Plague Road review (Vita)

Released on Steam earlier this year, Plague Road makes a surprising appearance on the Playstation Vita in a good month for Sony’s handheld. Here’s our review.

With new titles in the Danganronpa and Ys franchises, it’s already a spectacular month for the Playstation Vita. A good amount of smaller titles are also making their way to the system this month though, and Plague Road by Arcade Distillery is among them. You wouldn’t know it was a smaller title by looking at it though – Plague Road is a gorgeous Vita title that evokes memories of some of its most memorable titles like Dragon’s Crown and Darkest Dungeon.

plague road3

Like those titles, Plague Road is mostly a side-scrolling affair, but Plague Road mixes this with JRPG-like battles and a roguelike system of progression. You play as a plague doctor, who looks like a combination of a goth scarecrow and imagery that I got from reading Dan Brown’s Inferno. The game is set around a city in an area in which disease runs rampant and you have to save survivors while fighting the horrors and disease that now control the land.

Once you rescue someone, you can choose to either recruit them for your party or have them work at your home base – providing mainly passive boosts but also new abilities. This can take a while though, which makes this aspect seem like a bit of a grind. Unfortunately, the same can also be said of the combat – which takes place in a turn-based fashion on a grid layout. The grid is usually too small to allow for much tactical decision-making though, which is a missed opportunity because there is some good diversity to the people you rescue. They include soldiers, engineers, witches and healers – so that could have made for some interesting tactical combat.

plague road2

Although I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful audiovisual presentation, the actual gameplay didn’t grab me as much as I had hoped it would. The combat and side-scrolling sections are fine, but ultimately unrewarding – combat doesn’t provide much tactical depth while it’s happening, and even less in terms of the bounties you collect after a win. This makes progress relatively slow, with little to show for it in between.

Nevertheless, despite its shortcomings, Plague Road was still a pleasant surprise for me. With the Vita in decline for a few years now, it’s great to see another title showcase exactly what kind of quality the handheld can deliver in terms of its audiovisual capabilities. Arcade Distillery is sticking with the Vita too, with Mecho Tales also heading to the handheld in the near future. Let’s hope it delivers on the gameplay front as well – this is a developer that’s showing a lot of promise, even though it’s not fully realized with Plague Road.

Score: 6.5/10

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