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A Plague Tale: Requiem Review: Rat Infestation

From an unknown small studio, it’s a brand new IP. The 2019 adventure game “A Plague Tale: Innocence” received good sales and reputation after its release, which can be said to be the dark horse work of the year.

A Plague Tale: Innocence is set in 14th century Europe and tells the story of a brother and sister who face the threat of natural disasters and the Inquisition, fleeing all the way and seeking revenge.

The game visualizes the “Black Death” that ravaged Europe at that time, also known as the “Plague”. The originally invisible and intangible pathogens turn into a swarm of rats that can instantly devour humans or even annihilate entire towns. The only weakness of the rat swarm is fire and light, which also constitutes an important part of the gameplay in the game. In addition, the adventures of the two siblings Amicia and Hugo in A Plague Tale: Innocence are also a major highlight of the game.

Three years have passed in a blink of an eye, and Asobo Studio has brought a sequel to this work – “A Plague Tale: Requiem”.

A Plague Tale: Requiem inherits the plot development of A Plague Tale: Innocence. As the curse on their younger brother Hugo worsens again, the siblings have to embark on another journey to find the island in their dreams. It is said that there is a way to break Hugo’s curse hidden there, and they will also face new enemies and challenges…

The comprehensive upgrade of game graphics is the most obvious change in “A Plague Tale: Requiem”. The graphic quality, material texture, and lighting effects of this game have been greatly improved, and the character and scene shaping are more realistic and delicate. In addition, the overall art style of the game has also produced certain differences from the previous game.

The story stage of “A Plague Tale: Requiem” has moved from Aquitaine to the famous tourist destination of Provence. Compared to the previous work’s concentrated portrayal of the gloomy and oppressive atmosphere of the town under the rat swarm, this work has added many beautiful and magnificent natural scenes, and also shows the hustle and bustle of several towns. These areas are mostly presented to players in a fresh and bright color style, and controlling the protagonist Amicia and others to wander in them can also experience a previously unparalleled sense of relaxation and comfort.

When it comes to Provence, lavender is naturally indispensable

Under the sunshine, there must be shadows. Behind the noisy and bustling market is an abandoned arena that has long been plagued by rats, like a purgatory on earth; the beautiful and peaceful port town will be flattened by the rats in an instant… These form a sharp contrast with the beautiful scenery mentioned earlier, which is enough to bring players a strong impact and contrast from a visual and psychological perspective.

As for one of the selling points mentioned in the previous promotion – “a significant increase in the number of mouse swarms on the same screen”, I can only say that the number of mouse swarms “deployed” in the game has indeed reached a very large scale. However, the number is too large, and the scenes where mouse swarms appear are mostly dimly lit, making it difficult to see the dynamics of the mice clearly at a glance. In fact, it is difficult to experience the fear of “mouse heads swarming” in the process, which makes people’s scalps tingle. Although the game has contributed many shocking mouse swarm escape battles and cutscenes, compared with the final boss battle of the first generation of Vitalis, the performance of the mouse swarm is still somewhat inferior.

In addition, the PC version of this game supports ray tracing, but the previous version we experienced has not yet opened the ray tracing function, and it needs to be unlocked on the day of the game’s official release.

From the recommended configuration previously announced by the official, it can be seen that the hardware requirements of this game are relatively high. We experienced it in an RTX 3080 + 2K resolution environment this time, and the game can run at around 55-60 frames per second for most stages. However, in scenes with many firelights and other special effects, the frame number will drop sharply to around 40-50 frames per second, and the lag can be clearly felt. The optimized performance is not particularly ideal.

The process time of “A Plague Tale: Requiem” has been expanded to about 18-20 hours. Compared with the previous generation and similar story adventure games, the content volume is still relatively substantial.

“A Plague Tale: Requiem” basically continues the gameplay mode of the previous generation. The game as a whole still uses a linear process, and the weaknesses of the rat swarm and human soldiers mostly follow the previous setting. However, with the addition of some new elements, the actual gameplay experience of this game is much richer than that of the previous generation.

