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  1. Before I move on with the review, I first want to thank @DC for providing me with a free copy of this game through Bid for Rewards... several days after I already started playing the game through Xbox Gamepass, but it's much appreciated anyway and do consider this a review for a Bid for Rewards game, so thank you @DC for all of this. Disclaimer I will do my best to avoid spoilers here, but will allow spoiler talk in the comments. To give an accurate summery of how this story is set up and describe it's mood and themes, I will likely have to include some spoilers of A Plague Tale: Innocence, so if you haven't played that game, I'd recommend doing so first. You have been warned. The Game is rated as a PEGI 18, so the review will be written as appropriate for people of the same age group. @The Blackangel, I do not know of any environments or objects within the game that I would say are likely to trigger your trypophobia. Even so, I'd advise you to have somebody look into the game first. I'll make sure to avoid screenshots that might be troublesome in this review. And obviously, I do my best to avoid typos and mistakes, but some might slip the cracks, so I beg your patience. Onto the review. Technical and Visual It's 2019, and somebody at Focus interactive either really knew what they were doing, or got rather lucky with the timing. With a world hungry for The Last of Us Part II that's still a year away and around 6 months after Shadow of the Tomb Raider being a slight disappointment, they come out with Asobo's studios A Plague Tale: Innocence. This small French game developer was best known for adapting Disney franchises and other movie and TV licences to video games until the mid-2010's when they got involved with bigger projects like The Crew and ReCore. So an up and coming French developer working with a up and coming French publisher coming out with a story driven stealth/action based liner adventure set in medieval France at just the right time. As much as we all love an underdog, let's face it, the chances of success grow with all right pieces coming together, and that was very much the case here. Not that this game had everything going for it, they was far less of a budget here that than other games of a similar type at the time, so they needed to make the most of their talents, and they did. A Plague Tale: Innocence was truly a diamond in the rough with a dark, but beautiful ambiance and a complex, heat wrenching story to match. As one could imagine, it was phenomenal success. So now we have a sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem. New game, new budget, new exceptions. And I'd like to think Asobo and Focus Interactive have timed this right again, just like in 2019 because 2022 hasn't exactly been a golden year for gaming. This game not only has the pressure of it's predecessor riding it, but the hopes of a gaming community too used to let down by games this year. This is one of our last hopes to have an experience worth remembering. And does it deliver? Yes, it does, but keep reading because this wasn't quite the game that I expected as a fan of the original and not all of it I liked. What we have is a more complex and varied, but also more frustrating game than it's predecessor. The first thing I want to talk about is the platform I played this on, PC through Xbox Gamepass because something happened with this that I've never seen before. This has nothing to do with the game itself and won't affect my score, but I feel it's worth mentioning anyway. I pre-installed the game and all seemed like it would be ready to go at midnight on lunch day. I tried to play the game, but then there was a download that showed to be the size of the entire game. I didn't think much of this at the time as the download went by insanely quick like it was just a day one patch, so assumed it was problem with how the Xbox app on Windows displayed it. 10 minutes later, I was playing the game, no issues. After playing the first few hours, I called it a day, then I woke up to play some more, and the same thing happened again with what looked like another patch. However, this time the game did have to download in it's entirety before I could start playing again. This has never happened to me before with Xbox Gamepass, but I looked up the problem and apparently this has happened to a fair amount of other people playing games on Gamepass on PC. So, watch out for this if you play games day one on Gamepass. Thankfully, this never happened again. I'll link a Microsoft Community feedback page on this problem here just in case somebody else encounters this issue. One of the good things about Gamepass is that whilst DRM authentication is necessary (and understandable) for such a service, it doesn't run in the background of the game itself, so PC games do run well on this service. And for a game with these requirements: Running on my hardware: That's a good thing as this is truly a next gen game. Not a bad thing as we end up with a game that looks like this: Suffice to say, this game is stunning. It's not just the graphical fidelity, although it's superb, it also runs well with only the occasional frame rate jitter. Yes, to ensure a smooth experience I did have to turn a few settings down, but only from ultra to high. It still looks incredible. Everything from the environments and the lighting to the character models on both main characters and NPC's are sharply detailed with everything having this hand built feel. There's also a lot of mood and feel to the wide variety of environments. From bight, hopeful and fun, to dark, brooding and daunting. The one thing that never changes is that aforementioned detail, the game is sharp, beautiful and consistent. One of the most impressive things I felt