If you thought The Last of Us Part 2 was a barrel of laughs, just wait until you play A Plague Tale: Requiem, and boy, does it make one hell of an impression that will sit in the depths of your soul for a long time after it ends.
Even though it feels like an eternity with our very own deadly virus, A Plague Tale fans have been chomping at the bit to return to Asosbo Studio’s ravaged, rat-invested world once again, and who could blame them? Being one of the many rodent devotees who couldn’t wait to see what was in store for Amicia and Huge this time around, I initially fell in love with A Plague Tale Innocence when it released in 2019 and it quickly became my GOTY.
As much as I was excited and intrigued to find out how the studio would improve and make this sequel work in terms of storyline, characters and combat, I was also a little worried. Mostly because sequels are one of the hardest things to get right without either, A) fluffing up the entire connection that drew players initially to it in the first place or B) making the whole thing a pointless clumsy endeavor where ending it with the first game would have been better in the long run.
Thankfully, oh so thankfully, A Plague Tale: Requiem offered an incredibly brutal sequel that was much more than I had ever bargained for in my 25-hour playthrough.
- Warning: Although I will keep much of this review spoiler free, some scenes may get a bit too descriptive for those who wish to remain in the shadows.
A Plague Tale: Requiem starts off as any good game should; in a stunning vista surrounded by rich colors, gorgeous lush foliage and a sparkling flowing river. But, at the end of the day, this is a Plague Tale game and even though this fleeting moment is breathtaking, you just know it won’t last long.
Just like in Innocence, I was greeted by the protagonist Amicia, and her younger brother Hugo de Rune but this time we have Lucas, a blossoming alchemist in toe as they explore a castle in southern France in the fourteenth century, six months after we last saw them. Straight away, the PS5 Dualsence’s haptic feedback is kicked into action as it reacted to Amicia walking through lavender fields as the trio played hide and seek in an effort to familiarize players with basic controls which were fluid without delay. Similar to throwing stones at apples at the beginning of its predecessor, I got a little bit of friendly practice with my aim via Amicia’s slingshot and stealth tactics because, my god, I needed it.
Of course, poor Hugo is once again at the mercy of The Prima Macula, or simply the Macula, which causes him to experience terrible seizures but this time it’s more powerful than ever as the devastating bloodline curse is literally out for blood, although he’s hopeful that a lucid dream of a mysterious island holds the key to understanding his affliction.
In a bid to ease the convulsions, Amicia and Lucas set out to harvest Nightshade and this is where crap really starts to hit the fan.
Look for the Light
Straight off the bat, I saw how much effort and commitment Asobo has poured into Requiem by allowing their creativity to fully unleash on the PS5. The environmental design is second to none with stunning medieval architecture, popping out around every cobbled street. What I really appreciated was being able to walk around a busy open market and hear the village folk converse while showcasing their wares. This allowed me to feel completely immersed in its world, especially seeing Hugo’s excited reactions – even if they were short-lived.
From deeply murky shadows to vividly rich hues, A Plague Tale: Requiem nestles within a living, breathing terrene and whenever it decides to hug you or devour you, Asobo Studio delivers at every turn to make you really feel every inch of its world.
Being a huge Last of Us 2 fan, I could see so many of its design choices incorporated within Requiem, especially when it came to light and shadow. In many scenes, guards are seen holding torches with a backdrop of bleakness and horror, which reminded me so much of the Seraphites and the absolute stress that brought with it. There was one scene in particular, although many others followed, where I had to wade through animal guts that shimmered and glistened against what little light there was, and for someone who doesn’t mind gore, I had to really swallow hard at the sheer grotesque visuals of rotting flesh – human and animal – and having to stomach the disgusting squishing noises of guts under Alicia’s feet.
Amicia and Hugo 2.0
Amicia has always been the strong protector for her brother, there was really no other choice as she is all that Hugo has but this time, I saw a completely different side to her. Not only has Amicia become a lot stronger in her abilities in combat, which I’ll discuss later, but her entire mentality, for better and worse, has also had a revamp. The previous loss of both of the sibling’s innocence has been replaced with rage, violence and guilt (another TLOU2 similarity) and now Amicia is not afraid to take anyone down to protect Hugo. This mindset also sees Amicia on a crazed blood-thirsty path where remorse takes a backseat.
At one point, Amica has a complete breakdown that looked to be the result of prolonged PTSD. This scene was incredibly hard to watch but it also showed me a glimpse of her vulnerability and how much pressure lies on her shoulders to find a cure. Hugo, on the other hand, still tries to find joy and peace in the darkest of places but the realization that things just aren’t getting better and the guilt of his destructive curse sends him into uncontrollable rages that result in dire consequences.
The bleak and heartbreaking character design is deeply woven into the siblings this time around, so much so that I needed quite a few breaks throughout my playthrough. I felt just as stressed and broken as Amicia and Hugo but this is something I appreciated and admired from the game’s creators. Being able to make players actually feel and empathize with another character takes a whole other level of complex character development that Asobo has hit right on the head.
All is fair in love and war
Combat is what you’d expect from A Plague Tale game with stealth playing a huge role but unlike its predecessor, Requiem has upped the ante in fighting sequences making it much more difficult to beat your opponent. Coupled with lighting fires from Amicia’s slingshot as you try and make your way through hordes of hungry rats, staying still for longer than necessary sometimes just isn’t enough. The guards are now much more alert, and dare I say it, intelligent enough where 1v1 isn’t a reliable strategy but the environments cry out for the player to be a lot more creative than in Innocence.
