A Plague Tale is a stealth horror video game set in 1348 in France. That’s the time of the hundred year war and when the black death visited western Europe. Probably not a good game to play during a pandemic, but what the heck.
Amicia de Rune is a young noble, living with her parents and brother in a mansion in Aquitaine. She has a brother Hugo, whom she barely knows. He’s ill, and has been since he was born. Their mother keeps him locked up and tends to him, meaning she hardly sees her mother either.
Then, one day, while out riding with her father, some unknown creature kills Amicia’s dog. The monster has seemingly burst from the ground. When they return home, the Inquisition comes knocking at their door, looking for Hugo.
Amicia’s mother helps Amicia and her brother flee, even as the inquisition ransacks their home. Amacia and Hugo end up on their own, in the forest, fleeing both the inquisition and the mysterious monsters.
The story gets darker from there, set against the backdrop of both the English invasion and the plague. One section early on where you navigate a dark battlefield filled with corpses is particularly gruesome, but quickly eclipsed by worse things. A Plague Tale clearly puts the horror in ‘stealth horror’ game.
Amicia de Rune is a teenager thrust into a dark adventure. Things take a dark turn early on, and she has to take care of herself and her brother. She is both strong and vulnerable. Strong in how she faces all horrors head-on, weak in how the soldiers she faces can kill her with a single stroke of their swords.
Hugo de Rune is Amica’s brother. He suffers from a strange disease, which occasionally gives him terrible headaches. Their mother — an alchemist — has been trying to cure him, or at least slow the disease. He is young, and has no idea how the world works. Where many games use children only as annoying props that you need to pull along, Hugo is a real person, and you quickly start to care for him.
Along the way, the two make several friends. This allows for some interesting interplay and game mechanics, as the new characters add new options for gameplay, as well as giving meat to the story. These side characters each have their own back stories and some personal quirks.
All in all, a well-rounded cast for an intense game.
A Plague Tale gameplay
Amicia is not a Call-of-duty style killer with a gun. She doesn’t get a sword or bow to assassinate the masses. She has a sling, and during the game she gains some alchemical compounds to help her.
This is a stealth horror game. Amicia sneaks around, and if an enemy soldier sees her, it’s usually game over. The game consists of series of stealth puzzles where you have to distract the right enemies, sneak past at the right times, and sometimes — if you’re crafty — kill the bad guys.
Another aspect is the rats. As the plague spreads, rats start to appear. They hate the light, but blanket the areas outside the light with writhing bodies. If Amicia is foolish enough to move there, she dies. This also applies to the enemy soldiers, leading to some nasty puzzle-traps.
All in all, the game keeps you on your toes. The mechanics change over the game, with different sidekicks helping you in different ways, and different alchemical compounds helping you in other ways.
There’s a basic crafting system, which I found a bit superfluous. They are a bit of a staple of the genre, I guess, leading to the whole survival horror genre. I enjoyed it in Dead Space, but in A Plague Tale… not so much.
This game is pretty awesome. It’s something fresh in a world of a thousand stories of violent male (or sometimes female) killers.
I think it’s great, although it isn’t the best game to play during a pandemic, maybe.