was the draw distance, things always look detailed no matter how far away and I don't recall seeing a single pop-in at all. The art style is spot on. This isn't really the most creatively imaginative game in the world, but it's not meant to be. It's a representation of 14nth century France and it that is how it's suppose to look. I don't claim to expert of the architecture, technology, clothing and armour of the period, but to my lame eyes everything looks how it's supposed to look. Asobo have not taken the creative liberty too far, and that helps this game feel more real and believable. It's not just the graphics, the world itself is rich and feels alive with lots of environmental sounds, NPC's interacting with both the main characters and each other in a very natural feeling way. Whether it be merchants crying for business, guys arm wrestling, people tending to their livestock and crops or whatever, it all helps make this world come to life. This is somewhat of a change form the first game everything and everywhere was dark and grim and under the impact of either war, the plague or both. You never really got to see life as life rather than a world in the pits barley trying to survive. I know that this is based upon a France during the plague, but it's still a bold and positive move to show this world in this more optimistic way as well as at it's most grim and desperate. Don't worry though, if you are the kind of person who sit's alone in a dark room contemplating the bleakness of existence, like a French philosopher, there's is still plenty brooding doom to be had in this game. It's still A Plague Tale. Animations are almost faultless, everything moves in a way that you would expect. Lip-syncing with voices is done well with it looking out sync on only rare occasions. The animations are in fact so well done that when something is a bit off it really stands out. For example, what is with Amicia's walk cycle when moving down descending terrain or down stairs? She looks like she's side saddling a horse that isn't there, it's bizarre. Voice/Acting, Music and Sound Design The sound design is something I have mixed feelings on. Like the animations it's something you don't really notice unless it's a bit off. I love the music, it has that classical, pre-renaissance feel, but is also kind of unstable, tense and psychotic. It's even like this in the brighter area's of the game, it helps helps the game's clear intention to never let you fully relax or feel at ease. Sounds in combat are accurate and informative with a feel real change in feel between effective and ineffective use of ammunition types. The problems I have with the sound stem mostly from stealth. There's is almost no feedback on how much noise you make and how far the enemies can sense it. For example, the sling is audible to enemies, so you have to choose between using the sling or throwing something by hand which is silent but lacks range. Makes sense as a game mechanic, but the sling actually makes almost no noise at all, so it's takes time to gauge now close you can be to enemies before they hear it. And, that's annoying. The voice acting is also something a mixed bag. The first game, like this one, was set in France during a plague, but also during a war with England. You dealt with both English and French soldiers and the accents were defined as such. In this new game for some reason I don't get just about everybody sounds English despite everyone being French. Suffice to say, this is weird. Some of the cast are played by different actors now, but even Amicia's (voiced by Charlotte McBurney) and Hugo's (Logan Hannan) accents feel a little watered down despite being played by the same actors. Not that this changes the quality of the voice acting itself, if anything it's even better than in the first game, especially from the two main stars. This may even be my favourite part of the game, there's just such a natural yet impassioned performance with the expression of emotion hitting perfect accuracy to suit every moment. There's authority and clarity to be found in the performances, spoken with a clear understanding of the characters and thier motives. I will official declare the world mad if Charlotte doesn't win award after award for her performance here with her co-star Logan being the only realistic challenger. The supporting roles and minor roles, despite the slightly odd accent placements, are also very believable and and very well performed even if some of the voices and phrases repeat sometimes, especially amongst the guards. Gameplay Like the previous game, A Plague Tail: Requiem is a 3rd person action adventure with a heavy focus on stealth. Your primary weapon is a sling that fires various types on ammunition with various effects. It is in these ammunition types and the effects the have that the game has seen it's most significant changes. Because a lot has changed, I'm going to break down the difference by looking at each ammo type in the new game, then discuss how and if it's different in the new game. Some things are new, some things return the same, some are different than before and others are dropped completely. I'll also explain whether or not I like any changes and why. The changes have happened I believe because Asobo wanted to make the challenging, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. Rocks: Standard sling ammo and pretty self explanatory. You fire them with your sling to kill enemies who aren't wearing helmets, kill others buy knocking bombs out of their hand and break locks and other things in the environment to open paths and release objects, such as carcasses to attract rats and weak links in chains. They are also used to make noise to distract enemies but hitting metal objects, but as aforementioned this isn't always ideal as this itself