Review: A Plague Tale Requiem

Posted on October 23, 2022 by Michael Boccher

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A Plague Tale: Requiem is not just a game. It is a must play, flawless experience which teaches you how to better one’s own life with self-introspection through the eyes of a child.

Following up on its 2019 predecessor A Plague Tale: Innocence, a Plague Tale: Requiem (hereafter referred to as Requiem) continues the journey of Amicia and Hugo many months after the events of the first game. The first game’s final scene of the siblings riding off in their cart on their way to happiness was short lived. A chance near life and death encounter awakens Hugo’s abilities, and the “Prima Macula” begins to emerge full force. Amicia and Hugo must flee in search of a mystical island that may or may not cure Hugo’s affliction. It is here that we pick up our journey.

Requiem changes little to what made the first game great, instead opting to make minor additions to further enhance the gameplay and narrative formula which encompassed Innocence. At its heart, Requiem is a stealth game. Creeping through tall grass, throwing a rock to distract enemies and utilizing your environment to your advantage is all part of Requiem’s repertoire. Even combat, at its core, is stealth related as Amicia will need to quietly take out enemies (if she chooses) in order to not attract other enemies that may be nearby. Where Requiem excels as a stealth game is the degree at which it incorporates philosophical self-introspection and psychological health while encapsulating the player in them both.

Exquisite beauty

Hope is one of the strongest drivers out there, and Requiem shows that exquisitely. For Hugo, it’s the hope that he will cease to be disappointed by the very world he is trying to save. Most adults would not be able to handle the mental load of this burden, and Hugo is no different as we see his soul get torn to emotional shreds. Amicia’s journey is a bit of a different one. She is following a sense of duty to her brother under the guise of destiny. The fight Amicia goes through for her own mental health is incredibly tied into the story progression and jointly with Hugo. She is fighting to carry on in order to succeed for her brother. As the story progresses, however, it becomes much clearer what the exact cause and effect of her anguish really is.

It’s imperative to speak much of the narrative and story of Requiem, as it’s at the very core of what it is as a stealth game. Every single scene had purpose and every action portrays a tangible result. There is no filler in Requiem, no side quests, no HUD. All that is there is the gameplay of two children that push themselves past how incredibly scared they are in order to overcome adversity at a level which most adequately functioning adults would succumb.

This is evident in every aspect of gameplay. Being a stealth game, the obvious premise is to attempt to sneak past enemies. Of course, sometimes it’s simply easier to whip out your rock sling and go to work. Doing so not only has impact on Amicia, but the other characters as well. The emotional impact of killing enemies takes its toll on Amicia throughout her journey. Her hands shake, her voice cracks and characters notice. They will comment “I’ve never seen you do THAT before”, to which Amicia will comment “I don’t like it, but I have to” with a voice crack to accentuate the emotional drive. Others will comment things like “Hey, you didn’t have to do that, we could’ve gotten past”. There are three characters that accompany Amicia at different times during her journey. Each one is a philosophical manifestation of the troubles which Amicia is experiencing on her journey that blend all so well together.

Being developed on current generation consoles and PC only, Requiem takes full advantage of the newest technology. The turmoil that Amicia and Hugo undergo is visible on their faces and in their body language. Added to the fact that Requiem is one of the most if not the most beautiful looking game I’ve ever played, and the immersiveness feels as if you’re being pulled into the screen itself. Let’s not forget that the characters are children, and our natural emotional tie to them is going to be greater than adults. All of these details force you to try and play as a better person for the good of the characters we are portraying.

Requiem also enlists more crafting options in addition to Innocence. Five different types of attacks can be deployed through the use of your sling, hand-thrown, pots or crossbow bolts. There is also a new counter attack ability that functions more of a second chance for Amicia. While getting caught in Innocence would mean certain death, Requiem allows for a more balanced approach. Amicia will, depending on the enemy, get knocked down when detected. We then have a choice to counter attack with the sling, run away or kill them with the newly added knife. Remember what I said about the available choices above, though, before you make your decision.

The skill system is unique and something I’ve never seen in a game before. Amicia’s skills consist of stealth, alchemy and aggressiveness. There are no skill points, and each upgrades passively depending on your choice of playstyle. Sneaking past enemies will earn you the ability to move faster while crouched and make less noise while killing enemies will allow you to reload your sling faster, etc. The beauty of this system is it forces you to tweek your playstyle in order to upgrade the same skill depending on your situation. The upgrades in Requiem are based on the amount of enemies in a given section. Taking out less than 33% of them increases your stealth. 34-66% will up your alchemy and 67% + will shoot up your aggressiveness skill. Some areas only have one or two enemies while others have six plus. While one kill may be ok in a large area of enemies, with only one or two your stealth skill will take a hit. It is not possible to upgrade all three to max in one play through and does require NG+.

How you play the also impacts whether or not you can even upgrade. As noted, Requiem enlists the use of knives found throughout the game. Now, you have a choice. Are you going to kill an enemy with a knife, or save it to open up a secret workbench found while exploring? Before you answer, you should know that these knives are THE ONLY way to open up said benches. You also need all of the material enclosed therein in order to upgrade your sling, pouch, etc to max level. So, taking out an enemy not only results in an immediate portrayal of that action as commented on by other characters and Amicia’s visible reactions, but also making it harder to come back from that decision by making it more difficult to do so with fewer upgrade options or opportunities. Knives also don’t exist on NG+, so choose wisely.

It is in this way that Requiem thrives. Every difficult or wrong, real life decision takes us further down a road and makes it more difficult to find our way back. Requiem is so flawlessly tied together that every aspect impacts another. It is beyond clear that Requiem is not about the end result as there is only one ending to the game. Instead, what matters the most is the “how?” How does Amicia progress through the game? What choices does she make? Was the choice she made to help Hugo really about him or more for her? You start to think about the choices you make in your own life and their ramifications. This is the journey that Amicia struggles with. It all comes to a head and explodes with an ending so abrupt and impactful that I was left sitting with my hands over my nose and mouth in that “I can’t believe that just happened” expression.

A Plague Tale: Requiem is not just a game. It is a must play, flawless experience which teaches you how to better one’s own life through the eyes of a child.

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