Early on in A Plague Story: Innocence, the De Rune siblings pause in the course of a silent church yard. After their ancestral dwelling was attacked, they’ve been on the run by way of the fields and villages of war-torn, plague-infested medieval France, with offended villagers and the Inquisition sizzling on their path. Older sister and protagonist Amicia is decided to maintain her sickly brother Hugo protected, urging him to maintain transferring ahead, however Hugo runs off to marvel at a flower rising within the weeds. He picks it up, putting it in Amicia’s hair, and whispers, “It will protect you. And it’s pretty.”
Cue: my coronary heart breaking.
A Plague Story is a transferring expertise from begin to end, its characters the spark of sunshine within the darkness, a reminder of humanity within the midst of horror. Amicia is a formidable and sensible younger woman, taking over accountability that almost all would sooner throw themselves to the rats over somewhat than face. Shifting by way of the world and defending Hugo is not any simple job, however she’s level-headed by way of the mayhem. Safety usually comes within the type of her slingshot, which turns into more and more extra threatening as she discovers new alchemical concoctions to toss at troopers and rat swarms alike. It’s a easy however satisfying mechanic, like in an early battle the place Amicia should goal the boss’ armor hinges till she will mind the brute straight. Whereas I took glee find new methods to unleash my slingshot prowess, Amicia herself will query her personal morality, commenting in horror when she realizes she’s killed somebody. Her moments of reflection had been a refreshing reminder of what makes us human.
Her brother Hugo stands as the most important reminder. A sickly little one with little data of the world outdoors his bed room partitions, Hugo takes in each surroundings with contemporary eyes. Like his flower selecting moments, he additionally chases after animals, laughing with delight regardless of their grisly environment. There are pure moments of sibling insurrection, however their relationship is plausible and Hugo by no means looks like a burden. Hugo is commonly the important thing to fixing environmental puzzles, pulling levers and crawling by way of tiny openings to maintain them transferring ahead. It additionally helps that his voice actor is completely lovely. Because the origins of his sickness come to a head, Hugo turns into heart of a number of the sport’s most enthralling sequences, including a supernatural twist on an in any other case grounded story of woe.
Past the De Rune siblings, A Plague Story’s largest stars are these dang rats. Y’all, these are some superb online game rats. They erupt from the shadows in bloodthirsty swarms, transferring collectively like waves crashing in opposition to the partitions and each other. Seeing the carnage they unleash if Amicia and Hugo step out of the sunshine and into their tiny, frenzied clutches is a sight to behold. Their presence makes environmental puzzles come to life, whether or not it’s lighting bonfires to clear a path or completely timing Amicia’s steps throughout lightning strikes. I’m endlessly torn between whether or not their introduction scene or the end-game sequence the place they’re managed by the vile Grand Inquisitor is one in every of my favourite moments in gaming this 12 months.
Asobo Studio’s macabre stealth journey is crammed with these harrowing enemy encounters, intriguing environmental puzzles, and a lot of rats. But it surely’s the quiet moments in the course of the insanity the place humanity and hope rise above the horror that makes A Plague Story a favourite.