Set in the 14th century during one of Europe’s most tumultuous periods – A Plague Tale: Innocence explores the story of two children trying to survive in a world that is hellbent on killing them.
An action-adventure game set during the Hundred Years’ War when the Black Death was starting to leave its mark in Europe makes for an exciting premise to build a game on.
The story follows two siblings, Amicia and her younger brother Hugo, who find themselves being hunted by ‘the Inquisition’ for unknown reasons.
I got the chance to play through 40 minutes of the game, making serious headway into the storyline and experiencing some of the combat, puzzles and sneaking mechanics that A Plague Tale: Innocence has to offer.
Focus Home’s latest game isn’t for the fainthearted – without giving too much away, death literally ‘plagues’ the start of the game, leaving me with my mouth open akin to how I watched the earlier seasons of Game of Thrones.
This is exactly the effect Game Designer Kevin Coteau wanted to portray when making the game.
“When we looked back in the history of Southwest France we formed this period of the 14th century, as at this point in time, you have the arrival of the black plague and you have the 100-year war between the French and the English,” Coteau explained.
“You also have the Inquisition! It’s a good mix of all the cruel awful stuff humanity has to offer.
“What was happening was really really bad, for us it was the perfect way to expose the maximum cruelty of the French population with the pure innocence of children.”
Asobo Studio, the game’s developer, is based in France, so it seemed logical to have the game’s setting in a place they knew best.
“We wanted to tell a story that sounded authentic, that sounded true, with real believable characters,” Coteau said.
“One first step to do that was to talk about a place we knew.
“We are based in Baldo in Southwest France, so we showed our neighbourhood and our region, even if it has changed a bit.
“It was easy for us to do that and it felt truly authentic”
Although the game is set in a period of history that was already chock-full of horrors, Coteau wanted to take it further by adding ‘fantastical’ elements to the game.
Namely, the rats.
“What we did is take a historical fact, build up our base game and put a bit of fantastical on top of it to create a tale,” Coteau said.
“Everything that is fantastic is linked with the rats. Always. We said anything else is off limits.
“We don’t want it to be a fantastical game, we want to make a medieval game that’s authentic, but we can play with the rats to make it something bigger.”
If you have a phobia of rats, rodents or anything that squeaks and runs around your feet – the hordes of plague-infested vermin will set your heart racing.
Open flames are the only thing that will stop the rats eating you alive and is also the key to using the hordes to your advantage when taking down enemies.
A well placed slingshot throw will leave soldiers of the Inquisition without torches and susceptible to the rat’s teeth.
“We did a lot of research on rats, but rats not in cages. We actually found that it’s not that false that they want to eat flesh and are scared by light,” Coteau explained.
“We have filmed lots of videos where farmers are hunting rats to repel them from their farm and often they do that by night using light to scare the rats, sometimes their hordes of rats that start running with their gloomy eyes looking at the torch.
“If you have a few rats on the screen it must be believable and if you have 5000 it must also be believable too! Having this balance without destroying the suspense was tricky”
If you enjoy story driven puzzle games that test your nerves and steel – then this one’s for you.
A Plague Tale: Innocence is out 14th May on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.