I found myself in a few sticky and stressful situations while hiding from the guards and the cover of the long grass wasn’t there to save me. They would move mercilessly sweeping the foliage with their torches hence constantly keeping me on my toes. Although when caught, Amicia can now counter-attack these pricks for a split-second chance, and if you have a spare knife, planting it into their chest puts a swift end to the encounter but be warned – knives are very rare to find so be smart about how you use it.
Thankfully, Alicia has a lot more arsenal at her fingertips than before. By collecting alchemical mixtures like Ignifer and Extinguis, which set light and also put out flames respectively – coupled with ones like tar and even a mixture that attracts rats – will aid her on the battlefield. A very handy item is the unlimited supply of rocks that work wonders to distract, crack open skulls, open some guards’ armor and unlatch (or unleash) objects. Workbenches are also scattered across the god-forsaken lands allowing Amicia to upgrade her arsenal by finding toolbox supplies throughout the game as well as hidden souvenirs to pick up for those trophy hunters.
There’s also a progression system to sink your teeth into and get awarded additional skills and abilities for your effort. Honing your Stealth will unlock skills that allow you to sneak around more efficiently, but if you prefer a more aggressive approach, additional combat skills will also unlock.
Requiem has now introduced the crossbow that takes care of even the souped-up soldiers where a stone from your sling would merely tickle them. But before you get too carried away, bolts, like knives, aren’t readily available so smart gameplay thinking is critical. However, they do offer fantastic results when combined with alchemical ingredients – on and off combat zones. The DualSense’s adaptive triggers also simulate a more realistic sensation of firing a bolt from the weapon so when used, you can really appreciate the impact of this new piece of gear.
Naturally, rats are at the heart of the game and boy are they angry, but scarily a hell of a lot more aware than before. Instead of just being a physical embodiment of the Plague, they have become a collective mindset that moves with determination and devotion, coming together to not only regroup for a tasty fallen human but also as a massive tidal wave that pushes and devours everything in its path as they sweep in their thousands covering streets, pouring out of buildings and cracking through walls.
To be honest here, I never really found them terrifying, I know I should because they embody so much fear and death in Requiem but I was in complete awe of them; how they took down their prey and flowed as one huge dark river. Being a bit of a rodent lover anyway, I did that annoying cutesy voice “OMG there are thousands, and look at their little eyes and tails, awww”. (although I didn’t say that when I strayed a foot outside the light and they quickly twisted me into a human burrito but it was still amazing to watch)
Due to Hugo’s overwhelming powers, he can now control these critters through ‘Echo Mode’ and for me, that was a lot of fun. Taking care of any lights from torches and in charge of my rat army, I could pour over my enemies leaving nothing but bone, allowing Amicia and Huge to escape an area much easier. However, Hugo can only command the rats for so long before it completely drains him so, again, being strategic was at the forefront.
People are strange, when you’re a stranger
Knowing who to trust in A Plague Tale: Requiem is a huge deal for Amicia but whether it turned out for the best or not (no spoilers from me), I stumbled across two new strangers – Arnaud and Sophia. Although it doesn’t begin well at all with Arnaud, leader of a group of mercenaries in the Hundred Years’ War, and how he’s then eventually integrated into the sibling’s life, his gruff and overall hardy demeanor bodes fairly well with Amicia and Hugo’s journey to a mysterious island in a bid to uncover a cure but are his intentions true?
But let’s talk about Sophia for a moment. A pirate leader by trade who offers her boat for travel, Sophia is brash and sarcastic and I loved her. Now that doesn’t mean I’m saying either one of these new ‘friends’ can be trusted, that’s a nice surprise you can find out for yourself, but if you’re an Uncharted fan, she will undoubtedly remind you of another strong and witty treasure hunter who has no issues taking care of herself.
I thought both of these new characters really added a lot of depth to the narrative and proved to be an intricate part of Hugo’s quest, one a lot more loyal than the other. Of course, they aren’t the only characters I met – the occupants of a beautiful mountain manor towards the second half of the game also opened up some questionable issues which saw my playthrough take on another dark and twisted Midsommar-esque tale with Amicia fighting for her life. Just as a warning: if you don’t enjoy being chased around tight environments in a large manor, prepare yourself mentally because it gets very stressful!
Overall, I thoroughly loved my entire playthrough of Requiem, so much so that it is without a doubt in the running for my GOTY. The continuous barrage of heart-stopping trauma felt throughout my time left my heart and soul completely fractured but Asobo Studio took everything that players loved in A Plague Tale: Innocence and multiplied it by 100, and then some.
From the visual beauty, the overwhelming darkness of the narrative and the sheer scale of its world, Requiem is not only a worthy sequel but it more than proved itself to be up there with the likes of The Last of Us Part 2’s greatness.
My only slight concern is that its shocking and soul-wrenching ending may divide some players on how they would want things to turn out for Amicia and Hugo but in my opinion, it fitted perfectly into the compelling dark chain of events, from start to finish, in Amicia and Hugo’s cataclysmic saga, even amongst hope.
Side note: for the love of god, stay on after the initial credits roll!
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