E3 2017: Behind the Scenes Look at A Plague Tale: Innocence Sheds Some Light On the Rat Plague

Ho boy, another E3 has come and gone, and with it a number of new trailers, announcements, reveals, and letdowns. I have to say, I found this year to be quite lackluster for the Big 3. I’ll get into this more in a later article, but it seemed most of the big showstopping titles were games we already knew existed back in 2017. I loved the zombie bear in Days Gone, but it didn’t impress me more than the zombie waves shown off last year.

The bright side to all of this is that I got to focus this year on some indie studios, who had no problem serving up some new and exciting horror goodness. First up on my trip were the good folks over at Focus Home Interactive, who after this year might just be my favorite publisher. First up, I got a chance to check out A Plague Tale: Innocence, a new original IP from Asobo Studios. My associate David already reported on the reveal trailer, but here’s the trailer again in case you missed that:

This is going to be one of the rare times where I say that the trailer actually pretty accurately depicts what I saw in the actual gameplay. At the start of the demo, we see Amicia alone on the dark streets of France circa 1349. Her brother Hugo has been captured by the Inquisition and locked in a metal cage, and the nearby guards are presently holding back a swarm of rats with their lanterns. Seeing as how Amicia is a 14 year old girl and the guards are fully armed grown men, direct combat is not an option. Instead, Amicia uses her sling to break the guards’ lanterns, leading to them being swiftly and painfully devoured by the vermin swarm. With Hugo now free, the duo heads into the nearby church.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

Now the church is the same one we see in the trailer, with strange black growths along the columns and pockets of rats skittering around the corners. From the back of the church in the depths of a dark catacomb, a voice seeming to belong to their mother beckons them down. Unfortunately, the aforementioned ravenous rat problem stands in their way. This is where we get a peak at some of the puzzle solving gameplay. As Hugo is much smaller, he can fit into places that Amicia can’t, allowing him to acquire a candle that can be used to light a bonfire. Moving some rats out of the way, you grab one of the Inquisition’s lanterns to allow you to part the vermin seas.

This is where the demo kicks into high gear. At this point, rats start pouring in from all sides. Like water coming through the windows of a sinking car, a flood of chittering rodents swarms around you. The light keeps them at bay, and those unfortunate enough to get caught in the rays actually burn away. Watching the beasts flow more like a tide than animals was incredibly disturbing, and actually caused one of the journalists beside me to make a lovely little gagging sound. Once past the masses, you descend into the crypt, which has become entirely overgrown with the black biological mass you saw on the pillars in the church. From deep within the vast darkness, a voice calls out to Hugo, and he runs off. From here, the demo ends.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

I got to ask the developers a few questions, and learned that presently they are capable of rendering three thousand rats on screen at once before the engine slows down. They stated that they wanted the rats to feel like force of nature, and wanted them to go to the extremes of what a real swarm could do when pushed to the limits. They were tight lipped as to what that meant, or if we’d be seeing other kinds of plague creatures (plague bear?), but I’m not ruling out the possibility that all the rats come together to create one great mega-rat that can only be stopped in a kaiju fight with Godzilla.

The people at Asobo also stated that they are shooting for a 10-12 hour single player adventure, with the focus of the narrative being on the expanding relationship between Amicia, Hugo, and a number of other orphans they ally with over the course of the game. They also clarified that they don’t really want this to be considered a stealth game like <i>Styx</i>, as the core gameplay mechanic is puzzle solving. Most of the “combat” comes from pitting the rats and Inquisition against each other, with each side serving as both tool and obstacle.

A Plague Tale: Innocence

With a release window so distant that it’s still to be announced, there will be plenty of time for us to learn more about the world of A Plague Tale: Innocence. I’ll be sure to keep you up to date with more announcements as they arise, so stay tuned for more. Until then, enjoy the below concept art gallery. But what do you folks think? Looking forward to watching rats eat faces? And what games are you excited for from E3? Let me know below, and check back in later for my closer look at Vampyr!

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Ted Hentschke

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