E3 is the time of year when developers can show off what they have been working on, most times they will take a section of their game and let people play it, other times though, they will create what is called a vertical slice, which provides a glimpse into the promise of the game, Focus Home Interactive and Asobo Studios took this approach for A Plague Tale: Innocence.
While I was not allowed to play the vertical slice, I was shown it in action and from what was shown, it looks interesting. You take on the role of Amicia, a 14 year old girl, who has to protect her 5 year old brother Hugo from the soldiers and the rats, both of which are swarming Paris in 1349. Amicia is attempting to locate her mother and Hugo is staying with her to help and to do that, she must survive the dangers that lurk in the shadows.
Shadows are an important part of the game, in fact light is a central mechanic, something that you have to learn to use to your advantage, if you want to survive and locate your mother. When it is day time, you will need to contend only with the soldiers, however at night, or in dark spaces, swarms of rats can quickly overwhelm you, if you are not careful. But if you can use light properly, you can direct the rats to swarm the soldiers. In the demo, there were two soldiers out the front of a church and they had Hugo captive, with Hugo in their clutches, Amicia needed to be smart about getting him free. Amicia is 14 and as such, is not strong enough to take on soldiers in open combat, she is not some sort of fighting genius either, so she needs to use her smarts.
While the soldiers were using lanterns to look for her, they doubled as a protective field that kept the rats at bay, but as Amicia has a slingshot and if you can break the lantern, the guard which is now unprotected, will be swarmed by the rats, which can take him down for you. As you do this, the rats, which were blocking your way forward will move and you can enter the church with Hugo, but this leads to another issue, in order to progress here you need to find a source of light and you can’t just pull one from your pocket.
This is where the games other mechanic comes into play, as Hugo is 5 and much smaller than Amcica, he can enter spaces that you can’t, so to light a brazier, you need to get a candle from a section that only he can access. You don’t control Hugo, you can just point him to where you want him to go and send him off. Using both of these systems, light and Hugo, you can move forward and that is where the demo ended, with the pair entering a very disturbing tunnel used by a massive swarm of rats.
Can Plague Tale: Innocence become a full game like they are promising, who knows, the ideas are really interesting and without direct combat, the game will be a much slower paced experience, something that will appeal to some gamers. Until I see more, I have to withhold comment, but I am intrigued.
The game is targeted for release on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4, sometime in 2018