First is the shaping of the scene. The scale of the scene in this work has been further expanded, the terrain structure is more three-dimensional and well-connected, and the number of stealth and clearance routes that players can choose has also increased.

At the same time, this work provides a large number of level scenes with different styles, from villages, castles, camps to coasts, foothills, and caves, bringing certain differences in both visual and exploration experiences.

During the exploration process, Amicia will collaborate with Lucas from the previous work, mercenary Arnold, smuggler leader Suo Feiya, and others. In addition to plot roles, these characters can also provide assistance in infiltration and combat through their own abilities.

As an alchemist apprentice, Lucas can use enchanting powder against the fire source to disrupt the opponent’s vision and make them unable to move. Suo Feiya’s prism can be used to burn grass to attract enemies or refract fire to drive away rats…

Combining the special abilities of companions, as well as gradually unlocking props and systems, each chapter has different theme elements and gameplay, which can keep players fresh enough. However, the AI logic problems and bugs of companions have also become more numerous.

In addition, the younger brother Hugo, who was jokingly referred to as a “drag oil bottle” by players in the previous work, awakened the ability to control the mouse group. Hugo can not only share senses with the mice to locate and mark enemies, but also directly command the mouse group to launch attacks.

By using a swarm of mice, one can effortlessly kill originally difficult enemies. Of course, this powerful attack method cannot do without various restrictions. Hugo will increase the pressure value when controlling the swarm of mice. When overused, the pressure value will increase, and he will be attacked by the swarm of mice.

Moreover, during the activation process, Hugo cannot move and can only control a small number of mice at a time. Therefore, players cannot use this ability to drive away all the mice in the scene to skip the related puzzle content.

Mouse group perspective

In terms of environmental puzzles, “A Plague Tale: Requiem” has not made too many changes. The main idea is still to light up the light source and drive away the mice. At the same time, a certain number of mechanical facilities will be interspersed, and the protagonist and companions need to cooperate to open up passages.

However, as mentioned above, the scale of the scenes in this game has further expanded, and there are many areas where human soldiers and rats coexist in the process. Players need to spend more energy observing and planning routes, and make use of the props in their hands to deal with them.

The use, blending, and upgrading of weapons and props in “A Plague Tale: Requiem” basically follow the old logic. Players can collect supplies to make items such as ignition potions and information, and combine them with several types of equipment to generate ignition sources, disperse and attract mice, restrict soldiers’ movement, and other functions.

With the unlocking of props and items, players have a variety of ways to deal with soldiers and mice blocking the way. Most of the time, they can decide based on the amount of resources at hand. However, in the game, players often encounter scenes with complex environmental settings, where they need to frequently switch equipment and props to deal with enemies and puzzle elements. At this time, it is easy to be confused and use the wrong props.

The combat mechanism of the game is similar to the previous generation. Amicia cannot directly deal with human soldiers wearing helmets and armor using catapults. In this game, the number of soldiers wearing helmets further increases, and the behavior patterns of hostile soldiers also have more uncertainty . They will change their patrol route due to the death of their companions, the attraction of the player’s actions, etc. The original layout is likely to be ruined due to an unexpected change of a soldier. Therefore, how to avoid or eliminate them is a major challenge for players.

The enemy prompts in the game are not particularly clear, and it is easy to encounter the situation of “hitting a ghost at the corner”

Depending on the situation, soldiers sometimes search for grass or under cars or tables.

All the meltdowns and drugs used to deal with armored soldiers have been removed in “A Plague Tale: Requiem” and replaced with new equipment and props such as tar, knives, and crossbows.

Tar can make the surface of an area flammable, and can also be used to spread fire, drive away rats or burn enemies in large areas, sometimes with miraculous effects. However, tar needs to be thrown in a jar to be effective. Using a catapult or throwing it directly onto an enemy and then igniting it is ineffective.

There are several similar confusing designs in the game. For example, arrows can directly kill enemies, but after applying ignition, it will only cause a certain period of ignition and stiffness, and cannot kill enemies, but the effect will be weakened. Moreover, the introduction and tutorial of the props do not explain this, which can easily cause confusion to players.

