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I normally don’t enjoy games with really simplistic gameplay loops, but I enjoyed A Plague Tale: Innocence immensely *no spoilers*

I remember when the game dropped and it made waves because it largely came out of nowhere – and a lot of reviews spoke very highly of it. I bought it on PC and tried to start it a couple of times, but for some reason it just never really stuck. A little while ago it was offered as a free PS+ game on PS5, so I decided to give it another whirl since I thought they could do some exciting things with the DualSense controller (which they definitely do) – this time it stuck, and I'm really annoyed at myself for waiting so long to finish the game.

Just a quick bit for those who haven't played/don't know what the game is: you play as Amicia, a 15 year old highborn French girl who's on the run with her 5 year old brother Hugo (who has a mysterious illness), with whom she has a very strained and unfamiliar relationship. But what really makes the game unique is that it's in the middle of a massive rat plague (who factor into the gameplay quite a lot). The gameplay is largely stealth based with some very light crafting elements, but the game's focus is 100% on story.

I think part of the reason that it took me so long to finally play is that I generally don't like games with really simple styles of gameplay. I don't need every game that I play to be some sort of "ultra mega challenge", but generally when games are too simple I tend to lose interest. This game also received a lot of comparisons to The Last of Us in terms of its stealth gameplay (which I don't fully agree with), so when I first started it I was disappointed to see how simplified that the stealth gameplay was. But as I played through the game this time, I realized that the game is honestly more of a puzzle game than anything else – and once I started thinking of it that way, I enjoyed the game a lot more. Each of the "combat" segments generally play out in one of three ways: you have to find a way to navigate around/through the rats, you have to find a way to navigate around/defeat human enemies, or a combination of the two. And as I mentioned previously, this is almost always done through stealth. If you're detected it is possible to fight off enemies, but really only if there's a single one and you get a bit lucky – you can tell that Asobo Studio put their main focus into stealth. And that's why it seems like more of a puzzle game to me than anything else – each combat scenario generally has an order in which you can take down enemies one at a time without being detected, so the puzzle is figuring out the proper order to take them down.

I'm keeping this free of spoilers, but early in the game it's implied that Hugo's illness is somehow related to the rat plague, and this was by far the most engrossing part of the game for me. Unraveling the mystery of Hugo's illness and where the rats came from was very fascinating, but another core component of the story is the relationship between Amicia and Hugo. Amicia was largely not allowed to interact with Hugo from when he was born (due to his illness), so as the game progresses you get to see them develop a relationship as brother and sister that I found very compelling. You meet a small cast of characters as you progress through the game who range from "very interesting" to "eh, they're okay" (some characters get more development time than others), but overall I liked all of the characters that were introduced. The voices are done with French accents, and as I don't speak French I don't know how accurate or "good" the accents are – but overall I found voice acting to be good, with Amicia's voice actor in particular being excellent. She has some very heart wrenching scenes that she did a fantastic job in.

I would absolutely recommend this game very highly, but with a few caveats: first, don't make my mistake of thinking that this is some sort of "The Last of Us clone". The moment-to-moment stealth gameplay in this game is very simplistic. Two, I don't know how big that Asobo is as a studio, but I think they're on the smaller side – so I would definitely consider this a AA game. It's got some poor animations and some all around "jank" that tends to come with the territory. However, if you can look past those, I found the story to be really emotionally resonant and a very enjoyable experience.

EDIT: I also forgot about the soundtrack! I can't believe I forgot to mention the soundtrack – absolute masterclass. It's fucking incredible

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