I’ll just say it; I hate escort missions, no matter what game it is. It almost always creates an annoying chore of an experience. I know some games handle it better than others, but I can honestly say I’ve never been excited when presented with the mechanic of taking care of another character. This is all I could think about before playing A Plague Tale. “Oh great, a kid” I thought. But as it turns out, that very thing, that very game mechanic, is what would make me fall so very much in love with this game.
You take the role of Amica, the teenage daughter of a noble family, who finds herself suddenly on the run from a evil group who’ll stop at nothing to get ahold of her younger brother Hugo. Having been stuck by an illness at a very young age, Hugo spent the entirety of his young life locked away with his mother while she tirelessly searched for a cure to his strange illness. You must carry him, and yourself, through the plague filled streets of France in hopes of shining a light of hope and explanation of what has happened.
The core gameplay is based around guiding Amica and Hugo through the world while solving puzzles, fighting enemies, and at times running from them. While Hugo isn’t able to defend himself, he is more than capable of taking orders and even helping out in situations. The controls and AI work are wonderfully polished and I never found myself irritated at either, as I have in other games using this type of mechanic. The way in which Hugo follows and even helps with various challenges feels very natural and almost realistic to how a young, naive child would act given the situation.
Unlike most children in videogames, Hugo is easily one of the most likeable scamps I’ve ever witnessed. He is seeing much of the world for the very first time, which leads to some incredibly charming moments between himself and his sister. He is inquisitive and interested in seeing the world, even if most of it seems dark and horrible at times. The relationship between Hugo and Amicia is stellar. It’s not often that a game grabs me so strongly in the first thirty minutes or so. I cannot stress enough how well the characters are written.
If you’re still on the fence about escorting a kid despite my kind words about Hugo, fear not, as strangely enough, a good portion of the game is actually spent away from Hugo himself. That is another strong point with A Plague Tale; it changes things up frequently enough to keep the player from getting bored.
As expected in a game with the name “plague” in the title, the visuals are filled with horrors of death, rot, and rat infestations. While these grizzly sights are wonderfully macabre, the game contrasts this with some amazingly bright and vibrant sections as well. I was pleasantly surprised with the level of color and beauty the game offers. It works well with the descent into suffering, especially during the title’s masterful first chapter.
One of the biggest stars of the game is the voice acting; it’s impeccable. Every character sounds authentic and real. The rapport between characters feel so genuine it’s hard not to care about them. The voice directing in A Plague Tale really stands out from any title in recent memory, it’s lovely.
The only real flaws I found with the game can be chalked up to a lack of just that extra coat of polish. Reused models, textures, and the clunky facial animations are to be expected from a title that isn’t quite considered “AAA”. That being said, the game still has an incredible presentation and the talent of the team responsible is evident.
A Plague Tale is easily one of the best story-driven titles I’ve played in years. Its wonderful voice acting, well-written characters, and interesting setting make for a game you’ll find hard to put down until it’s finished. While it could do with a bit more polish just to make everything just a tad more perfect, it’s still an incredibly crafted title. If you’re looking for an emotional story with heaps of creative passion, then give this game a go.