What amounts to a stunning game with an intriguing story is let down by painfully slow pacing and forced dialogue.
Beautiful views and art
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Time played: 5 1/2 hours
I've been crawling around the deep and dark catacombs riddled with rats, disease, and death. Each step is painfully slow, as I crawl forwards, armed with only a torch that is burning out fast. I'm searching the crypt for medicine for my little brother, Hugo.
I manage to avoid the swarms of gnawing rats, that move in the darkness like water, and make my way to the surface. I don't have much time to take in my victory as, once my eyes adjust to the awe-inspiring scene of a derelict and torch-lit pantheon, I see what lies among the ruins.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire. Gone are the rats, and I'm left with a worse enemy, soldiers in plate mail, armed with swords and maces, stand between myself and my brother. Unfortunately, whereas the methodical slow pace of the catacombs was a sweet, horror-filled agony, creeping past these guards is just agonizing.
Fighting and outsmarting rats is a slow process, but working out how to navigate the rodent-filled crypts is a rewarding puzzle. But unfortunately, that glacial pace applies to most aspects of A Plague Tale: Requiem. Whether it be protagonist Amicia’s painfully slow jog as she navigates the world from cutscene to cutscene or the snail's pace she uses once a flame is lit, time passes by slowly .
A Plague Tale: Requiem price and release date
- What is it? Asobo Studio’s sequel action adventure game
- Release date: October 18, 2022
- Price: $49.99 / £43.99 / AU$99.95
- What can I play it on? PC, Playstation, Xbox
Like A Plague Tale: Innocence before it, Requiem is a beautiful game. From the very start, you are met with gorgeous lavender flower meadows overlooking a bubbling brook at the side of a glorious abandoned castle. You can even find beauty in the gruesome details of the game. Your first encounter with the rats is a blast to the past as a wave of plague-ridden creatures swarms and swells around the decaying and bloodstained walls of the pantheon. Requiem left me in awe of what Asobo Studios was able to create. However, you’ve no choice but to take in the views because outside of combat, you’re locked to a walking pace. Rather than appreciate the vistas, this enforcement simply became frustrating, like I was wading through a particularly pretty mud-filled swamp.
Ironically if Asobo Studios had given me the option to walk, jog, or sprint through Plague Tale’s world, I’d likely spend more time exploring its environments. But, because it took so long to get anywhere, I didn’t want to waste time dithering or backtracking, because of how long it would take me.
This wasn’t helped by Amicia's younger brother. When we came across a vibrant merchant town, for instance, draped with flowing red cloth and flowers sprinkled between the cobblestone track, you have to hold his hand and slowly lead him through the world. It turns something stunning into a painfully dull experience.
The dialogue is another culprit of this poor pacing. Despite a wonderful story, with great voice acting and script, every time a conversation is initiated between events, I can focus on nothing else but the slow pace. At times it felt as if Asobo Studio slows you down with the sole purpose of fitting in dialogue. It doesn’t make it any less obvious when the conversation ends abruptly once you’ve arrived at your destination.
Amicia’s devil-may-care approach to stealth sections had me screaming at my screen out of frustration, not horror. When ducked into a low crouch, she goes even slower than her walk, and as she creeps through rats, torch held above her, parting the swarm like water, she slows to a crawl which is easily outpaced by her human enemies.
My heavy-footed French teen was caught repeatedly while I attempted to out-snail the enemies. Thankfully, there was soon a tool that made things more forgiving, I could craft ammo to throw or fire from my slingshot that let me snuff out sentries' torches. So long as I had some in my inventory, I no longer had to worry about the torch-carrying soldiers catching up to me amid a swarm of hungry rats. Once you snuffed out their light, the rats would descend on the soldier.
In Plague Tale: Requiem, you’re being chased across France by the Inquisition and fleeing from swarms of rats, so this glacial pace is painfully at odds with the story. Despite moments of respite in the action sequences, every time I am left to navigate the wider story with Amicia, it feels like I’m fighting her with every step I take.
For all its expansive views and outdoor environments, A Plague Tale: Requiem, like Innocence before it, is a claustrophobically linear experience. I feel like I am a rat in a maze, and Asobo Studios has already laid out a one-way path to the cheese. Also, the cheese is often a traumatic cinematic, with rats fountaining from the earth.
Even when the game seems open, you soon realize that most of this is for show and, actually, there’s a very limited path you can take. It funnels you through a meandering river of action events, scenic views, and cutscenes.
Coupled with Amicia’s dragging feet, her adventure's lack of freedom and choice begins to grate. It doesn’t help that Asobo also does a poor job of disguising the fact that Requiem isn’t an open world, blocking teasing paths with ankle-high obstacles
It does get faster. When the game is packed shoulder to shoulder with action events, the pacing begins to fade from the mind. I particularly enjoyed navigating the rooftops of an enemy base after Amicia lashes out in a fit of rage, and you can kill half of the camp's men. It was nice to take my anger out on something, no matter how unhealthy that sounds.
After calming down, I had to creep, sprint, and distract the guards to make a quick escape. But without any weapons or my slingshot, you are forced to be smart and really concentrate on the guard's movements to stay alive. It was exhilarating, I was at the edge of my seat and completely engrossed in Requiem, knowing that every second I was out from cover could be my last.
Sadly, good things can’t last forever, as I was shortly back to the dialogue-approved pace, walk-jogging to my next objective. You may enjoy winding through Requiem's restrictive paths, but I felt trapped.
Elie is a Features Writer for TechRadar Gaming, here to write about anything new or slightly weird. Before writing for TRG, Elie studied for a Masters at Cardiff University JOMEC in International Journalism and Documentaries – spending their free time filming short docs or editing the gaming section for their student publications.
Elie’s first step into gaming was through Pokémon but they've taken the natural next step in the horror genre. Any and every game that would keep you up at night is on their list to play - despite the fact that one of Elie’s biggest fears is being chased.