Review – A Plague Tale: Requiem
I think I speak for everyone who has previously beaten A Plague Tale: Innocence that a sequel was more than warranted. It’s not like the first game ended on a massive cliffhanger, but there was enough room for a sequel to be created in case the first game became a success, which it did. At the same time, the fear of a sequel not being as impactful, just reusing tense moments and enemies from the first game, was real. I was excited for A Plague Tale: Requiem, but was also a bit worried. It had to build upon its predecessor, it couldn’t be just more of the same. And it isn’t. I don’t think A Plague Tale: Requiem is better than Innocence, given how much of a pleasant surprise the first game was, but it’s a worthy sequel, and one hell of a feat for Asobo Studio.
A Plague Tale: Requiem takes place six months after the conclusion of its predecessor. We still play as Amicia de Rune, whose family is still seeking for a way to cure her younger brother, Hugo, from a curse/disease that makes him the prime target of the Holy Inquisition, mercenaries, and other foes, such as the now staple hordes of rats spreading the Black Plague throughout medieval Europe. Her family’s journey takes her to sunnier, more open, but no less lethal parts of Southern France, where a mysterious alchemical organization may possibly have a way to cure Hugo from what’s tarnishing him.
The game as a whole is still a linear action-adventure with stealth elements and slight bits of horror sprinkled throughout its lengthy runtime. In theory, yes, it does sound generic. A Plague Tale: Requiem is yet another member of a squadron of mechanically uninventive high-budget titles that try to appeal to a wide audience by having a bit of everything (in shallow quantities) in its core gameplay loop. Yet, unlike other examples, such as Marvel’s Avengers or the Tomb Raider reboot games, A Plague Tale: Requiem did not bore me. On the contrary, I was hooked the second the game started. It knew how to captivate me due to a handful of really strong features.
First let’s discuss its technical prowess. A Plague Tale: Requiem is stupidly gorgeous, one of the prettiest games I have ever played on a console. Truly mesmerizing from the moment the game starts, all thanks to the sunnier, brighter, more colorful locales you’re told to explore. That being said, I was somewhat disappointed at first. The game is capped at 30fps, without an option to toggle between a performance or visual modes. Not to mention the fact I still noticed a few hiccups here and there.
It was saddening at first, as the new generation of consoles was basically spoiling me with some games even managing to run at 120fps at times, but then the damn rats showed up. Thousands of them. And when I say thousands, I legitimately mean thousands. Maybe hundreds of thousands of them at once. I finally understood the technical shortcomings: rendering so many independent assets onscreen at once is something that might fry the biggest and most unnecessary of GPUs. A Plague Tale: Requiem would bombard me with around two thousand rats chasing me down at once, and it would still run respectably. That alone is worth praising. I knew Asobo wouldn’t disappoint in this regard.
The second high point is the sound design. The first Plague Tale game was already remarkable in this regard, and its sequel doesn’t disappoint either. The soundtrack is still sublime, especially whenever the rats show up and the music becomes glitchy and unsettling, and the voice acting is a thing to behold. Everyone delivers their A-game. Just like other games set in France, I do think an option for French voice acting would make it more realistic, but unlike, say, Steelrising, A Plague Tale: Requiem doesn’t try to sound cartoonishly French, with cockney people shoving a “sacre bleu” or “mon dieu” in their sentences every five seconds.
That ties directly to what I liked the most about this game in particular: Amicia herself. A Plague Tale: Requiem takes inspiration from The Last of Us Part II when it comes to exploring the psychological deterioration a person suffers when being a runaway during the deadliest pandemic in the history of mankind. Amicia is angry. She is done running away. There are times when she completely snaps and decides to bring the thunder towards her enemies instead of simply running away.
Not only is she able to withstand more than one enemy blow before dying, but she has a wider array of “ways to get rid of people bothering her”, to put it mildly. Throwing a fire-diminishing bomb on a foe holding a torch, just to see an army of rats eating him alive, is both gruesome and epic. You almost feel like you’re losing your mind alongside the protagonist. That is exacerbated when you acquire a crossbow, which allows you to kill enemies wearing helmets. You do feel like the harbinger of death when you start piling bodies. Granted, the game doesn’t want you to be a murderous psychopath, and it will judge you whenever it has the time to do so.
I didn’t particularly care. I did, however, care about the game basically locking me away from unlocking certain abilities from its small skill tree, as they are all tied to how you act during these setpieces. If you go full aggro, you will unlock aggro skills. If you decide to be stealthy, you will improve your stealth abilities. I didn’t like being judged, but I do respect the hell out of this decision. Very few games do the whole “your actions have consequences” schtick like A Plague Tale: Requiem does, and I commend it for it.
I do have a small gripe with the controls, however, namely due to the more aggressive nature of the game itself. There are moments when A Plague Tale: Requiem basically becomes an arena shooter, with you being forced to deal with hordes of foes in a small environment. The problem lies on earlier sections where you’re forced to do so, when all you have at your disposal is a god damn sling, which has a somewhat lengthy “aiming-and-shooting” animation. Enemies, on the other hand, do not have lengthy attack animations. You’re told to have twitch-like reflexes in these sections, yet your playable character is hindered by these long, elaborate animations. Granted (and thankfully), those are few and between, so they didn’t annoy me that much at the end of the day.
I’m really glad that A Plague Tale: Requiem managed to overcome the burden of sequelitis and shine as a worthy successor to the fantastic Innocence. Sure, its predecessor was a bit more impactful due to it just dropping from out of nowhere, but Requiem manages to exist alongside it by amping up the tension and psychological aspects of its story. The controls and gameplay loop are par for the course for an “action-adventure with stealth elements”, but I did appreciate its more aggressive nature. Not to mention its beautiful visuals and tense-as-hell rat-infested sections. It’s a story worth experiencing, and a fantastic game for next-gen machines.
It’s one of the prettiest games I’ve ever played, but it’s locked at 30fps, sometimes dipping below that. It was disappointing at first, until I saw the sheer amount of rats being rendered onscreen at once, then it all made sense.
The controls and gameplay loop are par for the course for an “action-adventure with stealth elements”. I appreciate the ability to be more aggressive towards foes, but said method requires twitch-like reflexes that go against the control scheme given to you.
It would deserve a 10 for the voice acting alone (even though everyone sounds excessively cockney in this recreation of France), but then the soundtrack kicks in, especially when the rats arrive, and tension is taken to new heights.
Fun Factor: 9.0
A Plague Tale: Requiem manages to exist alongside its more impactful predecessor by amping up the tension and psychological aspects of its story. Its new gameplay improvements are minute in the grand scheme of things, but absolutely welcoming.
Final Verdict: 9.0
A Plague Tale: Requiem is available now on PS5, Xbox Series S/X, PC ,and Nintendo Switch (via cloud).
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of A Plague Tale: Requiem was provided by the publisher.