Amicia de Rune barely manages to hold it together as she and Hugo walk through a tranquil forest. She’s got a throbbing head wound and a babbling little brother to lead away from the soldiers hot on their trail. She’s brilliantly brought to life, and the strain in her voice as she pleads with him to keep going tugs at my heartstrings. A Plague Tale: Requiem still contains everything that made me love the first game, and the expanded combat sections make the experience more challenging than ever.
The upcoming sequel to A Plague Tale: Innocence follows Amicia and Hugo once again as the pair venture to an island that may not even exist, trying to find answers to Hugo’s mysterious powers as a rat plague spreads across their home country France.
Requiem has clearly taken a lot of inspiration from The Last of Us Part 2. As well as a new echolocation ability Hugo possesses – because the rats can sense people’s blood, gross – the scale and feel of enemy encounters has been changed substantially. Now, Amicia and Hugo face off against foes in large arenas that offer the ability to return to cover if stealth is broken. I spent half my Gamescom preview running frantically, feeling my pulse surging as I avoided crossbow bolts and spears, desperately looking for cover around the nearest corner to shake off the heavily armed soldiers.
This makes combat far more varied. Unlike in Innocence, where once you were spotted the levels were so tight that you had to fight your way out, Requiem allows you to regain breathing room, meaning little mistakes don’t need to snowball into wasting all of your resources. However, due to the combat encounters being so large now, it can make these sections a bit of a slog if an enemy spots you and you can’t get back to cover quickly enough. I died a fair few times, and while it’s fine restarting an area a couple of times, by the fifth it gets a little tiring.
Such issues are compounded by the improved enemy AI. It feels like the soldiers can see much farther than they could in the original game. The chapter I played was set during the day, so this is hopefully less of an issue at night, but combat does feel more challenging overall and requires far more strategy than before. You can’t just spam rocks and escape into long grass when the going gets tough. If you thought the first game was too easy, you’re in luck, but if like Goldilocks you thought it was just right, then you’ve got some adjusting to do.
To help rebalance the scales in combat, Amicia gets a deadly crossbow and Hugo can now directly control large swarms of rats. Oh yeah, they aren’t here to play, they’re straight up killing people now. Amicia explains that it’s something she had to do, and warns Hugo against losing himself in the fighting. It’ll be interesting to see if overusing his powers has some sort of negative effect on him and leads to various different endings. With any luck the narrative will also explore how these teenagers are forced into becoming bloodthirsty killers to survive, even more so when the first game wasn’t afraid to depict them as heroes running away from conflict whenever possible.
Throughout it all, I was constantly reminded just how young Amicia and Hugo are. She acts tough for him, but she’s also just a teenager herself – there’s no way she should be dealing with all this. No matter how powerful the two seem when they one-up fully grown soldiers, the game kept finding ways to let me know they’re just kids. It’s powerful stuff.
The preview chapter I played was interspersed with story beats that involve Amicia and Hugo. Their search for an island leads them through a camp of religious pilgrims which is soon overrun with violent soldiers. The country seems less panicked than it did in the first game, so I’m hoping we get some more interactions with large groups. Like us, the French seem to have learned to just live alongside the literal plague running rampant through their cities.
Although I was hesitant about a sequel after the end of Innocence, the preview made me excited to continue Amicia and Hugo’s story. The expanded combat is challenging and thrilling, and it looks like the plot is going in some interesting directions. I love the idea of exploring the de Rune kids losing their innocence as the horrors of the world distort and consume them. Dishonored set the bar for rat plagues, but A Plague Tale: Requiem looks like it’s gunning for that crown.
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