is noisy and forces you out of cover. The only real change between this and in the first game is that rocks are now an infinite resource instead of having a limited supply you had to pick up, a convenient touch and good idea as it encourages you to try and use rocks to save the resources spent on other ammo types. Rocks can also be hand thrown, that is a silent way to utilise them, but has limited range. Making rocks an infinite resource you don't have to pick up was great choice and helps the a lot, especially in combat. So this is a good change. Pots: In the first game these were single use items used to generate noise and distract enemies. As well as being a finite resource, the other difference between pots and rocks is that pots would make a noise no matter ware you throw them. Pots still do this, but that is where the similarities between the two games end as pots are now much more as they can be filled with other ammunition types, tuning pots into a kind of short range, area of effect projectile. The effect obviously depends on what ammo it's filled with, and I'll detail each one as we go. You can carry up two (or three with a perk) pots at once, something of a necessity given how the new mechanics work. Definitely a good change, it's much more creative and versatile use of pots than we had before that opens up new uses and options, especially in combat. Ignifer: Makes a return from the first game. Fire is very important in both A Plague Tale games as fire, or more specifically light, wards off rats, so ignifer plays into the mechanics in a variety of ways. Fired from a sling or thrown from the hand it can light torches, braziers, piles of hay and pools of tar to start fires. Thanks to new mechanics involving the pots, it can now also b loading into a pot to start a fire anywhere in range of the projectile for a short time. This new mechanic with the pot pretty much replaces the luminosa ammo type, which has now been dropped completely from the game. When thrown either hand o from the sling, it sets an enemy on fire, but it doesn't do damage, they pat out flames and sparks as a short term distraction. Unless, of course, their covered in tar, but we'll get to that. I'm OK with this change because even though what was the luminosa ammo type is now replaced by some much more scare, the availability of the pots as well as the level design is made to work with it. It is little frustrating to not be able to use luminosa whenever you want, but suppose it does enough you as the player to think about the solutions to problems a bit more. Crossbow and Bolts: A new edition and fairly self explanatory. Standerd bolts are a one hit kill on an un-armoured or lightly armoured enemy even if they are wearing a helmet. Combined with ignifer to start a fire on flat, wooden objects to basically make a wall torch. It can be combined with the other ammo types as well, but the effects are same a with the other deployment methods, so there's little point going into it. The ammo is very scarce and often not available at all, so you only really get to use this when the game wants you to. You also use it at times to fire ropes into objects to then pull on the ropes as part of the environment puzzles in the game. It would be nice if one was able to use this more often than game allows, but understand the game is more about stealth, so fair enough. It's worth pointing out hat you can actually unlock skins for this weapon upon game completion and completion on New Game Plus plus one more as a pre-order bonus. Extinguis: Puts out fires and can create a cloud of smoke to temporarily blind and disorientate enemies. The blinding cloud is a new feature, but other than that there is not much more to say, it's pretty much the same as it was in the previous game. Odaris: It's basically rat bait to help you move rats out of your way and send them to a specific point. I know what you're thinking, can this be used to sic rats on enemies? Honestly, I never tried to because if rats could reach enemy guards to kill them they would do even without odaris. Besides, there's another mechanic that allows direct control of rats to do that very thing, so with those two things present in the game it would be pretty pointless even if would work, but I don't think it would even if it should. I'm not as big a fan of this because I feel like the game could have made more use of this. I actually barley used odaris as there was usually a better option to clear rats out of you way available. Tar: When added to an existing fire, it makes that fire burn more brightly for a period of time pushing rats further away and stunning nearby enemies. Added to a pot tar can cover enemies with it's area of effect in tar and once set alight can kill so long as they're no fully armoured. You cannot, however, cover a single enemy in tar with a thrown projectile or with the sling, this has no effect. And that is what infuriated me about the tar. Allowing the player to throw tar to make an enemy susceptible to fire I think would have been cool, but no. I was in such disbelief over this that I actually kept trying this certain I was missing something, but it never worked. So like the odris, I felt there was more they could have with this but never did. I was playing on a controller, and switching between both the delivery method and ammo type was a bit awkward and it's easy to make a mistake, but it's functional and one can get used to it in time. Honestly, this is no Horizon Zero Dawn/Forbidden west and I actually found this weapon wheal a little more awkward to use even though there is less to it. Fans of the first game will notice that, along with the luminosa, Devorantis that would force an enemy to remove their helmet and Somnum that you could hold one of at a time and expensive to craft, but would