Released last year, A Plague Tale: Innocence is still relatively new. It did not get the press some of the bigger titles did, which is probably why this stealth-action game is often referred to as just “the rat game.”
Editor’s Note: This article mentions the early-game plot but no major late-game spoilers.
Set in 14th-century France during the Bubonic plague, ravenous rats are to be expected. However, this game’s bread and butter are its fully realized characters. You play in the third person as Amicia, a young girl of noble descent. After the English Army invades her town during the Hundred Years’ War and destroys her home, Amicia is forced to flee with her little brother Hugo, who has been afflicted with a mysterious illness since birth.
Complex relationships in a complex world
Tragedy sends these siblings, hand in hand, into a plague-ravished world as they search for an elixir to cure Hugo. Along the way, several minor characters are introduced, all of whom are children themselves. There are no adult heroes here. Instead, Amicia, Hugo, and a group of misfit kids struggle to save an apocalyptic world – and each other.
During gameplay, Hugo is essentially defenseless and Amicia must protect him. Although she is only armed with a slingshot, unlockable alchemical ammunition is made available as the story progresses. Considering fighting is not a strength for either character, players must learn to navigate puzzles with a stealth approach. Fire deters rat swarms, so most puzzles involve moving torches to different areas of the map to create safe passage.
I did not want my first playthrough to end. The cinematics are gorgeous. The atmosphere emits an enchanting aura, despite its grim setting. Although gameplay involves mostly linear paths, it still offers plenty of room for exploring, and I suggest doing just that. Make sure to check out the farm animals, the various rooms of buildings, and the overgrown banks of rivers. Not only will you come across various collectibles and alchemy ingredients, but the details in this game will astound you.
This is Asobo Studio’s first original title since their 2009 racing game Fuel. Crediting their inspiration to narrative-heavy games like The Last of Us, Asobo has created a unique game that blurs the lines of history and fantasy. A Plague Tale: Innocence achieves its goal of tugging on heartstrings and bringing grown adults to tears through vivid storytelling. Unique characters feel fresh rather than run-of-the-mill clichés. Not to mention, the growing relationship between distant siblings is a theme we see little of in today’s adventure games that tend to focus on action rather than substance.
Hitting the milestone of one million copies sold in July 2020, A Plague Tale: Innocence even managed to snag a few awards along the way, such as the Steam Awards for Outstanding Story-Rich Game. One of the best single-player games of 2019, A Plague Tales: Innocence is not just the “rat game” but an underrated solo adventure for fans of character-driven stories.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is available on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. It is currently free for Xbox Game Pass subscribers.
Looking for more story-heavy games? Check out these narrative-driven video games.