A Plague Tale: Bonding in Horror
Back in 2019, when A Plague Tale: Innocence came out, I skipped it. With games like Resident Evil 2 REmake, Kingdom Hearts III, Sekiro, Judgment, Fire Emblem; Three Houses, Control, Borderlands 3, Death Stranding, Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order, and Boneworks, I had no shortage of games to play, and that’s not including remasters and re-releases that yeah and still leaving a bunch of new releases out.
I always had a slight interest in Plague Tale but never enough to pick it up. Then people started talking about it again when trailers for its sequel, A Plague Tale Requiem, started coming out. There was a lot of praise for the first game, which was the push I needed to pick it up. While my hopes weren’t too high because the developer Asobo Studio was known for Pixar movie tie-ins.
Hot damn, am I glad I went in with these expectations. What I was met with was an extraordinarily compelling and emotional story. A unique setting and presence in the rat army mixed with the inquisition. But, before we get too into this, I want to preface this by giving the biggest trigger warning about animal violence. Seriously it’s brutal, and to dive into it, I’m going to need to talk about it.
————————-LAST CHANCE ————————-
Okay, so I knew immediately this game wasn’t going to pull any punches when we saw our characters (Amicia De Rune) dog get brutally pulled into this sinkhole by an unknown force. We followed maybe twenty minutes later, watching our father cut down and shortly after seeing a sword run through our mother, only missing us by millimeters.
What follows is a story about siblings who have been kept mostly separated throughout their lives, having to bond and grow together through the horror of the inquisition that slaughtered their parents and the rat plague that is running rampant through the land.
You really feel their animosity towards each other. There is a moment when you have to work your way to a pig farm. Guess what plague rats love eating? Pigs. There are mounds and mounds of slaughtered pigs, which Amicia talks about maybe being a tactic of the inquisition to draw in the rats, but I can’t express the amount of slaughtered pigs.
So once you sneak your way through, you meet an old man who worked with your mom trying to “cleanse your bloodline of the curse” that is clearly present in your brother. When hearing this, Hugo De Rune (your estranged brother) starts to feel unsure about himself wanting to see his parents, and Amicia yells at him, putting him down and telling him how their parents were slaughtered. Hugo starts ignoring you in a moment of weakness and wanders the farm as the rats begin to pour in. Amicia, having not even gained his trust back, forces an alive pig into a situation where she and Hugo must basically watch it get eaten alive by the rats to escape the farm. At this point, Hugo absolutely hates Amicia. But later on, when they are captured, there is a true sense of relief from the characters when they find each other. Hugo has this massive sigh of relief when he realizes that Amicia is there and saves him.
There are moments like that throughout the entire game. They start off small, like Amicia giving Hugo shit for just running off. Still, as these characters live on in this world, this sense of togetherness comes through as they bond over the horrors taking over their world.
Their relationship culminates near the ending when Hugo gets captured after the inquisition learns that he can control the rats with his “curse” and becomes eventually brainwashed by Nicolas, the Captain of the inquisition, and actually tries forcing the rats to kill Amicia, but after all, they have been through she is able to break through into Hugo’s mind and snap him out of his trance.
There is a bit more to the game after that killing Vitalis and the rats being gone, I’m assuming because Hugo has turned them away after learning to control his powers. They leave their land in search of a new home, but they learned through the horrors of the rat plague and being chased down by the inquisition that they are, in fact, stronger together. They need each other, and more importantly, they are equals and care about each other. If you haven’t played A Plague Tale: Innocence, you owe it to yourself to go play it. The story and voice acting alone are fantastic, and the fully fleshed-out story of growth between two siblings who barely know each other is outstanding. With the sequel just around the corner, there has never been a better time to dive in.