, we will go once again to dissect, with Amicia's parsimonious exploration activity, the meanderings of an era far away from us, but which has never ceased to exist close in the manners and roughness of the people.
The thirst for revenge of the De Rune brothers
Gameplay-wise, The Plague Tale: Requiem resumes what were the stylistic features of its predecessor, relying on that continuous fidelity that could not distort the adventure in a few months of transition from Innocente to its sequel. Amicia has certainly become more aggressive, also the daughter of the experience lived at the end of the first adventure of the De Rune brothers, and this helped us in the early stages of the game, when stealth didn't provide much support. If on the one hand, therefore, the Asobo Studio team has focused heavily on sneaking and assaulting our enemies from behind, on the other hand we have been given full freedom in the process of building our future.
Initially armed only with stones and mortars, we discovered that a blow to the head of our opponent could be fatal, as well as that although enemies equipped with helmets were not able to fall to the ground stunned we could have stunned them for a few seconds, necessary to run after them. Variegated approaches, which do not force us to follow a specific direction, much less to feel bound to a track prepared by the development team. The variety also increases as you progress through the game, because beyond some weapons that we're going to unlock, including a crossbow or even knives, we will also activate our alchemical skills.
Amicia, on the other hand, does not want to be less than her brother Hugo and her crafting dial will gradually fill up with artifacts that at first glance might seem magical, but in reality they are just excellent alchemist combinations. From what will be simple but effective incendiary bombs, useful for keeping away the rats that populate Provence, we will move on to smoke bombs to obscure the light sources, as well as a slime capable of slowing down movement of opposing enemies for a few seconds. An aspect that has helped both in giving more depth to the gameplay, but which at the same time has allowed me to appreciate the work done with the environmental puzzles.
A Plague Tale Requiem: the spaces of Provence
All the environments and places of Requiem are in fact larger than Innocence and allow for a much more refined and complex study of the enigma. Where, moreover, Ignifer and Extinguis, the two alchemical matrices available to Amicia, were not enough, Asobo Studio put in the tar, material capable of increasing the radius of light sources and which can also be used to set fire to our opponents. In this case, however, as always, it will be necessary to take into account the noise that these will produce when they are hit.
On the other hand, approaching A Plague Tale: Requiem in stealth mode requires great attention, especially until you will not unlock Hugo's Echo ability, which will allow you to reveal the location of enemies through walls. Available from about mid-game onwards, I perceived it as a sort of reward for having managed to survive up to that point without the help of a map or any environmental support: a decidedly exaggerated realism, which increased at various times and points of the adventure the difficulty, which, however, has also been mitigated by other important changes.
Indeed, compared to its predecessor, Amicia now doesn't fall stunned at the first blow, but can fight back and above all run away to regain the state of stealth. What struck me least about this new mechanic is the fact that our protagonist has to take the first blow and fall disastrously to the ground before being able to reply: a cumbersomeness that could have been avoided by allowing me to dodge the first opponent's assault. At the same time the stealth sessions have been made difficult and tiring by the extreme attention of the enemies, able to find us even if well hidden under a table at floor height. Above all for this reason, in some sections the stealth offer seemed avoidable to me and I preferred to run to the goal dodging the enemy's blows wherever possible.
This excessive power of AI is sensationally lost when we find ourselves facing our opponents. In the early stages of the game, above all, armed with a slingshot we managed to get the better of those who could have knocked us down from a distance with a spear. I expect that it has sharpened in the battles against the bosses, which I have preferred to elide from this analysis so as not to spoil the experience of facing these human armor that will torture us in their respective arenas. A flaw that, in any case, it does not undermine the overall experience of A Plague Tale: Requiem, able to give an experience that is loudly exalted from a visual point of view.
Among the innovations that I have just mentioned from the point of view of the weapons available to Amicia there is certainly the crossbow, at our disposal to knock down our opponents, even armored ones, with a single shot. It must be said that her deadly being is counterbalanced by the shortage of darts available in the scenarios, but in different situations, once recovered, she will be able to prove herself adequate. Furthermore, in the advanced stages of the game, as already told by those who have had the opportunity to try the game in preview compared to the release, you will be joined by a muscular ally of Hugo able to carry out the orders that will be given to him. Arnaud, in fact, as well as Lucas in the early stages of the game, can perform actions that Amicia will indicate to him, so as to also exploit the component that concerns almost never being alone during exploration and combat.
Therefore, before moving on to analyze the technical aspect, a last mention should certainly be used for the power of Hugo, who risked, especially now that it appears to be more possible for the boy to master, of turning out to be OP. First of all, the power cannot be used for too long, just as the mice can only be enslaved if placed at a short distance from Hugo, who will not always be able to reach them easily. At the same time aKitty will be able to use the rats to her advantage, trying to manipulate them and throw them at opponents on duty. A mechanic that represents that heart of the novelties that Asobo Studio wanted to offer to the videogame landscape and that I'm sure you will be able to appreciate, musophobia aside.
In closing we come to the considerations on the technical aspect. Graphically we are faced with a wonderful work, capable of giving us truly fascinating settings, especially when I found myself walking inside the market in the first citadel where we decided to stop. The colors of Provence are enhanced and create that contrast that Hugo himself highlights in saying that there people are not afraid of the bad things that are happening. Between an always precise lighting and a construction of the environments capable of making us travel back in time to the 1300s, A Plague Tale confirms itself as a title with a high production value.
Furthermore, the version I tested, on PC, it didn't have ray tracing yet, which will only be added at game launch. This means that the final experience for the user will be able to benefit even more from light effects and reflections capable of getting ever closer to realism. All enriched with excellent dubbing - beyond perhaps Hugo, who, as in Innocence, continues to be annoying after a few lines of dialogue - and an engaging soundtrack and well thought out sound design to adapt to every moment and sequence.
appear on the screen up to 300 rats, many more than the 5 that were offered to us in 2019, also going to increase their intelligence, with a more coordinated movement and also able to climb some surfaces, to Amicia's great surprise, to escape the sources of light. The evolution from a technical point of view is also enhanced in the faces of the two protagonists, because if on the one hand Amicia has an outfit that leads back to a great warrior, in contrast to Innocence, Hugo finds himself heartbroken and contrite by what is happening to him : his face speaks even when his mouth doesn't and that psychological impact and trauma that he experienced in the previous adventure take hold in those moral scars that the boy carries around.