I think I know every beat in that game. And dominant strategy for every enemy lol.
That little breakaway in the abandoned town may actually be one of my favorite moments in that game. There's just something about the colors and visual textures that make me go "Ahhhh..." The dynamics you cross as you move through that environment are excellently coordinated.
That's an underappreciated thing in these tweaked proc-gen worlds and levels you see in a lot of other games. You can coordinate a level so that a player will see and experience certain things, with it feeling totally intuitive to them. The best level design doesn't let you miss anything great about the level, but you never really sense how it's guiding you to see these things and approach them in such and such way. A big part of getting atmosphere isn't the pretty visuals and sounds... it's about psychology. Looking at the level and understanding how people will process it at different points, what senses will train on (and how to use that advantageously,) as well as little subconscious decisions that happen. When it all lines up, you know, because it's just pure experience. You don't need to think. You are just kind of in the wonder of it. It feels like a discovery. But it's a totally curated and guided experience.
It's funny though... I'm playing Requiem now and as much as Innocence is truly a great work of visual art, they came a very long way in refining it with Requiem. Asobo may be one of the few out there getting recognition from the AAA crowd, that has a really apparent style to them. Seeing these two games side-by-side really does a good job of reminding me that this stuff is ground-up. Not some generic UE workup. A lot of the big games all end up with a similar visual feel in many elements... because they actually do share a lot of common elements in their graphical pipelines, it's almost foundational.
Visual identity is underappreciated these days. Show me a game that *really* looks like either Plague Tale. Obviously, there are all sorts of 'inspired' decisions too. You can see influence. But it's like the execution is entirely their own, their child.
I get that outsourcing engine tech is industry standard, like VFX houses for films and shows. But there's a certain charm to a good purpose-built engine. I think it also promotes a better diversity of games. Plague Tale's engine was developed by Asobo over the course of their experiences making games. They were apparently always asking themselves what THEY wanted and needed in THEIR games, and what features they would need to make it happen... slowly purpose-built this engine that would become the platform for one of a kind game experiences. When development goes well, when there is that patience and vision, there's a cohesiveness that emerges in the finished product. Everything can sort of fit like a glove, whereas games that outsource end up inevitably (and probably inadvertently) sharing idiosyncrasies and losing a bit of that identity in the things they end up doing to adapt their game to someone else's tech. There's also internal understanding. Having a ready-made setup obviously eases burdens... but it's like how with people, sometimes it's those little trials that make us who we really are. Asobo can only be Asobo, because they're all they've had. But it also means they have an understanding of their tools that many studios won't develop quite as much of.
I wish AAA could grasp some of these things. Especially the whole 'patience and vision' thing. Because when you have that, you eventually get the best art. I feel like people who play these games and enjoy them, will never forget it. As time goes by, I find myself A LOT more interested in games like Plague Tale than anything from a major studio. The heart is just not there. Playing Innocence or Requiem makes me sad, because I remember things that I find lacking in the present culture and ethos of making games, as a whole. They show me things that are missing from that bigger picture. It's reminiscent of an attitude towards making games that I like to think was much more common in gaming's tech-transition phases... those times when nobody knew what was going on, there was no standard, and people just tried stuff and did the best they could with new ideas and parameters. Whereas now, there are basically a handful of standards for any genre, that most will just try to maximize. I'm sensing sort of a loss of 'creative awareness' out there. But I think Asobo is very much 'aware.'
That's an incredible analysis of the game and the developer/studio. Very well thought out and on-point. I really appreciate and enjoy the perspective.
Unfortunately, I just ran into a game stopping bug in Chapter VII. Searching the googles found one or two other people with the same specific bug, but without any resolution. I tried the same tricks that got me out of a well known bug in Chapter VI, but nothing worked. I've spent about an hour trying to get the game to proceed but have failed so far. Rather annoyed at the moment so I'll give it some time and start the Chapter again another day. If that doesn't work, that will have to be where I give up. Bummed.