As the sequel to the indie darling A Plague Tale: Innocence, A Plague Tale: Requiem is ready to make the next chapter a family affair. The headstrong Amicia is once again set on protecting her brother Hugo from a church that would seek to use his ability to control swarms of vicious rats for its own personal gain. But while players primarily controlled Amicia in the first outing (sneaking around and slinging rocks to solve puzzles), her younger brother takes a much more active role in the sequel.
My brief time with A Plague Tale: Requiem was spent in two mid-game chapters, consisting of set-pieces in cavernous tunnels filled with rats, a series of derelict ships, and an open desert-like area covered in patrolling guards. Requiem soon transitioned into close-quarters stealth sequences that developer Asobo Studio crafted so intricately in the first game. In this case, they unfold in a series of structures used to dye fabrics. I crafted various alchemical substances to light fires, create distractions, and even take down a surly armored foe by hitting him in the back with explosive-laden rocks and bolts. All of this is in keeping with the tense, stealth-based strengths of Innocence, sure — but this time around, stealth has become even more important, with an even thinner margin of error.
Much of this difficulty stems from Hugo’s more active role, which, while it offers new abilities to experiment with, adds another level of vulnerability to the duo. Hugo can more precisely command swarms of rats to make quick work of any enemy soldier — well-armored or not — that crosses their path. And unlike the first game, there is a greater sense of control over the horde — you can dive into first person mode and directly steer where the rats go and whom they consume. But while the more refined control of the horde may sound overpowered at first glance, there’s a catch: If Hugo uses his rat-command powers for too long, the swarm will go into a frenzy, resulting in an immediate game over.
Hugo can also use the swarm to sense soldiers on paths up ahead, with the ability being somewhat similar to echolocation. This works great for confined spaces with enemies around every corner. In this way, Hugo is both your more powerful asset and your greatest liability. He’s not as intrusive as Ashley Graham in Resident Evil 4, since he can’t be killed or abducted by enemies, and he’s not as mechanically inconsequential as Elizabeth in BioShock Infinite — he’s somewhere in between.
The bond between Amicia and Hugo, of course, is as much a narrative conceit as it is a mechanical one. Because commanding the rat horde has such a steep trade-off, I never really taxed Hugo all that much. Amicia’s constant warnings reinforced this decision tenfold, and the worry in her voice reflected the tension in my chest. These moments feel urgent and real, and added to the bond between Amicia and her little brother. There’s a sense of real concern here, which made Hugo more than just an escort character with powers to make my journey easier.
Dialogue between the two is still charming, and when the grizzled knight Arnaud joins the party, Hugo helps ease the tensions between the newcomer and the understandably guarded Amicia. He does more than just provide a means to an end for the player, adding levity to the quieter moments between the horrifying set-pieces. Generally speaking, Hugo still fills out the role of the “escort character,” but his earnestness and interactions with his sister, along with his sense of whimsy toward the world around him, help to elevate him as a narrative linchpin. Even if the dialogue is sometimes a little clunky, Amicia and Hugo’s relationship (and their desperate attempt to cure Hugo of his connection to the swarm) makes for an endearing throughline.
At the very least, it makes him a worthwhile companion, despite the dangers inherent to his powers. With how closely he’s linked to both the mechanical narrative and the actual script, Hugo feels like he’s been designed with intention, as opposed to characters that have filled the role of the “sidekick” as an afterthought. It’ll be interesting to see if the game will be able to stick the landing when it’s release don Oct. 18, potentially further cementing and strengthening the bond between sister and brother that made the narrative beats of A Plague Tale: Innocence such a standout to begin with.