When the first entry in the series called Innocence was released back in 2019, it came as a nice breath of fresh air for the stealth genre. As there weren’t too many other releases at the time that had the same amount of focus on covert-based mechanics. While I did have some issues with the story and certain gameplay elements, the core foundations were pretty solid for a title that mostly centred on avoiding detection and babysitting the world’s most annoying little brat. But can A Plague Tale: Requiem make up for the original’s shortcomings? And what does it do differently to set itself apart?
A Marked Improvement
Following the events of the first entry, Amicia, Hugo and the rest of the gang have been trying to find a place to call home in France. But wherever they go, the rats that plagued their existence continue to ruin their lives. Cue the shenanigans. Thankfully, Hugo is a much more tolerable human being this time around—well, on some occasions—and he does go through a rollercoaster of emotions throughout. Instead of just asking “where’s mummy?” for the 45th time that afternoon. On the other hand, Amicia is fed up with having to struggle without rest for a semblance of normalcy—and rightfully so. I’d be pretty peeved too if I had to deal with rats and people wanting to murder me all day. Albeit, in the context of this game, it does make for some decent drama and coming-of-age strife.
I just wish there was more spotlight on the supporting cast. Lucas, for example, does have some interesting heart-to-heart scenes with Amicia. But before you know it, he’s suddenly MIA for a substantial amount of the plot. This results in a few key scenes that are destined to fizzle out, simply because there hadn’t been enough build-up for the audience to latch onto. While there are a few secrets to uncover about The Order and the mysterious Macula, I did find myself feeling rather indifferent for most of the story. This is unfortunate because the setting and scenario of The Plague Tale series is quite intriguing. In terms of voice-over, the actors do fit their characters really well. Although, I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Amicia sounds French when hardly anyone else does. I just can’t unhear it.
Perfectly Balanced, As All Things Should Be
Now hands down, the best part about A Plague Tale: Requiem would have to be the gameplay. The developers said it would be about 18-20 hours of no filler, and they weren’t wrong! Each chapter is chock-full of fun encounters, puzzles and set pieces similar to Crash Bandicoot, along with a few larger areas to explore for extra goodies and minigames. I particularly approve of how this entry has evolved Amicia’s kit, allowing her to infuse her tools with alchemic properties. For instance, if she combines Ignifer with her pots, they can take out multiple guards with an explosive AOE blast, or clear a temporary path for Amicia to walk past those pesky rats. This makes Requiem feel like a big playground, as there are a lot more ways to solve a puzzle or clear an encounter than before.
Amicia can even use other weapons besides her sling to take down enemies. If she finds a loose dagger or arrow lying around, she can quickly slot them right into an enemy’s stomach. These items are significantly stronger than her sling, but they can only be used sparingly. There are even character-specific abilities that can assist throughout the journey. Hugo can scan for danger and command a small group of rats for a limited time. Lucas’ Stupefachio blinds enemies in the immediate vicinity, giving Amicia the chance to swoop in for a loud and protracted kill sequence. While Arnaud, a new character that joins the crew along the way can dispatch singular enemies on demand.
With all these new options on hand, you’d think A Plague Tale: Requiem would get too easy. But nope. The balancing of all these systems is really well-implemented. Each encounter feels unique because it forces you to experiment with different tools and strategies that may not be suitable for each situation. Plus, the way Amicia handles each scenario determines which additional skills she can utilise, which is a lovely touch. For instance, a heavily stealth-based approach will unlock a faster move speed when crouching, as opposed to a more aggressive style that allows Amicia to push enemies into a fire or group of rats. I don’t think it’s possible to unlock all of the skills throughout one playthrough, although they can be brought over to New Game+ along with all of Amicia’s codex entries and workbench upgrades.
Sneaking Around France
The AI in A Plague Tale: Requiem is pretty similar to the original, where they’ll try and track down Amicia to her last known location and spread out to flank. Just like most other stealth games. There are also several visual indicators you can switch on or off. However, this series is a bit more on the forgiving side. Because if you move through an object and break a guard’s immediate line of sight, they’ll almost instantly forget where you went. It is designed quite well in the context of the mechanics, because Amicia just can’t sprint from one encounter to another. She will eventually get cornered… or impaled. Either or.
The big difference this time is that Amicia has to take two hits from guards before going down, so you can use this to your advantage. An invincible mode option is available for those who want to cheese the game into submission, or just laugh maniacally as enemies try to smack Amicia to no avail. Albeit, you’ll still need to get them off your tail to progress, as they’ll block her from advancing to the next area if alerted. As far as the AI systems go, they do work consistently well. I only witnessed two glitches: one where a guard kept walking on the spot and another where Hugo got stuck between a door frame as Amicia held out her hand to guide him. That was amazing.
The same thing can also be said of the environmental graphics and effects. “Look at that foliage!” is something I don’t normally say. But man, this game definitely made me want to visit France. The PC version I reviewed ran quite well at 1080p, performing at around 50-60FPS with NVIDIA DLSS on Ultra settings. Considering that I don’t have the best rig, I was surprised that it was able to keep up. The version I played also didn’t feature ray tracing, although it will be available for PC exclusively in a day one patch. Even if you’re a console-only gamer, this sequel still looks and runs fantastic either way.
If you were ever on the fence about the original, now would be the best time to jump on board. The numerous updates to the formula expand Amicia’s toolkit in all sorts of fun and dynamic ways, making each encounter and puzzle to be solved an absolute treat. While the story and character development don’t leave too much of a mark, there are still some genuinely great scenes that bounce naturally between extreme tension and silly moments of levity. It isn’t every day you see such a tightly-focused stealth game like A Plague Tale: Requiem. So even if it’s only for the gameplay, this dense 18-20 hour journey should not be missed.
By Anthony Culinas – Reviewed on PC
A Plague Tale: Requiem’s gameplay is a huge step up from the original. The options to infuse all of your equipment with various effects and the character-specific abilities that are steadily rolled out make a huge impact in both combat and puzzle-solving. Combine this with some memorable, high-octane set pieces, stirring music and a gorgeous-looking graphical presentation and you’ll be hooked in right from the start. The story and characters do a decent job of expanding Amicia and Hugo’s story, although they aren’t the main selling point of this title. But if you are searching for the next best big stealth game to sink your teeth into, then look no further.
This game was reviewed using a download code provided by Focus Entertainment. The Beta Network uses affiliate partnerships, however, this does not influence reviews or any other content published. The Beta Network may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links that are on the website.