Image: Focus Entertainment

Not the entire adjustments are for the higher with the brand new recreation, however the core stays in contrast to anything on the market

Things by no means go proper for poor Amicia and Hugo. The last time we saw the siblings, in 2019’s A Plague Tale: Innocence, they’d simply survived being hunted by the Inquisition amidst a plague sweeping 14th-century France, which additionally introduced swarms of flesh-eating rats. Not precisely a very good time. At a number of factors within the sequel, A Plague Tale: Requiem, issues appear to be going properly. The pair discover themselves in a secure city or amongst what seem like pals. There’s even a pleasant little boat journey. But it by no means lasts — similar to the unique, Requiem is a tense and brutal stealth recreation the place merely surviving is an accomplishment. The sequel expands on the thought of two children making an attempt to outlive unimaginable horrors with an even bigger world and new mechanics and loses a few of the novelty alongside the best way, however that core pressure is pretty much as good as ever.

Requiem picks up just a few months after the primary recreation, with the siblings now comparatively secure and sound, having moved on from the horrors of their residence in Guyenne. At the outset, they’re exploring Bordeaux searching for a treatment for Hugo’s unusual affliction, which appears to be each killing him and creating a singular bond with the swarms of ever-present rats. Initially, they discover a new residence in a city with an skilled who guarantees to assist, however earlier than lengthy, issues (in fact) go dangerous when a secret order of alchemists decides that Hugo will make an incredible science experiment. At the identical time, the area is being put below a plague-related lockdown; guards patrol the streets, lifeless our bodies gas disturbing bonfires, and the rats are simply itching to search out any heat flesh to eat. As Hugo’s situation worsens, he begins having goals of a phenomenal island, and finally, he convinces Amicia, who has sworn herself as his protector, {that a} treatment will doubtless be discovered there. And so the sport turns into an extended quest to search out this dream island.

Fundamentally, Requiem isn’t all that completely different from its predecessor. At its most reductive, it may very well be described as a stealth puzzle recreation that’s additionally form of terrifying. The most pivotal moments are about staying alive. This might imply sneaking previous guards who will kill on sight or discovering your means via the swarms of hungry rats. Sometimes you need to do each on the identical time. Finding your means via safely is like fixing a puzzle: you possibly can sneak round a guard by distracting them, or you possibly can knock down their lantern in order that the rats, who’re scared of any gentle supply, will assault. The puzzles develop into extra advanced as you get new skills and gadgets. Eventually, you’ll have the ability to use tar to make large fires or mud to extinguish flames or a wierd lure to information the rats the place you need them.

This was largely all true of the unique, and Requiem does the standard online game sequel factor by making issues greater and extra advanced. Sometimes this works properly. By the top of Innocence, the novelty of manipulating the rats and sneaking previous guards was beginning to put on skinny, and lots of the new additions make the method extra attention-grabbing. Once you have got a full complement of things at your disposal, the puzzles develop into lots trickier and extra cerebral (although you’ll nonetheless be turning lots of cranks). There have been loads of instances after I actually needed to cease and take into consideration tips on how to mix the assorted gadgets in order that I might make it out of a seemingly unpassable part.

Unfortunately, the sport additionally makes a stronger push into motion, which isn’t the sequence’ robust swimsuit. There are quite a few moments the place Amicia is compelled to kill, and also you’re given extra instruments to homicide on this recreation, together with a crossbow, a soldier sidekick, and, finally, Hugo’s potential to truly management the rats and information them to a recent meal.

This change makes narrative sense. An enormous focus in Requiem is how the violence has modified Amicia. In the primary recreation, she is compelled to kill to outlive, however by the second, it has develop into one thing of a behavior. You can see the bodily toll it takes on her over the course of the sport, and there are occasions when she appears to even take pleasure in ending a life. The recreation appears to need you to really feel dangerous about this, however as is usually the case in video games, taking the extra murderous route often makes issues simpler (and extra enjoyable) for the participant. There’s a disconnect between what you’re doing and how you’re supposed to feel.

A screenshot from A Plague Tale: Requiem
Image: Focus Entertainment

The bigger situation, although, is that making Amicia a more proficient and environment friendly killer additionally takes a few of the pressure out of the sport. A Plague Tale is at its finest when it veers towards horror — moments when the siblings are holding arms at nighttime, utilizing a torch to push their means via swarms of lethal rats. There are nonetheless some nice moments like this in Requiem, together with a very terrifying sequence in a rat’s nest. When it really works, it’s as heart-pounding and scary as ever. If there’s one good use for next-gen consoles, it’s the flexibility to up the horror by including hundreds of extra rats on display. (I performed on the PS5, and the pitter-patter of rat ft coming via the Dualsense controller made me very uncomfortable.) By these requirements, the repetitive boss fights and shootouts really feel like an afterthought that I needed to pressure myself via.

When Innocence got here out, it took numerous acquainted issues, like stealth motion and environmental puzzles, and put them collectively into an expertise that was in contrast to something I’d ever performed earlier than. Requiem doesn’t have that benefit. The novelty isn’t there anymore. The puzzles are extra advanced, the world is a bit of greater, however you’re nonetheless doing numerous the identical issues. The good factor is that these issues stay intense and terrifying, and Amicia and Huge’s plight continues to be fascinating to look at unfold. After two video games, I nonetheless cringe on the web site of hundreds of ferocious rats and maintain my breath till the children discover a momentary secure house. Many of the additions really feel extra like padding than obligatory adjustments, and so the sequel doesn’t maintain fairly the identical punch as the unique — however that doesn’t make the rats any much less scary.

A Plague Tale: Requiem launches on October 18th on the PS5, Xbox Series X / S, PC, and Nintendo Switch (cloud model).

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