How to deliver a pitch-perfect sequel
A Plague Tale: Innocence was one of 2019’s best games. The clever blend of stealth and puzzling, not to mention the setting and strong characters, made it an absolute joy to play through. In fact, we went on to name it our Game Of The Year!
With such a strong first game, it was always going to be difficult to take that core experience and not only duplicate it, but also improve every facet of both the gameplay and story. We’ve seen a fair few games slip up when it comes to this, but thankfully Plague Tale: Requiem is not one of them. In fact, Requiem not only matches the first in terms of its tight gameplay and enthralling story, it regularly surpasses it. It’s an amazing achievement and the perfect example of how to deliver a pitch-perfect sequel.
The story takes place after the events of the first, with Amicia and her brother Hugo whisked back into the heart of plague-ridden 14th Century France. The pair travel far south in a bid to try and live a normal life, but of course Hugo’s curse prevents them from doing so. Determined to try and put an end to the Macula once and for all, Amicia and Hugo are joined by their friend Lucas and mother Beatrice (along with a couple of other companions late on) as they set out to get answers. But will they find it in Marseille? Or is the strange island, La Cuna, where they’ll find salvation?
The core part of this game that binds everything together is the bond between Hugo and Amicia. There are some genuinely goosebump-inducing moments here and the final two chapters in particular are outstanding, rivaling some of the writing you’d find in Hollywood productions (the good ones, not the garbage served up regularly across big franchises)
If that wasn’t enough though, the internal conflict that Amicia is going through can be seen across the game in clever ways. Big themes around death, vengeance and righteousness can be felt throughout the title. Amicia is suffering tremendously through the 17 hour story, torn between helping and loving her brother, and desperately stopping the destruction and chaos he’s causing.
Amicia breaks down several times, with one moment late on seeing her head off alone to sob and try to compose herself. It’s the perfect example of how to create a complex, emotionally-torn protagonist in a game.
The story itself serves as a baseline for the rest of Requiem, which, across its 16 chapters, see-saws between two predominant gameplay patterns seen in the first game. Before we dive into that though, it’s worth bringing up the graphics. Plague Tale: Requiem is absolutely stunning. With an impressive draw distance, the game balances performance with quality, and some of the effects are breathtaking.
Wet mud squelches underfoot leaving footprints; water sloshes realistically against the rocks in a bay; while flickering lights of flame dance maniacally off the environment. It really is an absolute joy to play through and the team have done a wonderful job breaking up every level by adding a slightly different weather pattern to the fray.
Early on, you navigate up some steps, through a bustling village to your house, where it’s beaming sunshine and flowers dance lazily in the breeze. The next level, when you’re forced to backtrack that same path, it’s not only dark but also lashing it down with rain. Even though the environment is the same, it feels like an entirely new area.
These sort of occasions crop up constantly, especially during the latter half of the game, and it’s testament to the creators that they put this much thought into the aesthetic.
But of course, graphics mean nothing if the gameplay doesn’t shine and thankfully, Requiem’s polished mechanics are more than a match to fight off what this game throws at you. Much like A Plague Tale: Innocence, the gameplay works in two stages, with human enemies and rats to combat. The latter is much more methodical and puzzle-based, with a need to move from point A to point B across the large maps.
For those who haven’t played the first game, rats are impervious to any attacks but are repelled by fire. There’s also a specific ingredient you can unlock later on down the line too, allowing you to attract rats to a specific location or to control them outright, but most of the game sees you using fire or tools in your arsenal to cross the map.
The second element of stealth comes from the human enemies, which has seen the largest amount of revamp from the first game. Amicia is far more capable now and can actually fight back against a lot of the soldiers. While you can still stealth your way through and avoid encounters (which is arguably the most encouraged way to play) you can also take the fight back to the French too if you so desire.
With your trusty sling in hand, a well-placed headshot will wipe out most enemies. Those wearing armour have specific methods for dispatching, which I won’t spoil in this review.
At the end of enemy encounters, the game’s makeshift “XP” mechanics kick into gear. These simply work as skill bars that are updated and influence how Amicia approaches other fights. This is broken up into Prudence, Opportunism and Aggressive. Each of these unlock new skills you can use in battle or to get through to the next area, ranging from quicker movement while crouching or the ability to push enemies into fire from behind. It’s an added incentive and reward for playing in a certain way, and Requiem handles that beautifully.
Along the way, you can also upgrade your gear too at workbenches (and later without, if you develop your equipment enough). By finding Tools and parts in the environment, you can upgrade all aspects of your equipment from your gear, allowing you to hold more alchemist potions, or your sling, allowing for more precision or strength. Not only that but the game is also full of collectibles too, ranging from Secret Chests (than can only be opened with a one-use knife), flowers or souvenirs, the latter of which playing out like mini-cutscenes.
The game’s length is just about right, although some may argue it’s a couple of hours too long. The pacing is essentially split into two distinct parts with an interval in the middle. The first part sees you traveling toward Marseille and beyond, and the second half tackles the core mythos and ideas that Plague Tale: Innocence hinted at. This works surprisingly well, with that aforementioned interlude working to mellow everything out.
Another part of Requiem that deserves a lot of praise is the soundtrack. My god, what a gorgeous OST this has. Olivier Deriviere deserves a lot of praise here for delivering compositions encompassing a kaleidoscope of emotion. Haunting, discordant guitars for the rat segments; beautiful choral chimes for the intro scene; and mellow, guitar-driven tracks. The game has a litany of different influences and Plague Tale: Requiem does a fantastic job setting the mood with its audio. This can be extended across to the voice acting too, which is exemplary across the board and you can really feel the internal strife and issues between the characters.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is not a perfect game but it is a perfect example of how to take everything that’s come before and improve all facets of its development. From the beautiful soundtrack to the stunning locales; from the thematically resonant story to the tight gameplay mechanics; Plague Tale: Requiem is an absolute joy to play through and easily one of this year’s best games.
Read More: A Plague Tale: Requiem Ending Explained
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Verdict - 9.5/10