A Plague Tale: Requiem (PS5/Xbox Series) Review

Adventure, heartbreak, rats
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A Plague Tale: Requiem is the ambitious sequel to 2019’s excellent but often ignored A Plague Tale: Innocence. Given its predecessor delivered some incredible cinematic storytelling and rat-based terror, we’ve been itching to get our hands on it. Continuing the, ah, tale, of Amicia’s quest to find a cure for her brother Hugo’s “Prime Macula” infection, it should come as no surprise trouble follows in their wake and you’re going to encounter a heck of a lot more ravenous rat hordes, murderous humans, and secret societies. It’s good, even great depending on your tastes, but an ever-present sense of familiarity and some lingering bugs can bring down the experience.

A Plague Tale: Requiem Puzzles

Humans are the real monsters

By video game standards, three years feels like a quick turnaround time for a cinematic, story-driven sequel, and A Plague Tale: Requiem follows in the footsteps of its predecessor in a lot of ways – perhaps too many. In fact, if you played (or replayed) A Plague Tale: Innocence after the “Next-Gen” update was released last year, you might find the sequel a little too familiar, most notably during the opening act. It’s one of the game’s few flaws as – like most cinematic action-adventures – it relies heavily on tightly scripted encounters bookended by lengthy cutscenes. It also doesn’t help that A Plague Tale: Requiem’s story follows a similar arc to the first game, including the three-act structure, with the hunt for a cure for Hugo still taking centre stage, before the final act takes you on a wildly different and dark trajectory.

Thankfully, A Plague Tale: Requiem picks up near the end of the first act and spends a lot more time delving into the history of the Prime Macula, The Order, and even the nature of Hugo and Amicia’s bond – a bond that continues to grow over the sequel, even if some traumatic bonding experiences are a retread of the first game. After the all too familiar opening act that has you escaping bandits, murderous town guards, and rat hordes, the second act is one of adventure and discovery – albeit not without a veneer of grimness and danger – before the final act ups the stakes to a suitably insane level that outdoes the final chapters of the first game.

It’s going to be a matter of preference, but A Plague Tale: Requiem has pacing that ebbs and flows, rather than just escalates constantly. It’s happy to swing from brutal violence and body horror, to reflective strolls through the countryside for the sake of its narrative. Overall, I enjoyed the story beats and dark finale more than its predecessor, and was intrigued by hints of where the IP might go next. That said, some of Amicia’s allies feel like they belong in a more light-hearted adventure game, and many antagonists are once again sadistically evil to the point half of France seems sociopathic.

There’s more than one way to skin a rat

Honestly, a lot of the game’s mechanics are mostly unchanged from the first game, and, as the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It also has a fairly predictable flow as you move from sections dedicated to storytelling, exploration, and puzzling, to sections with stealth and/or combat, reach an exit that triggers the next cutscene, and then repeat the cycle in the next chapter. Now that said, there has been innovation and refinement when it comes to stealth, combat, alchemy, and crafting. Narrative-permitting, it’s still possible – and probably optimal – for Amicia to ghost her way past most enemies and that’s now a smoother process with less frustrating insta-fail stealth parts. If combat is your preference, she can also deal with threats in a level in more interesting and often sadistic ways.

A Plague Tale: Requiem Stealth

When stealthing about, you’ll find routes through each area and now have a “quick distract” ability that gives you a few seconds of breathing room if you’re about to be spotted. In combat, you have more options in close encounters, and her sling is now complemented by a crossbow, both of which can fling projectiles enhanced with a myriad of alchemical compounds to take out guards or solve light- and fire-related puzzles. You spend most of the first act without Hugo but, when he finally joins Amicia for the rest of the game, the rat hordes can be used to your advantage – even if they’re often still your greatest threat. Your new companions also have a selection of skills that’ll help you when they’re in your party, ranging from outright brawling with guards, to providing a new type of distraction, and a mobile light source.

One significant improvement is how your gameplay style dynamically improves one of three skill trees that cover stealth, combat, and alchemy – with new perks or abilities earned at specific thresholds. In a way, it provides a gamified morality system, even if it still has no bearing on the narrative. The game tries to present a moral dilemma as to whether you should be murdering tons of bandits, mercenaries, and soldiers across southern France. Once again, your companions will often comment on your approach based; however, the story plays out the same regardless and even forces you into direct combat or non-lethal stealth. On the whole, the gameplay is more varied than the first game but as a cinematic game, it’s still limited and restrictive. If you enjoyed the gameplay loop in A Plague Tale: Innocence, you’ll be more than satisfied with the sequel. If you found it too restrictive and directed, A Plague Tale: Requiem is more of the same.

A Plague Tale: Requiem Skills

Beauty and the beasts

The first game was already a looker but A Plague Tale: Requiem significantly improves upon the visuals and animation quality. The game is flat-out gorgeous in places, making full use of the photogrammetrically-sourced textures, and there are plenty of moments you’ll want to just relax and take in the stunning scenery. More detailed environments are combined with lighting effects that have been refined to give the game a more natural and realistic look. Character models are more detailed, animations more fluid (even if lip-syncing sometimes feels off), and the rat swarms now move like a flood during several encounters. The soundtrack from Olivier Deriviere is, once again, incredible, with variations on familiar themes that can create an atmosphere ranging from tranquil peace to oppressive dread.

Unfortunately, there were some technical issues that detracted from the experience when playing the PS5 release build on a 4K HDR TV. We encountered a bug that generated extreme screen-tearing and it was only after switching to a different monitor, at a lower resolution, that the issue was resolved. This did not occur in any other PS5 game tested and we’ve seen other complaints in forums, so hopefully, a patch is on the way. Aside from the odd animation bug also seen on the PS5 – think lining up Amicia for a takedown or pulling a switch – we didn’t experience this on the Xbox Series consoles.

A Plague Tale: Requiem Visuals

Adventure, heartbreak, rats

Overall, A Plague Tale: Requiem is a solid sequel to the original game. Yes, it does more of the same, but it does it with significantly improved visuals and gameplay mechanics that have been refined and streamlined. The intensely cinematic story, coupled with a mix of stealth and combat, drive the plot forward at a variable but satsifying pace, and there were only rare moments of frustration thanks to the myriad of ways in which you could navigate rat hordes and deal with human enemies (only one boss fight comes to mind). It’s strange that in an industry so beset by delays these last few years, our biggest issue with A Plague Tale: Requiem is that it could have benefitted from a little more time passing since the last game to make the experience feel fresher.

A review code for A Plague Tale: Requiem was provided to gameblur by the publisher.

A Plague Tale: Requiem (PS5/Xbox Series) Review

A Plague Tale: Requiem (PS5/Xbox Series) Review
8 10 0 1
8/10
Total Score
  • Story
    8/10 Very Good
  • Gameplay
    7/10 Good
  • Visuals
    9/10 Amazing
  • Audio
    8/10 Very Good

The Good

  • An epic sequel that expands both the narrative and gameplay scope
  • Refinements to combat, stealth, and alchemy for smoother gameplay
  • Incredible visuals, soundtrack, and thick atmosphere
  • The ebb and flow of the pacing

The Bad

  • The ebb and flow of the pacing
  • Even as a sequel, some story beats and gameplay sequences feel a little too familiar
  • Several animation and visual bugs persist post-launch
Total
7
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