A Plague Tale: Requiem is the, gruesome, depressing, rat-infested sequel that players have disturbingly been waiting for ever since we got our hands on the harrowing journey of Amicia and Hugo back in 2019.
That might be a bit of an odd way of introducing and breaking down the fundamental aspects of a game, but this is exactly what the team at Asobo Studio set out to achieve and illicit in its’ players, all of which has been ramped up to the max in the newest rendition of their blossoming franchise.
The scale of rats, brutality, gruesomeness and personal suffering have all been exemplified, which makes for one of the most heart-wrenching and unique gaming experiences this year. A Plague Tale: Innocence is one of my top action-adventure games I’ve had the chance to play, so I’d been excitingly waiting for it’s sequel ever since it’s announcement, hoping at a minimum I’d just get more of the same (but they far surpassed the ‘minimum’).
With improved stealth mechanics, a deeply depressing story, and out-of-this world visuals that had me feeling immensely uncomfortable (as intended), A Plague Tale: Requiem is in my eyes: the prefect kind of sequel.
I’ll preface this with before I jump into anything further – if you haven’t already played the original A plague Tale: Innocence, I’d highly recommend doing so before jumping straight into the sequel, as the story is a continuation of the events and character dynamic built between Amicia and Hugo (if you’ve got access to it, it’s recently been provided added into Xbox Game Pass).
For those unaware with the setting of A Plague Tale: Requiem or it’s predecessor, it takes place in an alternative history of 14th century France during the Hundred Years’ War. You play as an adolescent girl named Amicia, who is trying to look out for her sickly younger brother Hugo by any means necessary. You’ll adventure through both beautiful and grotesque environments, a lot of which are riddled with a literal sea of rats, as you’ll sneak or murder your way through a few dozen soldiers all in the name of keeping your brother safe.
Amongst all of this action and stealth, you’ll unravel the true nature of your brother’s illness while meeting and accompanying a variety of memorable characters throughout your journey, all with their own unique and well-written stories and motivations. If you’ve already experienced the original Plague Tale, the sequel ramps up the grim and depressing scale a couple of notches and really has you feeling unsettled throughout the entire playthrough. The amount of mouth-opening, unforgettable story and gameplay moments that I experienced while reviewing has got to be a new personal record.
By far the biggest selling point and arguably Requiem’s strongest feat is in the combination of its astonishing visuals, music, and voice-acting. I truly can’t do the game justice by describing it in mere words, but every searchable inch of the ruined world you get to explore constantly bewildered me with just how detailed even the smallest the details were, which was constantly heightened by the phenomenal backing music that stages each and every environment you adventure through. It’s pretty rare a game can truly captivate me as much as Requiem has despite it’s grim overtone, which really let me immerse myself into the world and added weight into each and every decision I made in how I decided to play the game.
Complimenting all of the aforementioned, exceptional performances were given throughout the game from the voice actors, who really accentuated the grim tone and heavier moments of the story. It’s not something I admittedly notice all that much, but the performances felt really believable and heartfelt. It’s these intricacies that really allow Requiem to shine, and propel the story— especially when combined with the melodramatic scores presented throughout.
Touching back on the visuals briefly, it is absolutely horrifying each and every time the ‘star’ of A Plague Tale gets some even time – yes, I’m of course talking about the sea of rats. It’s truly a goosebump-inducing sight to behold when it comes to the rats in Requiem. In its predecessor, rats mechanically acted as an obstacle on the ground you needed to maneuver around, but this again has been ramped up immensely. They’ll burst through walls, pile on top of each other to reach intended heights and costume entire buildings (if you’ve seen World War Z, the way the zombies behave is a good comparison). At stages, my P.C (which is on the lower end of the high-end gaming spectrum) struggled to truly showcase the vast amounts of rats on screen simultaneously, but none of these occasional frame dips were a nuisance to the core gameplay.
Admittedly, there isn’t a massive overhaul when it comes to the core of what Requiem offers gameplay-wise. It still feels and plays a lot like Innocence, just with some necessary refinements and additions that improve the overall experience. It plays a lot more like The Last of Us now, as you’re thrust into situations where you can stealth your way through the environment, or choose engage in all brutal kills with your arsenal of weapons.
Using any combination of the sling, crossbow, and alchemy bag isn’t boring by any stretch of the imagination, but it also doesn’t do anything all that different to other stealth games out there. The stealth genre staples of distraction mechanics, explosive objects and stealth kills are all heavily present throughout, which are all perfectly fine. Throughout my play-through, I preferred using the alchemy bag which allowed for a lot of unique interactions with various aspects of the environment (such allowing the roaming ocean of rats to engulf an enemy).
On top of this, some of the unique puzzle interactions you can have with the rats add for some added variation to each stage of the campaign, like shooting down hunks of meat to distract the swarm momentarily, or using flaming arrows to burn patches of the ground to deter the rats. It’s definitely satisfying, but felt like it could have been expanded upon even further to allow for some more complicated puzzles.
If it isn’t abundantly clear already, the world of Requiem is absolutely awful, and the setting for some might be a bit too much to handle – it’s intentionally depressing, grim and hard-to-swallow, so bare this in mind before making any decisions on if you want to experience all that the game has to offer.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is currently out on all major platforms, and for anyone looking for an exceptionally gritty, deep and emotional story with phenomenal visuals, I couldn’t recommend A Plague Tale: Requiem more.