kill an enemy in one hit are also dropped from the game. I feel they did this to make the game more challenging, and it does, so fair enough, but the devorantis in particular I really missed. The somnum was always meant to be a kind of last resort sort of weapon, so it has been given something resembling a replacement in the form of knives. You know the shivs from the Last of Us? Then you know knives from A Plague Tale: Requiem, except they make less sense. They're single use and can be used as a counter kill or a stealth kill. They can also be used (and broken) to unlock bonus chests with extra crafting resources, just like the shivs in The Last of Us. I know it's annoying to keeping bringing up The Last of Us here, but this really does feel like a rip-off mechanic to me. So no, I'm not a fan of this. I would actually be OK with this if it wasn't for the fact the knives are ridiculously scarce in the game. In my 28 hour play-through, I think I found maybe five or six of them in total, almost all of them in the first half of the game. Honestly, they should have stayed with the somnum, it was a better fit for this game and the purpose it served. Don't get me wrong, it's not like I expected to be able to engage in combat like this was Duke Nukem or something, it's not that kind of game, but when this stealth heavy game dose include what, at least to me, felt like more combat than it's predecessor but with combat less options, it's a little frustrating. It's good that the game is more challenging than before because, honestly, that was something of weakness of the first game, but this game has achieved this in a way that feels a little cheap. The AI is pretty much same as it was in the first game, but you are offered less tools to deal with them. The right thing to do would have been to improve the enemy AI and let you have more fun and more strategic options. There is at least a greater variety of enemy types this time around with a variety of strengths, vulnerabilities and strategies. There are now alchemists fighting against you with flame bombs you need to knock out of their hands at the right time, bowmen and spearmen that can attack at a distance, but at are vulnerable form your sling attacks as they don't wear helmets and heavily armoured brutes you have to strip the armour off before they become vulnerable. So, I may not like how they've done it, but they have done it, this a better, more challenging game to play. You're gonna die, a lot. It's not there there has been no legitimate improvements to the gameplay. The levels are less liner and more open than they were before throughout much of the game. Auto aim has been improved and is more subtle offing the player more control. There are new ways to take down enemies unoaked through the games levelling system like being able to stealth kill armoured enemies (as you can see in the image); And also upgrade the ignifier pot to be able to kill enemies (as seen in this image); And those just two examples of how the upgrades and levelling enhance the game. Theses systems are a bit basic, but there's no useless or wasted part of them. It's all useful. However, I do believe you have to find every tool and ounce of crafting material to upgrade everything in the upgrades on a single playthrough and levelling system has an even bigger problem. It's automatic, these skill trees upgrade as you utilize the assigned strategy. So you can't actually choose how to upgrade your character. Not only does this severely limit how far you can progress on each tree as you have divide your use of these strategies to the right situations, for the same reason it's all but impossible to balance how you upgrade you abilities. I know it's a bit safe, I would much prefer a more traditional XP and skill points based system, it's more free and versatile. Stealth is the star of the show, but it doesn't do anything particularly new or radical with it. You move through tall grass, distract enemies, hop over obstacles and through windows to move to new cover and so on. Stranded stuff, but the level designs help make it work with multiple paths and a high population of enemies to navigate through. The companions that pair with you though the journey all add their own new tactic to employ from creating smoke from burning nearby grass to distract enemies or targeting them to attack enemies blocking your path. It's not complex, it's just done well and it works. As I said earlier, the AI isn't really any better than it was in the first game, but they make it work better in greater numbers and good placement in the improved level designs. Then there is, the rats, what truly defines this game. It's simple enough, if you share the same area of dark, they devour you. You need to use the alchemist recipes, fire and other objects in the environment to manipulate them and move them out your way. The game does a great job and really defines itself by how it integrates the rats into the existing stealth mechanics turning them into both an obstacle and tool to be used all at once. Between starting and extinguishing fires, odaris to bait rats out of your pathand even direct control of the rats and that's the identity of this franchise. Combine with the mechanics of them with the highly unsettling and creepy way they work in the story and it really what sets A Plague's Tale apart. They're creepy, disgusting and morbid and the game wouldn't be the same without them. There are problems. Even though some of the levels feel open and with options to get through them, there are some levels that play like a corridor with only solution and any deviation from that solution inevitably fails. Check the clip below for an example of what I mean. Near the beginning of the video, you see I use the odaris to move the rats out of my path and take not of