A strange new criticism of modern video games has arisen, with many considering a solid development in story and characters utterly antithetical to the gaming experience. Terms such as “PlayStation movie game” have come to prominence as criticism of story-heavy games. This seems a strange direction in audience interaction with gaming, as gaming can provide the most interactive and in-depth explorations of incredible stories out of any medium. While the story is not, and should not, always be the top priority of video games, with categories like gameplay and combat beating it out, some games excel at telling beautifully riveting and emotionally moving narratives. One such game that has exemplified the best aspects of video games as a storytelling medium is A Plague Tale: Requiem, which follows in the footsteps of its compelling predecessor, A Plague Tale: Innocence.
This series has never been known for exceptional or intriguing gameplay or combat, but few can deny that it has one of the greatest and most emotional stories ever put into a game. The brother-sister relationship between Hugo and Amicia is at the heart of this series, each entry tugging at the heartstrings as these two siblings endure more than any adult should be asked to undergo. Requiem more than lives up to Innocence, continuing and developing this relationship in an intriguing and heartbreaking fashion. If gamers are interested in a deep and rich story that grapples with complex themes and features heartwarming family moments at the darkest of times, A Plague Tale: Requiem is the perfect game for you. Few games excel as much as Requiem does in these respects.
Requiem even manages to outshine its predecessors in several key aspects, especially in the combat fluidity and manner of the finale. The hallucinations brought on by the Macula Nebula are far more narratively intriguing and combat-unique than the rat tornadoes which resolved Innocence. Additionally, few games have inspired as many emotions as the heavy weight of Requiem’s finale. Even top-tier emotionally fulfilling games such as The Last of Us, God of War (2018), or Red Dead Redemption II are forced to struggle in competition against A Plague Tale: Requiem.
A Plague Tale: Requiem picks up where Innocence left off, with Hugo and Amicia venturing out into the world in search of a cure for Hugo’s ailment. Reunited with their mother, she begins asserting her control over them once again, forcing them to trust an ancient Order that was built upon combating the dangers that the Macula poses. The experiments done by this Order and the decisions made by their mother only worsen Hugo’s condition, reasserting the Macula’s control over the boy. As long as Hugo is poked, prodded, and aggravated by corrupt societies, he will never maintain control over the plague, leaving everyone at risk of annihilation. Departing once again on their own, Amicia and Hugo must venture out into the world in search of a different solution that not only saves the world but saves Hugo’s soul. Through alliances made and trusts broken, these siblings struggle against the Order, a rising cult, their mother’s influence, and the darkness within, pursuing any small hope at salvation and redemption.
The combat of both A Plague Tale entries is nothing extraordinary or overly engaging. The balance of stealth and sling combat is an enjoyable one that offers players multiple ways of approaching enemies. However, it is rather basic and without challenge. Requiem does improve upon this combat with smoother UI menus and the addition of a crossbow. The truly unique thing that both A Plague Tales offer in combat and exploration is alchemy. The use of formulas to accomplish several fire-based objectives is an intriguing one that continues in Requiem. Despite the simplicity of the combat and the straightforward stealth mechanics, the atmosphere fills in where the gameplay lacks to build tension and raise player apprehension.
Most gamers, when told that they would be outrunning a tsunami of rats, would scarcely believe that such a thing exists in a video game. Yet, when the wave of plague-ridden rodents rises, the tension is palpable, driving the player towards excellence to avoid a painful death. It is this atmosphere and the uniqueness of the enemies that keep the combat and stealth always engaging, making the simple mechanics less of an issue. For any gamer who prefers gameplay and mechanics to story, Requiem is not the right game for you. This is purely a story-driven game that offers much in that avenue but very little else in most other areas of player interaction.
Perfectly complementing the stellar story, the graphics of Requiem are without compare, beautifully recreating medieval Europe. Landscapes come to life in sweeping vistas that aid the story at every possible opportunity. The emotional impact of the finale would be far less powerful if not for the exquisite view, which only deepens the characters’ emotional states. Without the impressive graphical excellence of Requiem, it would not be the same game and would lose so much. In tandem with the graphics, the sound design and musical composition help the story in indispensable ways. Suspenseful violin plucking has become a bit of a cliché in recent decades. However, Requiem utilizes this horror trope in a fresh and interesting manner that deepens player apprehension and emphasizes moments of import.
Requiem is a perfect example of the merging of technical artistry with literary artistry to create something extraordinary. With the notable exception of the gameplay and combat, Requiem fires on all cylinders, delivering one of the best games in years. Hugo and Amicia struggle through so much, facing horrors that none should endure. With every new obstacle, their heartbreak deepens, the impossibility of staying together becoming ever more apparent. There is so much heart in these characters and their ordeals that make them irresistible to relate to. Few characters in recent years have been developed so well. Their chemistry is phenomenal, fueled by incredible writing, and made all the more poignant by the game’s ending. A Plague Tale: Requiem is a game that can truly be called art in all its facets, delivering something timeless.