During this year’s GamesCom Asobo Studio and Focus Home Interactive rolled out a 16-minute gameplay demonstration for the stealth-horror game, A Plague Tale: Innocence. The adventure set during the 14th century France in a countryside overrun with a deadly plague and thousands of flesh-eating rats, sees a girl named Amicia and her young brother Hugo attempting to traverse through the dead bodies, the rats, and deadly soldiers from the French and English soldiers in order to find some relatively safe ground in order to survive.
The game was announced a while back, but was featured briefly at this year’s E3, with some additional tech details and gameplay mechanics discussed. For instance, Asobo Studio’s title can house up to 5,000 rats on screen at a time.
The start of the demo features a cinematic where Amicia asks Lucas what’s wrong with her brother, Hugo. The trio arrive on the shore and make their way along the shoreline towards the inland.
The first couple of minutes of gameplay is basically just linear walking (or jogging) along the path, as the trio follow the ruined structures that eventually leads to a battlefield where a massacre has taken place. Here we see players trekking through an entire field of dead bodies in order to get to the other side.
The hyper-realistic art-style employed for A Plague Tale works really well, as it helps convey the game’s horrific sense of dread and an atmosphere of foulness and death. This is made ever-so-evident when the trio encounter a white horse by ruined carts… the horse begins to throb and move, but it’s not because the horse is alive, but because the rats have eaten through the horse’s body and bursts through its midsection, sending blood and viscera everywhere.
Later into the demo we see that Amicia uses the slingshot to light up fires to keep the rats away.
Unlike other recent AAA titles, Amicia isn’t a “strong, independent woman who doesn’t need no man”. The trope is tired and worn out at this point. Thankfully, in Asobo’s game Amicia is depicted in a more realistic manner. She’s incapable of fighting hand-to-hand against soldiers, and here the game takes on a more stealth-oriented direction, as players will need to use the environment and obstructions to hide behind and avoid being spotted by the heavily armored soldiers.
Instead of fighting the soldiers directly, you use the slingshot to distract them, waylay them, or if they’re too close to the rats you can break the lantern and force the rats to devour the soldiers alive. You can, however, use the slingshot to incapacitate unarmored foes by hitting them in the head. If you can incapacitate a bandit while he’s surrounded by rats, the rats will eat him alive.
Essentially players have to use wits and tactics to navigate through the harsh and dangerous world of A Plague Tale: Innocence.
Players will also be responsible for keeping Hugo and any of their other companions alive.
A couple of noteworthy points about the demo: The characters’ locomotion is determined by their surroundings. Lumpy and uneven ground will slow them down, while mud and water forces them to have to trudge through the terrain.
There are some criticisms from gamers about the AI’s lack of peripheral vision, and the fact that they don’t seem to hear too well. Others were a bit more critical of the limited gameplay loops, hoping that there was more to the game than what was on display in the video demonstration. Most were hopeful for Asobo’s upcoming title because it’s a unique game with an alternate, horror-take on real history.
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