By Ronald Gordon
A plague isn’t truly a plague until the death toll keeps climbing and sickness continues to spread, raising the question: how far can we be pushed in the name of family? How much are we willing to sacrifice for those we love? Or in the case of Amicia De Rune, how much is she willing to destroy?
A Plague Tale: Requiem is an Action/Adventure game with survival horror aspects and lots of stealth. A sequel to A Plague Tale: Innocence developed and published by the same companies of Asobo Studio and Focus Home Interactive, Requiem follows the familiar protagonist Amicia as she journeys to find a cure for Hugo’s Macula, the vicious illness that links his emotions and health to the rats. The macula is only growing worse as the time passes, as too are the rats and the ever-increasing plague they bring. Yet Amicia keeps her hopes up as she wades through hordes of vermin and mercenaries while battling to keep her own mind from succumbing to the years of running and the bloodshed she’s been a part of.
The gameplay in Requiem is similar to Innocence in terms of mechanics, but also vastly upgraded. The combat in the first game revolved around Amicia’s sling and what she could do with it, encouraging you to choose a stealthier approach rather than an upfront method. Requiem gives you more choice in the matter by showing you that combat is unavoidable in some situations. But you’ll always be prepared for it. Amicia’s skills are further enhanced as you utilize her three new methods of combat: Stealth, Aggressiveness and Alchemy. Each one automatically increases as you undertake certain actions, rewarding you for playing the way you feel is right by giving you newer and better abilities to use as you go along. Being stealthy like a shadow grants you more powers like quieter footsteps or less noise from your Sling while being aggressive grants you more resilience to damage and the ability to push enemies into hazards. And magically, using alchemy lets you craft items faster and with more efficient use of resources.
I loved the evolution of Amicia’s character during the game because it sheds a light on how traumatic fighting through a plague can be. In Innocence, she couldn’t take even the slightest bit of damage or else it’s game over, and you really had to stay on your toes to make it through a difficult challenge. But in Requiem, Amicia throws caution and kindness to the wind in response to the world continuing to threaten her and her family. She begins to wield knives as a last resort, she learns to use her sling to choke out and kill tougher opponents, and she even gets a crossbow to employ against armored foes later in the game. While it’s satisfying to see her becoming more ruthless, Requiem makes it very apparent that this change hurts not only Amicia but the people around her. She gets into arguments with her friends, becomes more defensive around Hugo, and even experiences multiple panic attacks. I’m enthralled with this new side of Amicia and how her enraged or panicked thoughts begin to impact the story and the other characters, and I can’t wait to see more as I continue through the story.
What makes this change more engaging is the way the characters react to Amicia’s spike in aggression. She comes to blows with her mother who tries desperately to lead her on the right path, but that only forces her to stray further in order to do what she feels protects Hugo. Close friend and fellow alchemist Lucas is there for most of Amicia’s outbursts, (including one where she single handedly kills at least 10 guards) and grows increasingly worried for her sanity. There are many points where he urges her not to kill yet understands in the end that she’s not wrong in wanting to do so.
The music in Requiem is as stunning as that in Innocence was – with orchestral tracks that range from soothing and serene to brutal or eerie as the tone changes. The rats also have their own theme of sorts, gritty and unnerving violin scratches whenever they appear on screen, further driving home the fact that they’re still a prominent threat even after they were dealt with in Innocence. The colors of the game are vibrant and warm when you’re supposed to feel joy, but during its darker and grittier moments, they take on a harsher and muddier feel to reflect that. I legitimately had to pause during one segment to gawk at the moon; the way the colors reflected off the ocean and shrouded the whole city in dark blues and blacks was magnificent.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a great sequel to another fantastic journey, and one that serves to improve upon the series’ earlier edition, attending to what was ignored and escalating the scale at which problems occur. Not only do the threats continually evolve, but the central threat is also consistently dreadful whenever you encounter it, for what is a plague without the ravenous rats? Not much of a plague at all, and Requiem has even more rats than Innocence. If, like me, you were hoping that Requiem gave you a reason to get back into A Plague Tale, you’re in luck, because Requiem is exactly what you’ve been waiting for. And if you’re new to the series, I’d suggest playing both games for their impactful stories and a realistic cast of characters. You’ll be glad you did.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle senior intern and assistant mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.