Rats swarm an otherwise peaceful city, pouring through sewage drains and crashing against walls like an endless expanse of ocean. Citizens scream in terror, swallowed by the plague’s insatiable hunger. Amicia watches, horrified, knowing that her little brother is no longer safe from the Macula, the ancestral curse, and it will slowly devour him from the inside. Despite the disease’s momentary absence, there is no escaping the horde.
However, this is not how A Plague Tale: Requiem begins. It starts on a slow note, illustrating that Hugo and Amicia have found a temporary but welcome peace after the events of A Plague Tale: Innocence. Quiet, serene moments abound: Amicia wandering through the derelict ruins of an old keep with Hugo in tow as he conjures up imaginary scenarios of being a goodly and kind king; watching her brother race through gorgeously rendered fields of lavender and wildflowers. Developer Asobo Studio has done a fantastic job of balancing these opening segments with their altogether darker counterparts, weighing hope and helplessness, and allowing the narrative to weave itself in a way that managed to keep me interested in all of its twists and turns.
After Hugo has a dream about curative waters on a far-off Mediterranean island, he and his big sister set off to find a potential cure for the illness that plagues him. Upon reaching the island, the denizens welcome the duo with open arms. Once Amicia realizes that they’re worshippers of the very curse growing inside Hugo’s body and thus worship him as a god, Requiem veers straight into folk horror. The game’s exploration of an insular, depraved pocket of an archaic religion is a welcome change of pace from Innocence’s focus on the governmental Inquisition. The islanders’ belief system was formed when they first encountered ancient frescos beyond their comprehension, and their society has since devolved into outdated practices and misguided rituals. Requiem also deals in the ideas of cycles of reincarnation and destiny, which the game touches upon briefly near the tail end of the narrative, but wasn’t necessarily as captivating as the presence of the cult and its culture.
The actors’ excellent performances accentuate the heavier moments in the story, such as when Hugo (Logan Hannan) expresses to Amicia (Charlotte McBurney) that he is aware of his own mortality, and that the Macula will claim him if a cure is not found. Amicia’s expression is one of shock, even if she knows the truth of it herself, and the facial capture illustrates these moments with clarity. It’s the subtleties that make Requiem work, and allow the story to excel — especially when combined with the impressive and melodramatic score, which consists of beautiful violin work, the storytelling is somber yet propulsive, and the relationship between sister and brother reveals new layers throughout.
However, I do wish there was a bit more time dedicated to Amicia overcoming and facing her trauma from the events of the last game; it sort of just comes and goes, and Amicia’s fear is replaced with a red-hot anger, which feels more like narrative justification for brutally murdering members of the Inquisition, rather than actual emotional compensation.
The game also does a decent enough job of introducing meaningful mechanics as the narrative progresses. As the game opens up, so does Amicia’s access to a greater range of alchemical substances (such as the ability to light and extinguish fires through the acquisition of powders and resins) and weapons, with their inclusions mostly feeling well placed and earned. However, some do feel as though their intended use is limited to a select few areas. Look no further than Odoris, a substance that can be used to temporarily distract swarms of plague rats barring your path. I only ended up using it once or twice in my playthrough, making it feel more like a mechanical non sequitur than an integral tool.
Hugo’s control over the vast swaths of rats also feels somewhat inconsequential, as it can only be used a handful of times throughout the entire game in any effective way. Upgrading Amicia’s skills and weapons also feels unnecessary at lower difficulties, which is great for those looking to jump into the game solely for its narrative. But those seeking a challenge will want to jump into the higher difficulties right away, since you’ll need to plan around resources and upgrades to avoid certain death at the hands of the Inquisition.
That being said, Requiem does a fantastic job of introducing side characters that temporarily assist Hugo and Amicia on their journey to find a cure for the Macula. These ephemeral companions feel all the more significant for how well they’re deployed in service of the story: Arnaud can quickly make up-close work of any templars that cross your path, but he’s also crucial to a major plot beat further into the game. Whereas Sophia can distract guards by lighting patches of tall grass on fire, but she is also integral as Amicia and Hugo delve deeper into the mysteries of the island. Far from being mere detours on the march toward Requiem’s finale, these travelers are integral cruxes between the plot and the inner workings of the gameplay.
A Plague Tale: Requiem is a prime example of what a AA studio, given enough trust and resources, can accomplish. It’s a concise experience that didn’t waste my time, but it also scratched an itch I didn’t even know I had: a well-crafted stealth title meshed with folk horror elements that I had been craving since Siren: Blood Curse’s release in 2008. With an emotionally resonant script and an expert flow between stealth, horror, and exploration, A Plague Tale: Requiem feels like the sequel Innocence deserves.
A Plague Tale: Requiem will be released on Oct. 18 on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, Windows PC, and Xbox Series X via Game Pass. The game was reviewed on PC using a pre-release download code provided by Focus Entertainment. Vox Media has affiliate partnerships. These do not influence editorial content, though Vox Media may earn commissions for products purchased via affiliate links. You can find additional information about Polygon’s ethics policy here.