Musophobia is a fear of rats or mice, so if you’re squeamish about the furry little plague carriers then A Plague Tale: Innocence will have your squirming from its premise alone. Set in medieval France, the game follows teenage protagonist Amicia and her little brother Hugo, two siblings who have lost everything. Alone and clinging to survival, the two must evade the hostile force who have taken over their land and discover how they hold the fate of the future in their hands.
At E3 2017, we were treated to a short, proof-of-concept playthrough to highlight the game’s main mechanics and aesthetics. In the beginning, we were dropped into a cluttered suburban environment at night: cobbled streets, crates piled high, houses reaching into the dark, and a church waiting for us ominously in the near distance. Here, Amicia is searching for her brother, who has been captured by soldiers and is being held in the church ahead.
As we pressed forward, creeping up a set of steps to take shelter by some crates, we see swarms of rats writhing along the streets, only kept at bay by a solitary lantern held by a guard. It’d be a shame if the soldier lost that lamp… because light is one of the key mechanics in the game, as well as our furry friends. Light is your weapon and your crutch. It keeps the rats away, but alerts foes to your presence. In the case of the guard blocking our path to the church, Amicia whips out a sling and deftly shatters the lamp.
Then come the rats. Dozens of them swarm over the guard and reduce him to bones in seconds. While the rodents are being fed, Amicia is able to skirt around the carnage and slip into the church.
Inside the church, we soon find that the rats have made this one of their nests. Pillars have been encased in nests, and, by the altar up ahead, is an ominous black opening leading into the depths of what I assume are the French catacombs. Amicia meets up with her brother, and it becomes apparent that Hugo believes his mother is here somewhere. However, to progress, we first have to solve some puzzles.
The aforementioned slingshot is one of your tools to accomplish this. You need some light to repel the rats, so need to grab a torch… which is blocked by rats. So you need to light a brazier to get to the lights, but that’s blocked by rats too. The little things love to block items, it seems. We knock a brazier onto the ground with the slingshot, then use Hugo to crawl through a small space to grab a candle, which allows us to light another brazier and finally reach the torch.
However, all these brazier-dropping shenanigans have angered the rats. They begin to boil out of their nests, and the torch is our only hope. Amicia and her brother slowly make their way towards the opening at the rear of the church. The two descend into the bowls of the church, where even the rats dare not venture. Hugo claims to hear their mother, so he bolts from Amicia’s side and into the cave’s black mouth.
Something tells me Hugo’s mother is not at the end of that tunnel. But we won’t know until the game releases in Q4 of 2018 on PC and console. At around 10 hours long and the promises of being able to balance/contend with environmental factors like rain, wind, and sunlight, A Plague Tale: Innocence hopes to be a game where story and the relationship of the two siblings is at the core.