The amount of punishment the sympathetic protagonists are forced to endure borders on sadistic; the likeable duo must clamber across corpse-strewn battlefields, skulk through plague-infested villages, and crawl through the blood-crusted filth of a gallows pit.
The game does a fantastic job of depicting a nation ravaged by pestilence and conflict, teetering on the brink of collapse as its population are consumed by hunger, disease and desperation.
But it’s my arch nemeses – the repulsive, scurrying, chittering rats – that are the game’s real stars.
When they first appear in a seething mass of black hair, gnashing teeth and diabolical red eyes, I challenge you not to recoil from the screen in disgust.
You’ll quickly come to cherish the light sources that keep them at bay and provide some of A Plague Tale’s more challenging puzzles, and struggle to keep your lunch down when you’re required to direct the rats towards hapless guards, wincing as they strip armour and flesh from bones in seconds.
The ordeal starts innocently enough, as the title suggests (side note: why add ‘Innocence’? ‘A Plague Tale’ is a much better title by itself).
We find ourselves in 14th century France during the early stages of the Hundred Years’ War, a setting both highly original and exquisitely crafted, unfolding in beautiful pastoral scenes as we are introduced to gutsy, determined teenager Amicia, her doting father, and her faithful dog Leo.
Soon we also encounter Amicia’s younger brother Hugo, as well as their mother, who keeps the sickly boy shut away indoors while she scours her arcane library for a cure.
It doesn’t take long before at least some of the above are brutally murdered, and things have all gone to rat s**t.
The unfolding tragedy sends Amicia and Hugo on a harrowing escape through the wilderness, the fugitives pursued at every turn by the ruthless Inquisition.
During their quest for freedom they encounter pitiless soldiers from both the French and English armies, yielding some enjoyable stealth mechanics very reminiscent of The Last Of Us, as well as an innovative take on a crafting system that focuses on alchemical ammunition for Amicia’s slingshot.
So, having seen the rodent-infested trailers for A Plague Tale: Innocence, the latest sinister creation of French developer Asobo, I knew I was in for a rough ride. What I didn’t expect were the depths of grotesquery the game would plumb by the end of its 20+ hour run time.