Requiem’s ​​Rats rule, but the bugs are not welcome

Amicia comforts Hugo in A Plague Tale: Requiem.

screenshot: Asobo Studio

Often as I walk through Brooklyn, the sweaty black garbage bags on the sidewalk start to move. A rattling noise comes through the plastic. Then a thick pink tail or snout pops out, or a flash of matted, greasy gray fur, and I yelp with realisation: It’s a damn rat.

There isn’t a creature on the planet I despise more than the damn rat. We cross paths all day and used to share an apartment, despite the rats, to my knowledge the technology was lacking to use a rental portal. But no matter how much rat exposure I receive, how many times my friends beg me to rename the falter mini monster referred to as “cute,” just hearing their familiar rustle is enough to fill my, I like to think, somewhat tender heart with acute murderous intent. So in that sense A Plague Tale: Requiem is the perfect game for me.

11 minutes A Plague Tale: Requiem

The sequel to 2019’s stealthy, ghastly puzzle game A Plague Story: Innocence, requiem delivers similar moral dilemmas to the original, while its still-impressive voice actors switch accents from French to British. The Hundred Years War and its aftermath, I think.

Again, players must guide the siblings, 15-year-old Amicia and five-year-old Hugo, through 14th-century France overrun by swarming, buzzing and rumbling tectonic plates of diseased rats, rats that Hugo controls with the Prima Macula can, which turns his veins purple, quickly destroys his tiny body. Six months after the first time, just when the de Rune family thought it was time for them to be happy.

Now, with Hugo’s condition worsening and rats wiping out even more France, it’s time to find a cure. As innocence, where players guided the siblings around members of the Inquisition in search of their noble blood, hunt for a cure by sneaking around soldiers and rats, craft useful powders and explosives with alchemy, and land headshots with Amicia’s trusty slingshot. but requiem expands and deepens satisfaction with these opportunities.

The setting itself is a spectacle, a black-and-white biscuit, sometimes lit by the orange sun of the Mediterranean coast and sometimes dotted with flies, as Amicia trudges through the game’s piles of dead bodies to be dumped and burned and forgotten. requiem is also severely affected by vibration feedback, and perching through dense clumps of grass and the misplaced brightness of lavender always feels good and tense.

As the game progresses, you’ll either avoid the soldiers chasing Amicia, who’s made the leap from normal girl to outright killer, or the hairy maelstroms of rats who fear light and fire, to both. The combination requires different ways of thinking depending on which companion you have with you. Apprentice alchemist Lucas, for example, walks Amicia through how to create fire, put it out, or guide rats to where she wants them through a combination of found chemicals and weapons, including the deadly girl’s newly acquired crossbow. Other characters like Arnaud, a hulking, bearded soldier, can attack on your behalf, and Hugo’s bond with the rats has been strengthened, allowing him not only to guide them but also see them from their yellowed perspective and take down enemies quickly.

Sneaking around soldiers, rats or soldiers and rats gets a little tired when you make it through 15 hours requiemIt’s 20+ hours of gameplay like me – there’s only so much materials to gather, torches to extinguish, and chattering ratballs to avoid until you pretty much get the idea.

Though the puzzles are repetitive, I’ve been pleased with myself every time I’ve made it through a particularly difficult problem or one of the game’s confounding “boss” scenes, where Amicia somehow manages to defeat dozens of spear-wielding, armored men to bring down with some pebbles and arrows. solving the requiemThe puzzles of PS5 often feel rewarding, as befits any decent puzzle, but too much of that satisfaction comes from the fact that there were so many bugs on PS5. When I finally managed to avoid them, I wanted to celebrate.

The bugs, the bugs! Like I said, I’m a 100% true rat hater, but requiem approaches rats in a way so gross—thousands create a wobbling puddle over unlit grounds, they burst through stone buildings and collapse ceilings, and smother everything in an unwanted embrace—that they inspire respect. And as Amicia grows colder, hardened by the callousness of the men and the futility of their family situation, the buzzing rat carpet provides sickly motivation to keep killing and to aid her fragile brother with his inhuman strength.

A sunset in A Plague Tale: Requiem.

The game’s environments can be beautiful.
picture: Asobo Studio

The rats gave me a sick pleasure. It was like seeing a high school friend on TV. But the current bugs, which are still annoyingly persistent even after downloading the game’s day 1 update, ruin it too often.

I can take the rats, but it might be too many for a next-gen console. A frustrating issue that often took up my game time was the rats going where they shouldn’t be. Rats roaming under torches, instantly killing Amicia. Rats that suddenly appear in lighted stairwells and kill Amicia instantly. Rats that won’t move even if I smash an exploding fire jar over their heads. Again, Amicia is killed instantly.

And on two occasions my NPC companion refused to move and let me go to the next part of the game. I’m still stuck on one of those occasions. I couldn’t get any further requiem since last night, because no matter how many times I restart or rewrite my console or my save file, Arnaud keeps hitting a brick wall. I can’t leave the rat infested cave I’m in without him because the game won’t let me. I can’t stay either because I have nothing else to do but get eaten by rats. But Arnaud keeps running into a wall.

requiem‘s flawed moments distracted me from an otherwise stunning and plaintive play about love, health and crumbling faith. I was touched by Amicia’s oscillating ideals, always oscillating between blind anger at a government that responds to illness with apathy and adult guilt at not giving more to her family, who are already demanding so much and reminded me of the moral issues I had grappled with as we navigate our own 21st century pandemic.

“This world hurts. And it always hurts. And you want to hurt him,” Lucas tells Amicia in one of her darker moments, after she feels sweaty like she’s about to collapse. “But you’re not her.”

The game’s magnificent score, a heart squeezed by castaway threads, emphasizes these moments of understanding between me and Amicia, two older sisters who have to make decisions. Luckily, I rarely run away from rat tidal waves that spawned my siblings, but I still run away from them when they hatch from the garbage bags. I get it. I want to spend more time in Amicia’s flat-topped house while I process mine. But unfortunately the beetles won’t let me. Requiem’s ​​Rats rule, but the bugs are not welcome

Curtis Crabtree

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