As of ten minutes ago, the platinum trophy for A Plague Tale: Innocence is sat on my imaginary, digital trophy cabinet and bringing me a sense of accomplishment that I’m sure will soon dissolve as I begin to question my life choices once again. It’s an enjoyable game, certainly enjoyable enough to seek out every collectable and miscellaneous task. A deeply atmospheric and touching survival game, merging history and the supernatural with family drama and stealth mechanics, it’s an experience worthy of your time. Even if the final level frustrates with its open combat and boss battles. The site even reviewed it back in 2019. I liked A Plague Tale so much I took a gander to the PlayStation Store and immediately bought the DLC for it once the credits rolled. And then, as soon as the purchase was complete, I deleted the game from my PlayStation 5 without touching it.
You see, I bought the DLC – a £1.69 set of three new costumes – with absolutely no intention of ever playing it. Not out of lack of enjoyment. Quite the opposite, in fact. I liked A Plague Tale: Innocence so much that I started to feel guilty. This is all probably hopelessly misguided but I felt shame from only playing the game once it was available for “free” on PlayStation Plus. I had only heard of the game passingly before then, never seeing gameplay or seeking out more details than those the occasional article or podcast threw at me. Now, having completed it, I wish I had been there two years ago, buying a copy at launch and supporting the game and the studio that made it. The £1.69 is my penance.
I know that the game wasn’t just thrown up on Sony’s subscription service as a gift for us gamers. It’s a business deal. PlayStation pays the studio – in this case Asobo – a certain amount to offer it as one of the service’s games for a month. It’s also a promotional effort from Asobo: the game has been out for a couple of years so isn’t selling big numbers and they want a way to get new players to pick it up, become fans of the series, and then buy the upcoming sequel that has, by no coincidence, just recently been announced. I plan on doing just that too. I’ve been caught. Hook, line, and sequel. I’ve paid my PS Plus subscription for this year so, in a way, I’ve paid for the game. It’s by no way “free”. But me playing A Plague Tale is many steps removed from the money leaving my bank account months ago so I feel guilty, like I’ve gotten away with something.
I see that £1.69 as a thank you. A token of my appreciation for the game. A tip in the jar for good service. Although I did question if they deserved it because the way they’ve tweaked the game for the PS5 just seems to be to ramp up the DualSense’s vibration to maximum. It was like playing with Roy’s phone from The IT Crowd. I’m pretty sure I have nerve damage. Now, this isn’t something I do with every game available on PlayStation Plus. I played Star Wars: Squadrons when it was free to download and I sure as hell wasn’t paying EA a couple of extra quid for giving me a good time. Asobo is a smaller French studio I had never heard of before and wanted to support. Apparently, they made some Pixar movie tie-in games and A Plague Tale was their big “Hello, world!” moment. I’m probably severely underestimating the scale of their operation and have this charming view of a little plucky studio when in actuality it’s presumably a big capitalist wet dream raking in millions.
So, I bought the Coat of Arms DLC and deleted it immediately. It was such a tokenistic gesture that even if I purchased it before playing, or at least completing, the game, I never would have used it anyway. I hate cosmetic DLC and always choose the costume granted to my polygonal proxy by the developer. I’m a boring person with a fetish for maintaining canon, you see. I’ll just pick whatever costly DLC I can find to alleviate my guilt. The same thing happened with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The game was available one month with PS Plus and I put plenty of hours in. Completed it even, and gave the developers nothing for the trouble. Granted, it was produced by a bigger studio but the shame still hit me, so I purchased some DLC which gave me new ‘Challenge Tombs’ with time trial and score attack modes I couldn’t give a shit about. Although, I did try my hand at playing those ones just because there were precious trophies to earn.
I write this as a confession. I’ve started feeling guilty about feeling guilty. Am I looking at this all wrong? I’m giving more money to studios that are already raking it in on deals I’ve contorted in my mind as somehow being unfair. I want to support the industry but what’s the best way to do that when playing games offered through a subscription service run by a massive corporation? Who is truly the little guy in this situation if not me? Then why do I feel so bad about it?! Am I an idiot? Answers on a postcard, please.
If a postcard is too antediluvian for you then why let me know in the comments or discuss TV, movies and video games with me on Twitter @kylebrrtt.