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A Plague Tale: Innocence A Plague Tale: Innocence

Review

A Plague Tale: Innocence Review — Dark But Beautiful

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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.

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Review

American Fugitive Review — A Grand Tale of Theft and Auto

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American Fugitive gameplay screenshot 1

The original Grand Theft Auto rocked the virtual world with its violent gameplay from a birds-eye view perspective back in 1997. Once the series moved to a third-person, 3D perspective with Grand Theft Auto III, few gamers looked back and few developers attempted to replicate the original style. More than 20 years later, Fallen Tree Games has become of those few with American Fugitive.

Players control Will Riley, a man convicted for a crime he did not commit and filled with the desire for revenge. Once he has escaped from prison, Will must find old friends—and meet some new ones—to run errands and discover the person who killed his father.

The game is played from a top-down perspective in a 3D open world. More reminiscent of Chinatown Wars than the original Grand Theft Auto, the camera adds a level of complexity to American Fugitive, as players often will not see what lies beyond the edges of the screen. While a behind-the-character perspective would, at times, not go amiss, players will eventually grow to familiarise themselves with the camera, respecting the callback to classic open world titles.

American Fugitive gameplay screenshot 2

The open world itself is also reminiscent of classic titles, with simplified designs regularly complimented by the detailed art style. The game’s animated, cartoon design scheme is fitting of its fast-paced action gameplay, always managing to keep the player on their toes and keen to discover more. Technically, the game plays almost flawlessly, with no significant performance issues to disrupt the player while they explore the map.

Players can explore the rural open world of Redrock County on foot or in a vehicle. The vehicular gameplay may take some time for players to familiarise themselves with, with some overly slippery mechanics leading to some unfortunate collisions, though fitting to the game’s tone. Thankfully, most environments in the game are destructible, so sliding off the road—if the player follows the road to begin with—does not often lead to disaster.

Despite beginning the game as a seemingly innocent man, Will doubles down on his criminal actions once he escapes from prison. Akin to Grand Theft Auto, the player can hijack cars, kill civilians, and attract the attention of police. Most residential buildings in the game can be robbed by the player, often leading to tense confrontations with the homeowners or police, so players must continue at their own risk.

American Fugitive gameplay screenshot 3

The ‘wanted’ system in the game works similarly to Grand Theft Auto games, with players accumulating up to five stars depending on their behaviour. The stars often accumulate a little too quickly, however, with additional stars regularly added simply for evading police. Oftentimes, the player may possess a full wanted level—complete with large police vans and circling helicopters—within a minute of committing a minor offense. While this over-the-top gameplay design is fitting to the pace of the game, it may lead to frustrations within the main story missions by bringing the player’s progress to a halt.

The missions are also reminiscent of those in Grand Theft Auto, tasking the player with a wide variety of tasks to keep them busy while the story evolves. While many of these missions may seem disconnected to the main narrative structure, they are unique and regularly keep the player entertained, ranging from simple fetch quests and car robberies to full-scale shootouts. The game’s fast-paced gameplay and lack of loading screens also make the poorly-placed checkpoints bearable, especially when the beginning of missions require the player to drive to a certain location.

American Fugitive‘s storyline is simple in design but entertaining enough to keep the player engaged. The game’s ‘cutscenes’ exist in the form of text atop character designs; while some simple voice acting would elevate these scenes with more dramatic tension, they are short enough to maintain the player’s attention and continue the missions at a fast pace. Players will find themselves surprisingly engrossed in the story, wanting to see it through to its full conclusion.

American Fugitive gameplay screenshot 4

Accompanying the fast-paced gameplay and narrative is the game’s music. From slow, explorative themes to fast-paced tracks, American Fugitive‘s original score is reminiscent of some of the best soundtracks across different media—from television’s True Detective to video gaming’s Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us. Each song accompanies the gameplay nicely, ramping up and down as the player makes the appropriate actions, and, along with the expert sound design, add the auditory sprinkles atop a visual and narrative treat.

American Fugitive, simply put, is fun. Fallen Tree Games has added its own unique twist to a classic gameplay formula, and utilised a simple but engaging narrative and a beautiful original score to maintain the player’s interest until the very end. Despite a few minor flaws in gameplay, the game stands strong against its competition. Players looking for a fast, fun, and mature sandbox game should not miss American Fugitive.

OnlySP Review Score 4 Distinction

Reviewed on PlayStation 4 Pro.

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