A Plague Tale: Requiem (2022)

A Plague Tale: Requiem (2022)

Requiem is the sequel to a very underrated game to come out back in 2018, about a girl and her brother surviving a plague of rats that infests a french countryside back in the fourteenth century. The continuing adventures of Amecia and her brother Hugo, who is dying from a rare divine bloodline that is able to control rats at will, the new game takes the established characters and themes and ramps everything up to an unbelievable amount and pace.

When I first played the original games for Game of the Month last February, I didn’t realize the sequel would release later in the same year, nor did I know there was going to be a sequel. So I was pretty much onboard, and it was one of my most anticipated games of last year. Sadly I didn’t even get around to  trying the game out when it was released in October, as life had gotten a tad out of control and I wasn’t able to devote the time I wanted to. So when I sat down with my wife to play through Requiem, I wanted to dive deep into this game and give it my full attention.

Right from the start, I want to say how incredibly well made this game is from the gross and disgustingly well made blood and viscera to the amazingly voice acted characters that bring the whole game to life in a way most games could only wish they could figure out. The development team at Asobo Studio know how to not only craft a beautifully told story of sibling love and care, but also know their way into creating some of the most disturbing and tense horror scenes I’ve ever seen in a video game. Resident Evil’s zombie filled corridors have nothing on sneaking past a tyrannical Count hellbent on breaking apart a family, or a tidal wave of rats devouring and bringing an entire city crumbling down.

The moment the game loaded, I was blown away by how gorgeous the game looked; which isn’t something I often think about anymore. With the last couple of generations of consoles, or the last decade plus of PC gaming, it just always looks great. But there is something with the lighting and the way the trees and grass and other foliage sways in the wind that breathes a bit of real life into the game. It’s something that I took notice of back when The Witcher 3 came out, and it’s been showing up in a few games ever since.

Once all the rats come into the story again, the game’s frameright might hitch a moment or two, so it’s not perfect, but it never becomes a distraction. The photo mode, something I wish every game would implement, was a joy to use again, just like I did with the first game in the series. Not only to cheat a little by being able to swing the camera out and peer beyond the door to see if a guard was in my way or not. But because I could pause the action and really take a closer look into all the really messed up scenes the game was throwing me into. From the bloated corpse clogging up a water wheel, to a freshly picked clean skeleton of a pursuing guard who was chowed down upon by a mountain of carnivorous rats thanks to a well slung extinguisher to put out the torch keeping the rats at bay.

The voice acting also needs to be lifted up high on a lofty pedestal, as the voice actress for Amecia brings not only the love her character has for her brother, but also the depths of a person on the brink of despair to the limelight and makes it believable in a way that tugs on the stoniest of hearts. Sure, these are just characters in a video game, but everyone makes their characters feel like real people that you want to root for. Then seeing them go through some of the most awful environments and circumstances any person could ever deal with is just heart-wrenching.

The gameplay itself is a bit on the light side, as the focus of the game is much more on the side of storytelling. While I am always in favor of a pretty balanced video game, walking the tightrope of story and gameplay, I can still find enjoyment in the extremes of each. The puzzles laid out in the game were never very hard to figure out, but the difficulty of the encounters with enemies was ratcheted up to a psychotic degree. I mean, good grief was this game difficult in certain parts. With a very small, almost miniscule margin of error allowed, I found myself running from a very large number of encounters, making it only by the skin of my neck. I retried sections of the game multiple times, to the point where it did get me frustrated in a few key spots.

Most of the time, I did find myself doing well, but every once in a while, a certain enemy encounter spot found me retrying several times. With not only the advancing enemy hunting me like a pack of rabid wolves, I also felt like sometimes the items I was equipped with were not useful. Amecia’s trusty slingshot, pots found lying around, and a crossbow can be augmented with Fire, Extinguisher, Tar or a substance to attract rats. While I have a hard time using up items in games, as I tend to hoard them “just in case I need it later” I tried using all of them in most encounters, only to see them rarely work as intended. Luckily, my wife who can point out a key thing I missed as I frantically run around the screen, was able to inform me about how to use what item when, which helped a lot.

And if I didn’t mention it before, Requiem is not only difficult, but also crazy intense. The orchestral score, which feels like it was composed of mostly high strung violins in an ever climbing scale, cut deep through my nerves on several occasions. Causing me to be a bit more snappy in my conversations a couple times. It put me on edge in a way no other game really has. It does an excellent job of filling the atmosphere with scenes of dread and tension I just can’t describe well enough.

To go into the story a bit, without getting too spoilery, the game picks up a few months after the original game left off with Amecia, Hugo, the mother and Lucas all together and enjoying life for the first time in a long time. Then Amecia and Hugo stumble upon a castle that has soldiers killing a settlement of local farmers. Which kicks off not only the first of many breath-holding escapes, but also clues in the government to the location of a pair of kids who are causing a lot of trouble. Seeing Hugo and Ameica hold onto this fantasy of a dream Hugo has of a magical island to cure his affliction seemed “too good to be true” in the largest fashion and I just couldn’t bear to see them spend the majority of the game chasing an obvious wild goose.

Luckily the game tosses in so much action and memorable locales and setpieces along the way, that I was more than happy to sit back and enjoy the story being told. Even if I thought they should be a bit smarter than that. Some of my favorite scenes in the game were little side conversations or what the game called “moments” sprinkled along the unbeaten path. One in particular near the end is especially gut-wrenching as Amecia really lets it all out. The full weight of the entire journey comes pouring out of her and it’s another absolutely spectacular moment in a game filled to the brim with them.

I could spend the next several paragraphs just retelling moments of the game that stood out, but that would just be spoiling the pure prize that is playing this game for yourself. In a sea of mediocrity that has been gaming in the last few years, the tale of King Hugo and the plague of rats is one of the best. One of my biggest regrets last year was not playing this game, as it really would have been my Game Of The Year for 2022. It’s a phenomenal game that anyone who values a good story told in a convincing and well done way should play immediately. But the caveat being that it’s a sequel, so you’d have to play A Plague Tale: Innocence first.

A Plague Tale: Requiem might be the last game in the series, as the development team stated they were “tired of rats” and might move onto something else, which I’m fine with. If the series stops here, it is a pretty perfect note to end it on. Not every game needs to become a trilogy or a massive ongoing franchise. Telling a story and finishing it strongly is a lost art these days, and I think they dot the last sentence of this game beautifully.