A Plague Tale: Innocence is a game made infamous by its inclusion of an animal many of us fear instinctively: rats. Developer Asobo Studio has been hard at work on their upcoming horror game, and had plenty of new things to show us at last week’s Le What’s Next de Focus event put on by publisher Focus Home Interactive. Read on to preview the horrors that await in 14th-century France.
Think Before You Lob
Interactions with enemies in A Plague Tale were relatively simple the last time we joined Asobo Studio for a demo. Generally, a good whack to the head from a lobbed rock would cause an unsuspecting guard to drop their lantern, thus ensuring their vicious demise at the mouths of hundreds of rats. Now, however, armored enemies are more resilient, and have to be hit in targeted spots in order to drop their gear. Even that might not be the end of them, since they are capable of running to a nearby source of light before any nearby rats have a chance to react to the changing light levels. Of course, messing around with these enemies repeatedly will reveal the player’s location to them, at which point the odds are strongly in their favor, since the main characters are much smaller than those who seek to harm them.
Options for interacting with the environment have improved, as well. New fire pits act as permanent sources of light and fire, and some are even mobile. Larger objects require teamwork between the orphans, and actions to be performed in the right sequence in order to, for example, lower a trebuchet to provide safe passage through a horde of rats undetected.
The rats featured so prominently in A Plague Tale have been improved since we last saw them, as well. While there aren’t many more of them in the environment, it seems their animations have been improved a bit. Looking at any given mischief (as a group of rats is apparently called) as a whole, all the rats behave almost like a fluid, surging to and fro as any source of light moves toward and away from them. However, attempting to watch individuals reveals much more staggered movement patterns, as they can follow the crowd they’re in, but will also pause, stand up on their hind legs, and stare into the light that pains them so, eyes reflecting an ominous red as their tiny brains fight the instinct to thrust into the light for a chance at a fresh meal. There are usually several rats doing this in any given section of a group, and the end result is a good dozen or so small, red, unnerving eyes staring back out from the surrounding darkness. The rats’ movement is believable, to the point that a member of the audience shrieked when the first live kill by the rats was shown.
While protagonist Amicia is an older adolescent, her brother Hugo is much younger. Certain parts of the game will require the player to tell Hugo (and other orphans met along the way) to wait in one spot while she goes on ahead. Leave Hugo alone for too long, and like any young kid left amongst filthy rats or darkness in the Middle Ages, and he will become scared; scared enough to call for Amicia by yelling. This can attract the attention of any nearby Inquisitor, which is bad news. So part of the strategy in A Plague Tale is to manage the player’s distance from Hugo, and to not stray too far off the beaten path unless he remains close by.
A Planned Finish
Asobo Studio intends to tell a story with A Plague Tale: Innocence. This will take place over the course of an adventure approximately 10-13 hours in length, in a linear fashion. The 14th century was a terrifying time to be alive, killer rats or otherwise, and innocence was a quickly lost treasure of the age, something that appears to be a theme of this game. Amicia and Hugo do not begin the game on the best of terms, but fate forces them together. Their relationship will change as they spend more time surviving in a harsh world that morphs into one even more cruel as they discover some horrifying truths about the world they have been thrust into.
A Plague Tale: Innocence has come a long way since we first caught a glimpse of it. This game’s rats have always been terrifying, but now they’re back and more fearsome than ever. More ways to keep fires going have allowed Asobo Studio to craft more involved puzzles, and companion characters that require tending to should add tension to an already nerve-wracking situation. A Plague Tale: Innocence is currently creeping towards a release in early 2019.
PlayStation LifeStyle would like to thank Asobo Studio and Focus Home Interactive for taking the time to show us A Plague Tale: Innocence. Watch this space for more information on this and other games from the Le What’s Next de Focus event soon!