Do you happen to know what people mean with a sleeper hit? It is a movie or game that didn’t receive a lot of promotion but still manages to become a huge success, it remains to be seen if A Plague Tale will be a commercial success but I can guarantee you that this game is worth your money. This is a one-of-a-kind experience that can be best described as a, wait for it…, MUST BUY game. The developer behind this must buy game, the French studio Asobo, will sound very familiar for Xbox fans! They re-released Disneyland Adventures, Rush and my favorite one Zoo Tycoon in 2017 and also helped with the development from Quantum Break and ReCore. And if that isn’t enough the abomination Young Conker (what were they thinking?) was also made by them. Needlessly to say Asobo and Microsoft seem to be good buddies, so it isn’t that weird to read rumors that they might become part of the Microsoft family soon. After A Plague Tale, I seriously hope so but with or without Big M’s help I’m pretty sure that Asobo has a bright future!
- Atmosphere: Right from the start you know that A Plague Tale isn’t your typical kind of game, it isn’t afraid to truly show you horrific scenes that make you feel uncomfortable. At the same time, it can also make you feel warm and surprised. Without a doubt, the main accomplishment of this game is how believable everything is set up, from forests to old peaceful shorelines. Things really start to shine at villages plagued by the sickness or places infested with deadly rats
- Detailed visuals: Call me stupid but I honestly had no idea that Asobo could pull these kinds of visuals. We’re not talking about good visuals here but industry-leading graphics that you expect from 343 Industries or The Coalition! The detail IN EVERY SINGLE THING is remarkable, exploring towns or walking on piles and piles of dead bodies is so realistic that you start to wonder why you aren’t smelling the scent of death.
- A dark, emotional and clever story that keeps you guessing: There are so many things going on while playing A Plague Tale… the relationship between the two de Rune kids, the mystery behind the rats, the health state of little Hugo, the overall arc. This fourteen-hour journey is full of twists and interesting dialogue. The magic is just there thanks to the inner-conflicts with Hugo and the young girl Amicia who is forced to watch over Hugo, a boy with a mysterious disease. Seeing the struggles between the two is regularly heartbreaking, Asobo isn’t afraid to show some hard and emotional moments, I’m not afraid to write that at some particular moments I really thought “Damn, do I really have to do this?!” Only one other gaming franchise has managed to make me feel what A Plague Tale did, and that is Life is Strange.
- Great audio and fantastic voice acting: On par with Hellblade: Sensua’s Sacrifice, and that’s one of the biggest compliments that I can give for the audio department. It has some of the best voice acting with Charlotte McBurney taking the biggest credit as Amicia. Hearing the frightened or angry conversations isn’t only a believable performance it is also more impressive because of the age… knowing that Bart Simpson has a female voice actor I’m not sure how old the voice actors are from A Plague Tale but it is fantastic nonetheless. A fine example is when you are hiding from soldiers in high grass, the motions and heavy breathing is so well done making the tension even higher.
- Memorable moments: If millions of scary rats won’t be memorable enough Asobo has quite a few other unforgettable moments in store for you. As I don’t want to spoil stuff it is hard to explain myself here but I’m not hyperbolizing, trust me. I love it when I’m thinking about something that happened in a game at work or while trying to sleep, these things don’t happen that much anymore so it just shows how special A Plague Tale is.
- Hand-holding gameplay: I’m placing this at mixed but please know that I absolutely loved every single gameplay moment, Asobo took two of the most hated gameplay systems, escort and stealth sections and turned it into a perfectly cooked salmon, they even managed to spice up that salmon with dill and lemon. The only problem I had was that everything was too easy, the game doesn’t really allow for finding the solution yourself as everything is immediately obvious, even with puzzle sections your character will almost always tell you from the ghetto what to do. But damn, is this gameplay addictive! Asobo might not reinvent the wheel here but it just feels incredibly fresh and unique. Controlling Amicia and Hugo de Rune in the stealth, horror and adventurous paths just never become repetitive because of the perfect pacing and original set pieces.
- Facial expressions: The only negative thing I can say, the visuals are so damn impressive that the disappointing facial expressions are more obvious than it should be. It was taking me out of the immersion sometimes, hearing an emotional voice in a beautiful environment and well-animated movements, suddenly the camera zooms in on the faces.. giving you a “What the hell was that emotionless face?” A shame but nothing to be ashamed about, everything else is really well designed and crafted.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is not what I expected. It has surprised me in every single way, the visuals are fantastic, the story makes up for the disappointing Game of Thrones Season 8 and the audio and voice actors deserve awards for their performance. More importantly, I did not experience a single bug or annoying thing while playing, let me remind you that this all comes from a studio that isn’t known to release this kind of high-quality game. Asobo Studios, I want to buy you all an unlimited supply of cheese croissants, you freaking deserve that after releasing an INCREDIBLE game!
Developer: Asobo Studios Publisher: Focus Home
Played on: Xbox One X