Review: A Plague Tale: Requiem is an uneven adventure plagued by performance woes
An adventure through France where the real plague is the framerate
- David Dedeine
- Key Credits
- Kevin Choteau (Co-director), Sebastien Renard (Writer)
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a game that does many things well, but doesn’t commit to any of them nearly enough.
The stealth action is engaging, but it’s broken up with clumsy combat, the game is visually stunning, but it runs poorly, and the story is compelling but is broken up too often by needless, frustrating action, and even then the narrative outstays its welcome long before the credits roll.
The game’s early areas marry long sections of walking through stunning environments with some stealth gameplay, accented with slight survival horror flourishes. There’s a great tension built up when avoiding guards, or using the array of weaponry at Amicia’s disposal to serve those guards as an afternoon snack, but as soon as the game asks you to take on enemies head-on, the combat really shows its limits.
There’s an early section when you’re tasked with evading a large group of enemies, wherein the game very heavily hints that you should just run forward, however doing so will lock you in an endless loop of dying.
A Plague Tale: Requiem extended gameplay (PlayStation 5)
The only solution we found was to break into some kind of ersatz Benny Hill sketch where four lumbering guards chased us around a rock until we finally disengaged their patrol cycle. We could then pick them off one by one using stealth, but it portrays a lack of polish in the gameplay that’s at odds with how good the game looks.
There’s another section not long after that when guards swarm into a barn and Amicia has to ward them off. Despite most of the proceeding game highlighting that as soon as you’re spotted, it’s very likely you’ll be killed, these guards slowly climb down from the higher section of the barn for you to endlessly smash their skulls in with your sling. In one absurd moment, you go from a vulnerable character that’s reliant on stealth to the Doomslayer, racking up a literal pile of bodies.
Combat does evolve as the game progresses, including some strange sequences where it becomes the world’s slowest third-person shooter, and these feel misguided. The lack of mobility of Amicia, despite being a spritely young woman who can outrun tidal waves of rats, is frustrating.
The game is at its best when you’re skulking through the thick brush avoiding enemies altogether, or using rats to skin them alive. These more action-based sequences feel like an attempt to break up some perceived slowness in the quieter moments, which is a shame because it’s where the game excels.
A Plague Tale: Requiem runs the technical gamut from jaw-dropping to surrealist absurdity. The visuals, as we’ve mentioned, are astonishing, the world is lovingly crafted and gives a real sense of a location outside of the specific areas you’ll find yourself in on your travels. The runtime on our adventure was greatly lengthened by the amount of time we spent in photo mode, or just looking out over the horizon. Your screenshot button will be substantially worn down.
The town in the opening few chapters feels like it’s a hub in a grand RPG, teeming with side quests and shops to visit. Of course, this is all part of the illusion, as the second you stop walking forward to look at an NPC you’ll notice that they’re less AI and more Disneyworld robot who’s waiting for you to pass so that they can begin their animation cycle for the people in the queue behind you.
“The runtime on our adventure was greatly lengthened by the amount of time we spent in photo mode, or just looking out over the horizon. Your screenshot button will be substantially worn down.”
However, while the visuals are show-stopping, and among the best of the year, the game’s technical performance really lets it down. In our review experience, the game’s frame rate was consistently unstable and particularly fell to pieces when there was a lot of movement on screen. Which, in a game about millions of rats parading across every square inch of ground, makes for a poor experience. There isn’t even a prioritised frame rate or visuals mode, so you’re essentially stuck until it’s hopefully improved in the future.
There are also some odd choices with the visuals that’ll make the experience even worse if you don’t turn them off. The chromatic aberration makes the whole game feel like you’ve taken a bad pill, and combined with the frame rate issues and screen tearing, a game that is absolutely beautiful from an artistic perspective is cheapened by the poor technical performance. Thankfully, the absurdly high chromatic aberration and motion blur can be turned off for a crisp, beautiful experience.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a sometimes compelling adventure weighed down by poor technical performance and simple, frustrating and repetitive gameplay.
While the stealth action can be enjoyable, and the puzzle elements of using the impressive hordes of rats to your advantage can be engaging, it’s a game that introduces compelling ideas but never really capitalizes on any of them. Pair that with some dodgy AI and it’s a game that’s at its best when the characters are simply walking through the world, talking to each other.
While the game is visually stunning, the technical issues that we ran into spoiled the experience. For a game that’s party-trick is overwhelming the screen with digital vermin, having a framerate that cowers away like it was scared of the rats any time they’re on screen drains those moments of impact. It’s well written and the acting performances, while teetering over the edge of drama school absurdity, are appropriate for the middle-age fantasy that the game delivers on.
By the end of our adventure A Plague Tale: Requiem, we felt like our expectations hadn’t been met. While some of the core of the first game is well built upon, there are only so many times you can enter an open area swarmed with rats before the impressive tech wears off. Our favourite parts of the game were legitimately when Amicia and Hugo were just walking through the beautiful world and listening to the great score.
There’s a much better game somewhere beneath the ludicrous combat sequences and poor performance, but the second it becomes an action game, A Plague Tale: Requiem lets itself down entirely which happens far too frequently for our taste.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a sometimes compelling adventure weighed down by poor technical performance, and simple, frustrating and repetitive gameplay. While the stealth action can be enjoyable, and the puzzle elements of using the impressive hordes of rats to your advantage can be engaging, it’s a game that introduces compelling ideas but never really capitalizes on any of them. Pair that with some dodgy AI and it’s a game that’s at its best when the characters are simply walking through the world, talking to each other.
- Visually imaculate
- Great acting performances, once you get used to them
- Enjoyable stealth action
- Dreadful combat
- Terrible performance
- Far too long
- Absurd bugs abound