Inverse Game Reviews

2022's most stunning stealth game dazzles but overstays its welcome

Inverse Score: 8/10

Focus Entertainment

The bucolic brick-laden town that had been my home for all of 24 hours was suddenly consumed by a tidal wave of swimming flesh.

One moment, innocent merchants peddled their wares at the market, and the next, they shrieked in horror as buildings collapsed under the weight of a massive rat swarm. All I could do was run until the shrieks and the sounds of several thousand rats crashing through a town crescendoed before fading into silence. Then the whimpering of the poor souls left alive began.

Life in A Plague Tale: Requiem is hard. Death follows protagonist Amicia wherever she does. Developer Asobo Studio’s follow-up to 2019’s A Plague: Tale Innocence is a beautiful horror to behold. It does not reinvent the wheel of third-person stealth action games but it does deliver a well-crafted entry for the genre. While the story itself is highlighted by wonderful performances for the lead siblings Hugo and Amica, the full package is an overambitious — and overstuffed — attempt to deliver a much longer experience.

The beautiful but dangerous world of medieval France provides the setting for an emotional if overly long adventure in A Plague Tale: Requiem.Focus Entertainment

Can’t look away

Taking place six months after the events of A Plague Tale: Innocence, Requiem puts the player back in control of Amicia as she attempts to keep her brother Hugo safe in the unforgiving world of medieval France. In that time, the Macula curse coursing through Hugo’s blood, linked to hordes of disease-infested rats, has sat dormant. Amicia, Hugo, their mother Béatrice, and alchemist’s apprentice Lucas enjoy a dreamy respite in a quaint town. But all dreams end.

A series of unfortunate events awakens the Macula from within Hugo, destroying the brief feeling of normalcy they’d grown accustomed to in recent months. With the plague of rats wreaking havoc on the land and the Macula threatening to take Hugo’s life for good, the siblings set off on a journey to a mysterious island that could hold the secret to curing this curse for good.

It isn’t uncommon to find yourself sitting and staring at the stunning vistas of the French countryside or even the grotesque beauty of a dead village.Focus Entertainment

Along the way, Amicia and Hugo traverse a number of landscapes that cover a spectrum from breathtaking to grotesque. This is a story about the black plague after all. Most of Amicia’s time is spent surrounded by horror as makes her way through mass graves, sees bodies strewn across once bustling streets, or even wades through rivers crowded with the population of an entire town dead and floating down it like it’s the river Styx.

There are brief moments of respite when Amicia and Hugo laugh and play like normal siblings despite all the horrors in their past and future. Playing hide and seek or walking through a field of flowers without another living creature in sight is somehow both unnerving and soothing. The vistas put on display in A Plague Tale: Requiem highlight the natural beauty that persists in a sick world; Countless times as I strolled or stalked through the world of Requiem, I caught myself staring at a tree, building, or skyline and saying out loud, “This is so damn pretty.”

Seeing hundreds of thousands of rats rip apart human flesh in a matter of seconds is a terrifying feeling.Focus Entertainment

Rat pack

While the massive horde of rats is the real standout enemy faction here, Amicia and Hugo also have to contend with soldiers that want to keep the spread of the plague under wraps. The massive writhing mounds of rodents are more impressive than ever before. A Plague Tale: Innocence became popular in part because of the impressive rat tech, which depicted 5,000 at once. Requiem ratchets up that figure exponentially to hit a staggering 300,000 rats at once.

Amicia has the same bag of tricks as in Innocence, namely a sling and a collection of alchemical concoctions with various effects like stunning guards or extinguishing torches. Requiem delivers the same stealth-action gameplay as its predecessor, encouraging the player to prioritize slow movement and methodical planning to survive encounters rather than brute force their way through.

The addition of new tools adds variety to gameplay but loses some of the first game’s tension.Focus Entertainment

Amicia does have some new tools to help more aggressive players, though, namely the incredibly useful and powerful crossbow. This adds an aggressive wrinkle into A Plague Tale’s gameplay loop. With the crossbow, Amicia can take the fight to the enemy, firing bolts that take down once unharmable opponents. This lets players choose how to deal with encounters and also supports the game’s more nuanced approach to progression: skill trees naturally unlock new abilities based on how you play. In this, however, Requiem loses some of the original’s sense of danger.

Amicia was far more fragile in the previous game and needed to rely on stealth and environmental opportunities if she wanted to eliminate more powerful enemies that could wipe her out in one blow. This brought a dire feeling of tension and risk to every encounter. Despite making crossbow ammo quite scarce, Requiem mostly fails at preserving that same level of dramatic tension as a result.

The desire to create a longer experience leads to repetitive gameplay and drawn-out story beats. Focus Entertainment

Under pressure

Requiem’s environmental puzzles are also totally immersion-breaking. Like so many linear action games, Requiem is full of “puzzles” that require you to walk around a room until you find a cart to push or a ladder to climb. It’s a mechanic we’ve all done countless times already in games like The Last of Us and God of War (2018), so the first time you do it in Requiem, it already feels tired. So, when Amicia mumbles aloud for the twentieth time about needing to look around for a way forward it feels absolutely exhausting. It made me wish that every game could have The Last of Us Part 1’s accessibility features that let you skip puzzles.

The repetitive gameplay loops of combat encounters punctuated by unimaginative puzzles reveal A Plague Tale: Requiem’s greatest flaw: its length.

While predictable, the story of A Plague Tale: Requiem is compelling and lifted up by the relationship between siblings Hugo and Amicia. Focus Entertainment

A Plague Tale: Innocence takes on average of 10.5 hours to finish according to HowLongToBeat.com. Developer Asobo Studio estimates the length of A Plague Tale: Requiem to be between 18-22 hours, which I found accurate to my own playthrough. This is nearly double the length of the first installment. For a linear story-driven action game, this length is not sustainable. Requiem suffers in a similar way to The Last of Us Part II. Both narratives focus on the trauma that exhausts the player by belaboring the messages for so long.

Requiem is a very well-made game. The story, graphics, and gameplay all make for an enjoyable experience. But the overall length makes an otherwise solid game feel tedious. The journey of Hugo and Amicia is heartwarming, and heartbreaking, but also fairly basic. The performances of the two siblings and the story itself are compelling enough to make up for the most glaring flaws, but the padded runtime hurts the pacing. At its worst, the game feels boring. Yet the shining moments of A Plague Tale: Requiem push through its problems, leaving a satisfying sequel, rats and all.

8/10

A Plague Tale: Requiem releases on October 18, 2022, for Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series consoles, PC, and Game Pass. Inverse reviewed the game on PC.

INVERSE VIDEO GAME REVIEW ETHOS: Every Inverse video game review answers two questions: Is this game worth your time? Are you getting what you pay for? We have no tolerance for endless fetch quests, clunky mechanics, or bugs that dilute the experience. We care deeply about a game’s design, world-building, character arcs, and storytelling come together. Inverse will never punch down, but we aren’t afraid to punch up. We love magic and science-fiction in equal measure, and as much as we love experiencing rich stories and worlds through games, we won’t ignore the real-world context in which those games are made.
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