The Xbox Series X has been with us for the best part of two years now. I love its quietness, quick loading times and the upgraded shine it gives to a plethora of games. But, mostly due to world issues, I don’t feel like the power of that console has really been tested. Yes, we have Microsoft Flight Simulator which looks great but it’s, well, Microsoft Flight Simulator. It’s not particularly exciting. Then there is The Medium; a game that gives hints at its power. But that very much felt like a teaser rather than a fully-fledged new-gen game.
And so here we are with A Plague Tale: Requiem, a game that – visuals wise and in my view – is the best-looking game on Xbox Series X so far. It’s also a game that makes me excited for what’s to come in the future. But let us start with this splendid sequel.
When A Plague tale: Innocence released in 2019 it instantly became a fan favourite, slowly becoming a cult classic. Gamers were impressed with the creation of such lush visuals from a smaller studio. They loved the protagonists of the young boy and teenage sister adventuring through 14th-century France. But they loved the rats more than anything and the original gameplay mechanics attached to them.
If you hated the first game and didn’t like the stealth mechanics then I don’t think you are going to get a lot out of this sequel. Yet if you loved Innocence then you’re going to be playing Requiem with a big smile on your face. It has the same mechanics as before in terms of stealth, hidden attacks using lights and rats, and crafting, but everything is embellished; there are a lot more rats and there are a handful of new gameplay features. And of course, more importantly, there is a fantastic new adventure for Hugo and Amicia.
The story initially takes place in relative calm. Hugo’s affliction is under control – quiet for now – and the family travel to a southern French city to try to seek help from a master alchemist from the mystical order. Hugo dreams of an island where he can get cured, but the order has other plans. Soon the affliction is back though and so are the rats. This time there are hundreds and thousands of them. Everyone is trying to kill them and Amicia and Hugo set out across the world on sea, land, and under the earth to search for the truth and find some answers…
I won’t beat around the bush – the story found in A Plague Tale: Requiem is nothing short of amazing. The mixing of reality and fiction in regards to the actual plague at that time combines well with the fantasy version which is called The Macula. It delves into the history of the disease and the carriers before this time cleverly and satisfactorily. The sub-stories and the characters you meet along the way are brilliantly written, with people you will care so much about. I’m certainly not going to talk about them so as to not spoil the fun, but you’ll find that Requiem is able to deliver an even more emotional journey this time around, especially with the twists and turns on the way. Amicia especially goes through the wringer both emotionally and physically as the beautifully told story plays out. It’s one that kept me thinking about it long after the credits rolled.
The gameplay mechanics involve a lot of stalking and hiding. There are times when you can just explore the gorgeous world without any sense of danger or peril, talking to people, solving some puzzles, and collecting resources for crafting. Obviously there are those who are after you and when you stumble upon the guards, hiding in long grass or behind barriers is key. You could try to stealth the whole way through an area without contact with the enemy. If you do attract their attention though there is a window for you to go into hiding again before they spot you. Confronting them head-on is not advised, especially as they get tougher as the tale progresses. Thankfully your sling comes into play in this case where you can kill unhelmeted guards. For the tougher enemies, you can use traps to confuse them and take off bits of their armour. But it’s the rats that can be your great enemy – or your best ally in some instances.
This time around the development team at Asobo Studio have increased the number of rats from around 5000 on screen at a time to 300,000. Yes, that’s a lot of rats. But they are still scared of light or fire. You use lit braziers to get from area to area, sometimes lighting them from affair with your sling, other times you are pushing braziers on a wheel or simply you have a lit stick that you wade through the rats, waving it frantically before it runs out. You can also use the rats against the guards by getting rid of their lighted touches with a specially crafted slingshot. The moment they are extinguished they are rat food, clearing the way forward.
Each area is like a mini puzzle room that you have to solve in order to find the right route through and even though you’ll no doubt fail, dying many times, you’ll never get bored of what A Plague Tale: Requiem is able to provide. It’s a game that is always varied with boss battles, exploration, and brilliant story beats.
The visual quality of A Plague Tale: Requiem is possibly the best I’ve seen on this console. The level design is beautiful and epic, the draw distances are superb and the lighting is out of this world. If ever a game demands a Photo Mode, it’s Requiem and you’ll want to take shots every few minutes, capturing sunsets and strange underground temples. When you have a few moments to breathe and explore you’ll begin to realise just how stunning it is, and even though it’s quite a linear journey, there is an immense feeling of space. The design is an important part of the storytelling aspects and it works brilliantly. Of course, there is the odd glitch here and there, but nothing to get alarmed about.
The other major achievement of A Plague Tale: Requiem is the soundscore. Olivier Deriviere produces an epic piece of beauty from the choral underground chants to the disjointed chords of the rats and their first appearance in the game. The voice-over work from the actors is immaculate from start to finish too and the actress who plays Amicia does an amazingly emotive job that must have been exhausting to perform.
If you were a fan of Innocence then you are going to adore A Plague Tale: Requiem. It’s a familiar experience but one in which the mechanics, visuals, sound, and story have all been ramped up. Lasting around thirteen hours, A Plague Tale: Requiem manages to eclipse the first game; pretty much every minute is heavenly.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is on the Xbox Store
- Outstanding visuals
- Sublime soundtrack
- Emotive story
- Some simply great gameplay
- The odd glitch
- Massive thanks for the free copy of the game go to - Focus Home
- Formats - Xbox Series X|S, PS5, PC
- Version reviewed - Xbox Series X
- Release date - 18 October 2022
- Launch price from - £49.99
Everyone gave this good reviews so I went in excited, but I played for an hour and didn’t like it at all. I think these scripted, plot-heavy AAA games are just not for me.