Six months after the devastating events of A Plague Tale: Innocence, Amicia and Hugo de Rune are now living a less tumultuous life in France’s countryside. The deadly plague which swept the continent has mostly been quelled for now, but the aftershock lingers. Like all great sequels, A Plague Tale: Requiem takes the core pillars of its predecessor and evolves it in profound ways. The results might not always be surprising, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best games of the year.
Given the narrative-heavy nature of A Plague Tale: Requiem, spoilers won’t be discussed beyond what is already known. Amicia is facing emotional trauma from killing enemies in the past while Hugo is struggling to understand his newfound powers linked to the rat plague called the Macula. The sequel takes the characters in interesting and unexpected directions, honing in on character development with plenty of dramatic heft. It’s less of a massive leap from its predecessor and more of a refinement of a formula that works, but the game spares no expense in delivering a far more emotional, cinematic and polished experience this time.
Amicia was a terrific protagonist in Innocence but she’s elevated to new heights in Requiem. She had to deal with mercilessly killing enemies before, but in Requiem, that becomes the crux of her character development. Each enemy killed now holds dramatic weight with Hugo showing genuine concern for his sister’s mental well-being that’s steadily sinking into tragic violent outbursts. Developer Asobo Studio wisely chose to tackle this subject matter with effective payoffs that are felt by the player through each and every fatal encounter, giving Requiem an astonishing amount of depth in both story and gameplay.
This depth extends to the supporting cast too. Hugo’s character development is terrific, going in directions that I honestly never expected it to go. In fact, I applaud the writers for going there. Every emotional beat in Requiem feels genuinely moving, but more importantly, crucial to each character’s growth in the story. Requiem tells a much bolder narrative with daring twists that can stand with some of the best storytelling that modern video games have to offer.
If you didn’t gel with the pacing of Innocence then you may have a hard time getting into the flow of Requiem as well. A Plague Tale is a slow-burner franchise punctuated with exciting sequences though many chapters still choose to step off the brakes and explore characters in less stressful scenarios. These moments help us relate to them on a deeper level and understand what they’re feeling and why they’re acting a certain way. It may not be for everyone, but your investment in them is rewarded tenfold later on.
Requiem simply refines the gameplay that already worked in Innocence, which might disappoint those hoping for greater leaps. However, Asobo Studio takes that simplicity and expands upon it in small but meaningful ways. For instance, Amicia now has an infinite supply of rocks that can be thrown or flung with her sling, while Hugo can now directly control the rats via a first-person viewpoint of the rat hordes.
Crafting is a bit more integral in Requiem as Amicia can, through alchemy, mix elements together like tar and extinguishers on the fly. Tar can be puddled on the ground in the path of enemies, who can then be set ablaze with a fire sling. Extinguishing torch-carrying enemies causes rats to quickly swarm and devour them. A repelent sling can also draw the attention of rats for a few brief moments as you work your way through the armies of rodents. Some accompanying side characters, like the sea-faring Sophia or stern warrior Arnaud, also offer assistance in combat and navigation.
Stealth remains a priority in Requiem but Amicia is given a few more lethal options. Apart from a knife that can quickly kill enemies, a crossbow allows Amicia to pick off armoured foes when a sling doesn’t work. Bolts and knives are in short supply, though, meaning players will have to carefully consider when to use them depending on the situation. Drawing enemies to long grass and igniting it is another lethal move while covering them in tar with thrown pots also leaves them open to being set on fire.
All of Amicia’s equipment can be upgraded through a workbench, allowing for faster reload times on the crossbow to faster slinging and a larger ammo capacity. Upgrading never feels as rewarding as it should, though. You can probably get through the game keeping most of your standard equipment on lower difficulties, though on higher difficulties, this becomes a necessity as enemies are a lot more ruthless and AI is much smarter and attentive.
While there might be a difficult path for a pacifist playthrough, Requiem makes the lethal path quite enticing in many circumstances and it honestly serves the narrative a lot better. Thankfully, being spotted by enemies isn’t an insta-kill this time as there’s a moment for Amicia to counter soldiers before re-entering stealth. Enemies come in various shapes and sizes this time, ranging from helmet-clad soldiers to full-body armoured behemoths that need a little more creativity to bring down. Then there’s, of course, the rats.
Before release, Asobo Studio claimed that the PS5 has the power to show over 300,000 rats on-screen at once. This isn’t an exaggeration. Some cinematic action sequences in Requiem are jaw-dropping, rivalling even Naughty Dog’s biggest set pieces. One instance, already shown in the trailer, has a literal tsunami of rats sweeping across a city as buildings crumble and fall in the devastation. Moments like these are scattered throughout the game, giving the sequel an impressive sense of scale and a heightened “blockbuster” feeling when compared to the more tamed Innocence.
Navigating the rat swarms are entire puzzles on its own. Like the first game, Amicia can use torches to repel rats or ignite sticks for a limited time to get to the next source of fire. Manoeuvring carts with fire pits on them also helps until the level design decides it’s time to ditch the wheels, forcing you to think strategically again without aid. Alchemy will allow you to create sizzling fire sources for a short period of time, giving you enough room to dash to the next light source. How all these mechanics come together defines Requiem‘s more tension-filled scenarios.
Unfortunately, having that many rats on-screen at once does sacrifice the framerate. For the most part, it’s pretty smooth for a vast majority of the game, swimming in the 40FPS range though it’s never too noticeable or intrusive until the rat swarms flood the screen. A couple of rat sequences dipped the framerate to feeling as low as 20-25FPS, but having so much happening on-screen clearly knocks the framerate, even on PS5. Thankfully, it’s not a constant problem and the game runs rather well throughout.
On that note, A Plague Tale: Requiem is one of the most visually stunning experiences in gaming yet. The technical wizards at Asobo Studio have once again packed an astonishing amount of detail into character models and environments. The picturesque cities explored are often packed with citizens showing the bustling life before the plague, while lush woods and areas with dense forestation clearly take notes out of The Last of Us Part II.
Facial animations can still feel a bit stiff, especially during non-cinematic conversations, but it’s a notable step up from Innocence. Characters also move and behave more naturally and injuries suffered from previous encounters affect Amicia’s movement and combat capabilities in subsequent chapters. Clearly, a lot of work went into giving Requiem a massive visual and technical facelift, falling into the category of new games that feel like they actually harness the power of current-gen hardware properly.
Composer Olivier Deriviere deserves a special mention for an incredibly haunting score. The music in A Plague Tale: Requiem is layered with calming violins during quieter moments of solace before ramping up some unsettling chanting and violin plucks in terrifying encounters with the rats, giving the game an almost horror-esque tone to it. Like Innocence, Deriviere’s score is award-worthy and might be one of the best of the year.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a superb game made out of passion by Asobo Studio – a rare sequel that builds on the foundations of its predecessor while amplifying the stakes, dramatic tension and technical achievements. Some minor framerate drops and odd pacing are hiccups in an otherwise phenomenal package that crafts a gut-wrenching and emotional story, elevates Amicia to one of the most compelling female protagonists in gaming and vastly improves upon every facet of its chilling and unique premise.
This A Plague Tale: Requiem review is based on a review code sent to us by Focus Entertainment. A Plague Tale: Requiem releases on 18 October for PS5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch and PC. You can grab a copy starting at R950
A Plague Tale: Requiem
Story - 9/10
Gameplay - 8/10
Presentation - 10/10
Value - 9/10
A Plague Tale: Requiem builds upon the foundations of its predecessor to deliver an emotional, enthralling sequel that boasts incredible visuals and an excellent story filled with dramatic twists and turns.
Incredible visuals and score
Some framerate hiccups