Three years ago, the 2019 sleeper hit A Plague Tale: Innocence released to noteworthy buzz and eventually went on to be a major award-winning hit, even netting itself a Game of the Year award as well as securing a Top Ten spot on our own list. It’s successor, Requiem, follows in the same footsteps; a somber third-person action-adventure game that takes place in 14th century France during the period of the Hundred Years’ War. This time around we detour from the known history into a more fictional tale with its own take on that history.
We once again step into the shoes of Amicia De Rune and her younger brother Hugo. Six months after defeating the Inquisition and learning that Hugo is a carrier of the Macula (a mutant power-esque affliction that gives the young boy the ability to control rats) our duo have finally found some respite. Of course, that’s all short lived as Hugo approaches new thresholds of his power and once again, we must run and hide through beautiful vistas, dystopian areas and flee from a new army of soldiers and of course the ever-present tsunami of rats. Continuing the great work of blending horror and heart, Requiem much like its predecessor is another surefire hit from Asobo Studio.
The thing about sequels is not just what’s done differently but how a game can expand on what came before it. It’s one thing to go into the next generation of hardware and come with all the graphical bells and whistles but its also another to grow the heart of the story. The first game relied heavily on the relationship between brother and sister and how their bond had to strengthen to get past many of the dangers they encountered. Not content to do more of the same, Requiem focuses more on how that bond might break. Amicia has stoned herself emotionally, tired of the death that surrounded them and when faced with it again, begins a cycle of violence that traumatizes her and shows how fierce her determination is to protect her brother. Hugo this time around is dealing with his internal guilt about being some sort of supernatural wonder child and his connection with the rats. The events that follow through to the game’s emotionally powerful ending test this bond to levels never seen, and by the conclusion of its tale, there is naught a dry eye to be had. Very few game endings have left me this emotionally stunned. Endings like those found in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, 2018’s God of War or more recently Ghost of Tsushima have left me slack jawed and teary eyed due to the emotional investment the game’s narratives have taken, and in Requiem I definitely got hit the hardest. The narrative effort detailed here is one of the best I’ve encountered in a video game and puts A Plague Tale in the same conversation alongside a game like The Last of Us in terms of how the narrative effort of a game is key and tantamount to the experience.
Requiem also sports a completely overhauled gameplay system. Crafting on the fly returns and is more simplified this time around and Amicia gets some new alchemical tools to tackle enemy soldiers, rats and the myriad of puzzles that pop up that are environmental or even involve utilizing light sources to get the rats to do some of the work for you. The game takes on a more action-oriented approach as well, giving Amicia access to a crossbow and knives. While the game is primarily a stealth action-adventure game, its not afraid to embrace its own inner Uncharted and have you take on small waves of enemy soldiers. You’ll use the environment to duck and weave as you prepare to line up an accurate headshot with your sling or crossbow. Even if you mess up, long gone are the instant death parts from the first game. Instead, you’ll get a chance to run away and regroup yourself to full health so to speak. The game even treats its upgrade systems differently based on how you play. If you’re stealthier, there’s an upgrade path for Amicia to home in on stealth perks. If you want to effectively be a medieval Rambo, there’s an upgrade path for that as well. The game embraces the bigger and better motif in its combat so much that it almost feels like a different game entirely. This may turn off some players though, but personally I loved the changes.
Graphically the game is leaps and bounds beyond its predecessor. Heck, it’s even leaps and bounds beyond most triple A games that have released. I can comfortably put it side by side with a game like Elden Ring and both games would be amazing to look at. They’re both digital paintings given form. Requiem balances beautiful colored vistas alongside dark and dreary stone architecture and huge mountainous areas. The draw distance rivals most open world games, and one would think it is almost an open world game with how far that draw distance is. In Innocence, the areas you played through felt tighter and more claustrophobic but here in Requiem we have much more space to play in. The move to next gen hardware has also allowed a lot more rats to be on the screen as well. They come in crashing through the walls and are a literal rodent tsunami in some sections. There’s even a sequence where they literally devour a whole city and it is just insane how it was all put together and played out.
Bigger and better is one way to describe A Plague Tale: Requiem but even that alone is a disservice to the overall experience the game offers. Asobo Studios have truly outdone themselves. From every singular moment in this game, you can feel the love and attention to detail they poured in. Some might feel they went a little too ambitious and that’s a fair statement to make. It feels like a departure from the formula presented in Innocence. The tight corridored stealth game has made way for a more visceral experience, borrowing the DNA found in the big triple A games we love. Requiem seemingly leans more towards that Uncharted and The Last of Us feel blended in with Metal Gear Solid-styled storytelling complete with twists and turns. By the time the final credits rolled, I sat with my controller in one hand and my rested my chin on the other. I wiped my tears and knew I had played something truly unique and amazing all in one. A Plague Tale: Requiem from start to finish is a showcase of how a studio has grown up and metaphorically so, so is the narrative itself. In 2019 we watched the innocence of two siblings be stripped away and be forced to mature faster than any child should and now with Requiem that innocence is but a memory giving way to the cost of protecting everything you have left. Emotionally powerful, visually stunning and all around a grandiose game for 2022, A Plague Tale: Requiem is an unmissable heart and gut wrenching rollercoaster ride of an experience.