While we're all here waiting on the new God Of War, along comes this grand sequel from Asobo Studio's pre-established franchise to steal the spotlight. A heavy story about two siblings who see their world crumbling around them, yet still find the courage to make it through, takes its turn upon the stage.
Anyone who's even remotely into gaming, even as a casual pass time, must by now have heard about A Plague Tale by now. The first title in the series, dubbed Innocence, did pretty well, managing to sell over one million units according to publisher Focus Entertainment. In fact, it was so good that they're making a TV adaptation of the game, likely to be destined for one of the streaming services.
Considering the way the first game ended (there will be no spoilers here!), it only made sense for the siblings Amicia and Hugo De Rune to make a comeback. That finally happened just a few days ago when the sequel, dubbed A Plague Tale: Requiem, was released into the world for consoles and PC. Unlike the virus portrayed in the game, however, you'll want to keep coming back for more, even when you know you've had enough.
Enter the De Runes
The game shines through its unique story. The two siblings, Amicia and Hugo, take center stage here and you can clearly see the bond between them. Amicia is much older, a caring, overprotective, and, at times, an overbearing sister. Hugo is the much younger brother, who is still at the age of exploration and innocence, able to get away with things to a point before he gets a scolding. Both are incredibly well-mannered children and it is obvious they care very deeply for one another.
Among the supporting cast are Amicia and Hugo's mother, Beatrice, and their friend and Beatrice's student, Lucas. A bit of context here: the game is set in France during the 12th century, a time when the hundred-year war with the British was still ongoing. Amicia, Hugo, Beatrice, and Lucas are all alchemists; not the "lets-merge-a-dog-with-my-daughter" type of alchemist, just plain people.
Another thing to keep in mind, and this is something around which the entire franchise is focused, is that Hugo is sick. Very sick. His illness forces him to have headaches and seizures, which, in turn, summon large numbers of little black rats who nibble everyone to death. But believe me, it's not as cute as it sounds...
All eyes on Amicia and Hugo
The De Rune family tries to find a cure for this illness, all while reassuring little Hugo that everything is going to be alright. But the one person who goes through hell and back for him, sacrifices everything, gives so much of her own self so that her little brother can be alright, is undoubtedly Amicia.
Watching their relationship unfold on-screen is so incredible because they seem like any other duet of an older sister and younger brother. She scolds him when he says "naughty" words, she holds his hand as they walk, she explains things to him and laughs when he says things only kids would say... and she's happy to do it! On the other hand, you can tell that Hugo feels safe with Amicia and he cannot imagine his life without her for a second.
But when things start to turn sour (and they do) Amicia is prepared to take on the world to save her little brother and give him a chance at a normal life, while Hugo, on the other end, goes off the deep end if he sees his sister's life threatened.
There are so many other elements of this game that shine: hope through despair, humanity through savagery, and many more. The one that most struck a chord with me was the relationship between a sister and a brother, who know that as long as they have one another, it'll all be alright in the end.
Uncharted meets Horizon to make... rat babies!
In regards to the gameplay, there's not really a lot to say except that Requiem borrows heavily from the Uncharted and Horizon franchises. Uncharted lends its over-the-top cinematic sequences, where Horizon's influence is felt in stealth segments, with players having the option of sneaking past the guards or taking them out.
But here's the catch: while in Horizon you felt powerful enough to take on a freaking Slaughterspine, having an entire arsenal at your disposal, Amicia's pockets are far less deep, giving you a limited number of options regarding how to take down your enemies.
The latter option usually results in watching the baddies burn, or if Hugo's feeling up to it and there are micey's around, turn them into munch. That's about it. Personally, I chose to sneak by them when I could. Considering the context here -a 16-year-old alchemist with her 6-year-old little brother- I liked that the game gave me that option. Something doesn't feel realistic about smashing people's heads in with a kid in tow.
No 30fps? No problem!
The graphics and visuals here are stunning. There's been a lot of recent talk about some games not having a 60fps option, but I played this on my PlayStation 5 and was in constant awe of what was on display. How we've come this far, for developers to be able to create games with such realism, is truly astonishing.
It's also worth commenting on the fantastic job done by all the voice actors, especially Charlotte McBurney (Amicia) and Logan Hannan (Hugo), two relatively new figures on the scene. They really made me care about the De Runes and hopefully, we'll be hearing more of them in the future.
I will admit to a possible bias here. As a younger brother with an older sister who also went through a curious disease in my childhood (nothing rat-related!) I could easily see myself in little Hugo. I also saw a bit of my sister in Amicia, as she tried desperately to hold on to anything that was normal while the rest of her world collapsed around her like a house of cards. Her single constant is Hugo and what she doesn't know is that she relies on him as much as he does on her.
Those moments, very few and far in between, where the two of them are given the chance to behave like a normal family, Hugo falling over and Amicia laughing at him, are really what sold this game for me. I haven't even finished it yet. Not sure I want to. I hope there's a third one. But even if there isn't, the story of the De Runes will be one that I cherish for a long, long time. And I'm sure you will as well!
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