Connect with us
A Plague Tale: Innocence A Plague Tale: Innocence

Review

A Plague Tale: Innocence Review — Dark But Beautiful

Published

 on

Detailing a young woman’s fall from innocence, A Plague Tale: Innocence is an engaging experience steeped in a dark atmosphere. Asobo Studio, the French developer behind the game, has created an incredibly detailed environment that evokes the terror of plague-infested 14th century France. Featuring polished gameplay and compelling central characters, A Plague Tale: Innocence is a success, despite some minor frustrations.

Set in 1349, A Plague Tale details the De Rune children’s struggle for survival in a world plagued by diseased rats. The player takes on the role of the eldest De Rune child, Amicia, a strong 15 year old girl who must take care of her younger brother, Hugo, after the murder of their parents by the Inquisition. Hugo is afflicted with a disease that has kept him hidden away from the world and his estranged sister, which allows the player to experience Amicia’s growing relationship with her sibling.

Each new mechanic is introduced slowly to give players time to grasp the concepts. However, every level then acts as a tutorial for the newly which hinders the player’s opportunity for experimentation. Additionally, the full variety of ammunitions only becomes available in the final two chapters, which is disappointing as little opportunity is then left to experiment. Many levels also seemingly have only one or two solutions to progress, which prevents creative problem solving despite the vast array of choice.

The lack of variation has one worthwhile trade-off: it emphasises the theme of innocence. As the game progresses, killing enemies using rats or slinging them with rocks becomes more prevalent, demonstrating the loss of innocence. This transition to a combat over stealth approach feels natural and shows a careful consideration to create mechanics that complement and drive the narrative.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Hugo’s design bears something undeniably compelling. His character embodies innocence in a way that evokes a desperate, primal need to take care of him. Add to this some gorgeously sweet dialogue, and the player is prepared to do anything to protect that little boy. Asobo Studio set out to create a bond between Hugo and the player, and it has undoubtedly succeeded. From shielding him from rats to collecting flowers for ‘Hugo’s Herbarium’, the player is invested in Hugo’s happiness, which draws them deeper into the unfolding narrative.

A Plague Tale focuses much of its narrative energy into the relationship between Amicia and Hugo. Understanding the mystery surrounding the plague comes secondary to watching their love grow while driving the player towards the ending. The game’s gentle conclusion is less satisfying, however, due to an incredibly frustrating final battle that is tedious and aggravating.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Worthy of particular praise is the incredible atmosphere created through the highly detailed art and design. The prologue does an exceptional job of presenting a colourful, stunning world as it descends into the dark chaos of plague that highlights the grim tone that pervades the game. Swarms of black rats often clutter the screen with a terrifying ferocity. Decrepit buildings feature hanging dead bodies and decapitated corpses that add to the terror that the plague instills. All of these elements are present in realistic detail, creating a wholly immersive experience.

Asobo Studio has crafted an exceptionally dark atmosphere that brings the journey of its innocent characters to life. Both action and stealth-oriented players will find something to love in the mechanics despite their leading nature towards a particular playstyle. Those that love an immersive experience will be engrossed by the highly detailed, grim world. Some frustration with later levels may hinder the impact of the ending, but, regardless, A Plague Tale is a gorgeous game with endearing characters and smooth gameplay that showcases the potential of Asobo Studio.

OnlySP Review Score 4 Distinction

Reviewed on PlayStation 4.

What does a fitness instructor like to do with their spare time? Write about video games obviously. Amy has been obsessed with video games ever since watching her parents play Crash Bandicoot on PS1. All these years later, she is thrilled to get to share her thoughts on the games she loves so much.

Continue Reading
Comments

Review

Etherborn Review — A Brief, Beautiful Defiance of Gravity

Published

 on

Etherborn

Indie developers in 2019 truly have the freedom to create the games they want. When Fig-funded game Etherborn reached its funding target, developer Altered Matter set out to craft a gravity-shifting puzzle platformer. Players sold on this concept have a lot to look forward to as Altered Matter has delivered on its promise. The mind-bending mechanics of Etherborn force players to approach the world from a new perspective amidst some stunning visual landscapes. 

In Etherborn, the player takes control of a voiceless, newly-born being who follows a bodiless voice in search of meaning. Such a philosophical premise promises an experience that will answer key questions regarding self-identity and the quest for meaning. The answer plays into the age old cliche that we are born to create our own destiny. The game’s narrative discussions around these topics are disappointing, though they do demonstrate that the narrative is less important than the themes behind them. 

Etherborn

One of the biggest frustrations with the story is that the language used complicated the simple message the developer was trying to tell. The soothing yet commanding tone of the omniscient voice would have been enough to carry along a more refined script that served the themes with clarity. Instead, Altered Matter opted to write something poetic by using lots of really big words that sound like they have lots of meaning, which instead detract from the actual meaning. 

Etherborn has a linear structure that takes place across five distinct levels. The levels are completed by solving gravity-defying puzzles to collect light orbs that open the pathway forward. Once all levels are completed, a new game+ mode is unlocked, creating replayability through the additional challenge of new, well-hidden light orb locations. Including this game mode offers players a chance to enjoy a more difficult experience without an additional learning curve. 

What sets Etherborn apart is the unique mechanic that underpins the gameplay. To traverse the landscape, players must jump and use ramps to change their perspective, turning walls into floors to move through the level. The opening level does an exceptional job of introducing the player to how this concept will be manipulated throughout the game. Controls in Etherborn are simple and intuitive, allowing for an experience that focuses the challenge purely within the design. Despite being able to run, the movement speed of the character seems sluggish for the most part, yet can be too fast for easy maneuverability in levels that require finesse to execute. 

Etherborn is deeply beautiful. The soft hues and subtle colour palette create a truly ethereal experience that carries through until the final level where the tone shifts into something somewhat dark, yet utterly breathtaking. Skeletal bodies, frozen in time, dwarf the character to create a visual masterpiece that captivates the viewer. Accompanying the divine art direction is killer sound design that makes the world feel complete. The ambient music creates an atmosphere that indulges in the landscape it calls home in a way that elevates the experience. 

The short length of Etherborn leaves players wanting more. In OnlySP’s preview of the game in 2018, the Alpha build contained the same five levels that are seen in the final game. Having spent so much time on these levels has meant the final product is highly polished yet disappointingly short. The gravity bending puzzles at play are so clever, well designed, and satisfying to complete that a lack of experimentation through more level designs to satiate the player’s hunger for more is disappointing.  

The challenging gameplay, gorgeous sound design, and stunning aesthetics all make Etherborn a worthwhile experience, even for those not fond of puzzle-platformers. Every level demonstrates a craftsmanship that encourages the curiosity to think and engage with the world. Completing puzzles is satisfying, even if the length of the game is not. Some minor issues may crop up along the way, but Etherborn is still a clever, fun game that challenges players and their perspective of the world. 

OnlySP Review Score 3 Credit

Reviewed on Nintendo Switch. Also available on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Continue Reading