how many of them moved and from how far away. Later, I use the odaris again to open a path in front of me, but the rats stayed put and didn't move even through the rats from earlier moved from a much further distance. You see, it turns out the game didn't want me to go that way, it wanted me to do something else. The game at times is just not as open as it appears. Another cool new mechanic is an unlockable ability to push unsuspecting enemies into rats or fires for a kill, but this isn't much use if by doing so Amicia just falls strait into the same pile of rats behind him: I actually tried this several times at this same spot just to experiment and it happens this way every time. On another attempt I tried pushing the guard into the rats from his left side rather than his right and that worked, so I don't know if this here was a bug or the if, for some reason, the game just didn't want to me push the guy into the rats from that spot. Either way, it's messed up. Story I think that you can guess that this game is a roller coater ride of emotions. I remember a point where Hugo said, “Why can't things stay nice?”, and that pretty much sums it up. The game is not perfect, but I don't really care because it's not about the dynamics and complexities in the gameplay, it's the storytelling experience. Because this review is spoiler free, there's only so much I can say, but the quality of this storytelling experience is undeniable. It's beautifully paced and wonderfully presented, but the true magic is how alive and real this world and the characters made the story feel. It's not he typical cutscene-gameplay-cutscene rota, the tells so much of it's story and builds so much of it's world in game that it always feels like you moving on and learning more at every moment. Six months after escaping from The Inquisition, Amicia, Hugo, their mother Beatrice, and friend Lucas flee Guyenne to escape the war and the plague, known as the bite. They find their to Provence, where a representative, a Magister, of an ancient and secretive organization of alchemists called the Order awaits them promising refuge to the de Rune family and aid to tread Hugo's genetic blood disease, the Prima Macula, which also grants a carrier of this illness a mysterious kinship to the rats. This magister, Vaudin, unfortunately offers a grim conclusion about Hugo's disease to the family, igniting a new determination in Amicia to find a cure. Hugo has his own idea's wear to start, a mysterious island in his dreams where he is lead to a pool of healing water by a strange bird. The order along with Beatrice opt to send Hugo to the French city of Marseilles to The Order's Head Quarters, but a mistrustful Amicia has her own idea's about what's best for Hugo. However, before their ready to move, the past, and the bite, catch up with them. I've mentioned the voice acting and the world building already, and those are huge parts of this, but it's about how much this game makes you want for and care for these characters and admire how the handle their situations in such a courageous, yet relatable way. The hero's make their mistakes, the villains can be understood and even sympathised with to some extent, the motivations of he side characters and how they intertwine with the story reflect themselves and tell a lot about them. The writing is as good as any game I've played. Everything the characters say feels like something they themselves wrote, it's that natural and correct. Hugo in particular I absolutely fell in love with in this story. From the bright, fun, innocent moments to how this character grows and self reflects as the story goes on is so refreshing from a media of our time that all to often struggles to find a balance between a child that's overly vulnerable and sweet to one too mature and shaped buy the moment rather than his upbringing and how they've been raised. Hugo has a curiosity and a hunger for the world around that that is so accurate to how a child behaves, but is also prone to fright and cuddles to his big sister. Again, it's a balance so few games, movies and TV shows get right, but this game absolutely nails it. For him, this journey is very much a discovery of self and as we learn with him we can relate to him so easily despite the somewhat alien circumstances he's going through. Amicia may be the main protagonist, and it's not like she doesn't go through a story of her own, but this is Hugo's story. This is about how he grows and reflects and how Amicia nurtures and protects him not just from the forces acting against them, but from his own despair and fear of who he is. This works so well in the storytelling environment of a video game because you play as Amicia, you are that guardian and protector. This may not be an RPG technically, but you role play very much as Amicia and absorb the world from her perspective and it is the perfect place from which to observe this story. I really fed off Amicia' unyielding determination and love for her young brother and that help me feel determined to push through this challenging and sometimes frustrating game. And that's when you know a story has got you in a game, when a part of you wants to stop, but you can't. The first game was good, but this was even better. Interestingly, I actually feel like some of the game's shortcomings in the gameplay aspect actually helped tell this story. The first game was too easy, at least up until the final boss, that was a certifiable nightmare. But never mind that, the point is that this sequels raised difficulty I'm convinced was done because they needed to, but also to better tell the story, and that's a brave thing to do. I makes me not really care about it's faults, because I cared about these characters so much more. Conclusion
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