A Plague Tale: Innocence (2019) Review

A Plague Tale Innocence is the first game in a new video game series from developers Asobo Studios, It was published in 2019 by Focus Interactive for the PS4, Xbox One and PC with a PS5, Xbox Series X/S releases coming out in 2021 Cloud based releases also came out for the Nintendo Switch and Amazon Luna. I played the PS5 version of the game so my opinions are mostly based on that version of the game.

The game takes place between the years 1348 and 1349 in France during the Black Plague and the 100 year war. You play the game as Amicia De Rune who is trying to escape the French Inqusition who want to take away her sick 5 year old brother Hugo so they can run experiments on him due to something in his blood. Since the game also takes place during the plague outbreak avoiding infected rats is also a major key to survival.

The game has a very high focus on stealth, in fact I would argue that this is almost the entire game, I dont mind stealth but I have always struggled with it and normally die a whole bunch which was no different here. I was surprised with how much I actually really enjoyed the stealth gameplay though.

I like how the entire experience is like a puzzle, you can attack enemies with your slingshot to kill them but throughout your journey you do unlock new ways to use your sling with a crafting system, you can make fire, extinguish flames and do an attack that forces soldiers to remove their helmets.

You can even find other ways to get rid of enemies such as throwing rocks and pots to lure them away from your location or you can create a sleeping solution to knock them out, the goal of the game is not to avoid violence but to avoid being seen and it is really fun to figure out different ways to achieve this. Hugo makes this difficult because he is only a child and gets upset if you go too far away from him so for the majority of the game you are holding his hand and need to be sneaky while also making sure to keep him safe as well.

The way that rats work is they only attack in the dark and always come out in groups that will eat you alive. You need to stay in the light or find other ways to distract them, I don’t want to spoil too much but one way to distract the rats is to encourage them to eat the enemies, you can do this by extinguishing enemy fires or by throwing a smelly solution at the French Soldiers to over-empower your own scent. As for Hugo’s secret blood and abilities I wont discuss them in this review as that would be a major spoiler for the game but I will go into a lot more detail when we discuss the upcoming sequel.

Sometimes during the game you have allies that you need to command to help you take out enemies or finish puzzles, this doesn’t happen too often but whenever did happen the game was clear with its hints and I didn’t have too much trouble.

The game looks great visually it fits the theme of desolation, loss and fear that a lot of people had during the time period, the abandoned villages and mass hysteria of certain groups reminds me of the early days of something we all had to suffer through recently and I want to make it clear that in my spare time I am a massive history fanboy. The Black Plague is something I have researched a lot over the years and while of course this is a video game so it does over exaggerate certain things it is what I would expect from a game based during those troubling times. It even makes an effort to be somewhat historically accurate, above you can see white crosses on the doors and in the game Amecia explains that people in those houses have been locked in as they have caught the plague and this is actually true to historical evidence although the crosses were more commonly painted in either red or black.

The soundtrack for the game was composed by Olivier Deriviere a French videogame composer best known for the Alone in the Dark Series. The Music here is very eerie and gives off chilling vibes of loneliness and an odd sense of calm. There isn’t really a lot of big action in the game so the music tends to fit the slower pace with it’s composition and while I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to listen to it I do appreciate what we were given and I look forward to seeing if the composition changes much in the sequel.

A Plague Tale Innocence is best described as a great experience but not one you would really want to revisit straight away, the core gameplay is really good and it works to tell a fantastic and emotional story of two struggling siblings during one of the most horrific pandemics in History. The biggest issue with the game is that it is much too linear, there are collectables but for the most part you are on one path with very little room for exploration, I wish there was more too it perhaps some side quests or morale choices that effect the outcome of your journey, maybe the possibility to play the game in co-op would have been a good addition considering that out of the entire story only a handful of chapters focus on one character.

The game is one of the more affordable options for the PS5 and Xbox Series X/S, in fact I got this sealed for a measly £20 and for that price its a bargain, I just hope the next chapter in the adventures of Amecia and Hugo just offers a little bit extra and that big reveal at the end plays a much bigger role next time.

7/10

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Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One (2021) Review

Based on the character created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes: Chapter One is the latest Sherlock Holmes videogame, it was developed and published by Frogswares for the PC, PS5 and Xbox Series S/X with versions for last gen consoles coming soon.

This is an origin story for our favourite detective so you wont be seeing Dr Watson in the game. The Plot actually sees a younger Sherlock Holmes returning to the Island of Cordona to revisit his family home and try to find out why his mother died.

He is joined by his imaginary friend Jon who acts as his conscience but at times seems to have a mind of his own.

While figuring out the answers to one of his biggest family secrets word of his unique detective skills gets around and young sherlock finds himself solving various different mysteries before he can finally get some answers.

The game is an open world Action/Mystery videogame based in the early 1800’s. It differs from a lot of other open world games as their is very little action segments and those that do exist can be skipped with very little effect to the player.

The Main Quest is very short and in order to get the most out of the game you really need to be focussing on the side cases and collectables.