The crossbow is a new weapon added to this game. It has a long range and can kill any enemy wearing helmet armor when hitting the torso.

In addition, the crossbow has another feature, which is the ability to shoot arrows at wooden pillars and boards in the scene. When used with ignition and primer, it can also play a role in dispelling and attracting mice. Moreover, the arrows that hit objects will always exist, so in some scenes, the crossbow is more practical than sling ropes and jars.

The number of arrows obtained from the crossbow is relatively limited and cannot be used as the main weapon in the early and middle stages. However, once players use the expansion and recovery skills of the crossbow, they no longer need to worry about the inventory of arrows. They can completely lure enemies one by one and shoot them, then retrieve the arrows from the corpses and reuse them repeatedly. This will greatly reduce the difficulty of players’ infiltration in later chapters.

As for the small knife, it is also one of the few props in the game that can be used to directly kill enemies. Players can use the small knife to instantly kill their opponents when they are ambushed or attacked.

However, the number of small knives obtained is less than that of arrows. Usually, only 1-2 knives can be found in each chapter, and they are consumable items. Therefore, it is more like a “talisman” and “resurrection coin” in many actions in the game, which is an insurance mechanism used to protect one’s life when forced into a desperate situation.

The knife is sometimes used to pry open special workbenches

Another item, Fool’s Gold, is similar to a small knife. Its function is to disperse a group of mice when surrounded.

In this game, Amicia’s own abilities have also been strengthened. After being attacked by an enemy once, she will no longer die immediately, and players can use special actions to “strike first” and temporarily control the enemy.

However, the annoying mechanism of forcibly triggering the performance after being attacked still exists, and “first strike” needs to be triggered by long pressing. If the reaction is not fast enough, it is still easy to be knocked down. Overall, players still appear very passive when facing melee attacks, and most of them will still choose to escape and create distance when they are reluctant to use small knives.

“A Plague Tale: Requiem” also adds a growth system, which is similar to a proficiency mechanism. The game will increase the experience of corresponding abilities according to the player’s actions. When the threshold is reached, new abilities will be unlocked. For example, eliminating enemies through combat will increase the experience of fighting abilities, and combining items can increase the experience of actuarial skills, etc. However, in my personal experience, the existence of this new system is really weak. The experience of the two abilities of caution (stealth) and fighting (combat) cannot be obtained at the same time, so the two abilities can only be fully upgraded in one week. The unlocked abilities are mostly icing on the cake effects, which are basically dispensable from the perspective of completing the game.

The experience growth of stealth seems to be quite demanding. Most of the levels in the process involve fighting and killing enemies, so the stealth experience only increased by about 1/3 when clearing the level.

The text instructions in the game are relatively simple. Relevant prompt information is often presented through dialogue between characters. However, some of the dialogue’s meaning is not clear, and some cannot be viewed repeatedly.

On the other hand, many corresponding plots require players to walk to designated locations to trigger, and these “designated locations” have no patterns or highlighted prompts, and the triggering judgment range is very small. The above problems lead to unsatisfactory performance in the process guidance of the game, and players may also experience some obstacles.

In terms of plot, although the process of this work has been greatly increased, the control of narrative rhythm is still moderate. Moreover, the script arrangement is relatively independent and complete. The growth process of Amicia and Hugo, the connection between learning and rat plague, and relevant information about Markula will gradually be revealed to players in the plot.

Among several important characters, Lucas, who appeared in the previous work, is still a very likable character despite his young age. Suo Feiya, who is skilled in dealing with people, often acts as a “trusted elder sister” to help Amicia solve problems. Arnold, who has a tough guy image, also has an unknown past… Compared to the previous work, the protagonist Amicia is more aggressive in image and style of handling things; and the awakening of his younger brother Hugo’s ability to control the rat swarm and his subsequent transformation are also major highlights of the plot.

Overall, “A Plague Tale: Requiem” continues the previous setting and mode, and the graphics and gameplay performance have also been greatly improved. Players who like the previous work should not miss it.

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