The Gameplay is all very similar throughout the experience, you are a detective putting clues together to solve crimes, there are various ways to do this but some of the most frequent ways to solve a case are by examining a crime scene, you can view certain objects to gather information and you can even check for much smaller details such as blood spots on the carpets or scratches in woodwork etc.

Some people wont speak to Sherlock in his expensive suit so putting on different disguises is absolutely necessary, these can be purchased from various street sellers, you can also purchase furniture for your home from sellers across the island.

There are three archives you can visit, Police (Crimes), Cordona Chronicle (News) and Cordona City Hall (Official/Legal Documents). Depending on your clue you need to decide which will be the most useful to visit, you first need to select your clue from your case file then you can choose three key words to try and match some further information. For example if I was looking for a news article about an escaped monkey in Scaladio 100 years ago I would visit Cordona Chronicle and would search 1700’s – Front Page – Scaladio and that would then match the correct information.

Once you have enough of an idea of how a crime was committed you will be able to enter Sherlocks imagination where he can individually choose positions and actions to determine the most likely possibility of a crime before making his final decision in his mind palace.

Some items you collect during investigations can be chemically analysed to find out what certain stains or substances are. This process requires players to complete a small math puzzle where they need to find clever ways to match the required outcome by either dividing, adding, subtracting or doubling numbers.

The mind palace is where sherlock is able to connect all of his clues and make his final judgement of who is the culprit and how they should be punished, this normally results in whether he lets them go or reports them to the authorities but in more serious cases he can even suggest the death sentence.

The cases are almost perfect from a gameplay perspective you really do feel like a detective but if there is one issue I would say that Jon should have been a developed a little differently, throughout the game he constantly complains when you make mistakes but the game isn’t very clear on what direction you should be heading in, the clues are very complex in areas and I think that Jon maybe should have been used more as a hint system or a way to help players with trickier clues. I used a walkthrough more than once and I am not ashamed to admit that because this game can be really hard at times due to its lack of direction.

While the detective and mystery elements of the game really shine I feel its combat is a little lackluster, thankfully as I have already stated you can skip these but in case you want to do them, the idea is to shoot off armour and use the environment to stun enemies so you can arrest them, you can kill people but you will be penalised for this.

The problem with the combat is that its really slow paced and because of the lack of ways to interact and stun enemies it gets repetitive very quickly, towards the end of the game I found myself really enjoying the fact that I didn’t have to do these parts.

While your running around the island, eves dropping on locals and solving side cases there are actually 24 hidden treasures you can find by using photographic clues given to you by the treasure master.

These are actually quite cryptic and really challenging to find, they are a great way to have a break from the rest of the game which all follows a very similar gameplay pattern and there are some trophies to unlock if you collect these.

The game is lacking in its visuals, graphically its not really up to scratch with the modern hardware its been released on however that is not to say that it isn’t impressive. This is not a triple A game and it had a much smaller budget than some other games on modern systems, It doesn’t even have a physical release which says a lot in how much money was able to be pumped into it, what is really impressive is how the developers managed to make the world so realistic and immersive. The 1800 style really works in the games favour for being pretty cool to explore especially for fans of history. The load times are really fast and there is no issue with background items loading in too late. The developers were really clever with how they managed to hide invisible barriers, by putting Sherlock on an Island they are able to allow him to explore almost anywhere that he can walk too, he cant jump so he is restricted to the ground and since he cant swim the only barrier is the ocean which drowns him when entered. Smart game design like this allows players to remain immersed in the gameplay without obvious blocks taking away from the experience.

The soundtrack isn’t too special but I don’t think it needed to be, the small music tracks it uses are very simple and mellow, I does pick up during combat for the most part you are so focused on solving cases you forget the music is even there, so unfortunately I don’t have much to say about the OST here apart from its neither good nor bad.

Sherlock Holmes Chapter One was a lot better than I expected, I really enjoyed the freedom that came with the open world, I spent a lot of time focussing on the side content and really going after all the trophies which I did manage to pull off, they are quite easy to get and a good chunk are rewarded for making certain moral decisions and doing Jon’s various challenges.

The main quest line is fine enough but its very short especially on a second playthrough so again you really will want to do everything to get your moneys worth with this one, especially since you will be paying a fair bit on money as the game is not cheap for digital only.

Overall I really enjoyed this game but even with all of impressive features its got some pretty serious issues in its gameplay, the combat is creative but badly pulled off, again you can skip these but that’s still no excuse, the main puzzle solving and the mystery parts are really cool but a little bit too cryptic at times which can effect peoples enjoyment as just little hints would have been useful to help get us in the right direction without having to use the internet.

However I did get excited to play this game whenever I got the chance, even though I did use a walkthrough a couple of times I was still really invested in the story and cases I was solving, I thought the world was really well animated, it felt how I would imagine the 1800’s to be and the characters were all really interesting. I think it was a great choice to do an origin story as well before Sherlock becomes famous, who knows maybe one day we will get another game in this style, perhaps with Dr Watson?

6/10

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