The perfect tales in video video games handle to fuse narrative, artwork, and gameplay in a means that elevates all three. Pentiment, the newest from Obsidian Leisure, is an ideal instance of this, telling a deep, advanced story about faith, fact, and historical past within the type of a guide, which the participant experiences because it’s being written. Regardless of a couple of sections with inconsistent pacing, it’s a must-play for followers of journey video games.
Pentiment tells the story of touring artist Andreas Maler and his time spent in Tassing, a fictional city within the countryside of the Holy Roman Empire, means again within the yr 1518. Whereas Andreas’ common routine has him engaged on his masterpiece or making copies of one of many native abbey’s manuscripts, he rapidly turns into wrapped up in a collection of native mysteries he duties himself with fixing.
Andreas may be personalized with completely different backgrounds and character traits to unlock completely different dialogue choices. My Andreas was a theological scholar with a historical past of hedonism, however one other may need studied regulation and spent his time having fun with nature. The dialogue choices these completely different backgrounds unlock aren’t normally something substantial, nevertheless it’s good to have a way of management over your conversations since they make up the overwhelming majority of the sport.
Pentiment tells its story throughout three acts, two of which contain investigating murders. Between the excessive stakes and the large accusations, these homicide mysteries are when the sport is at its greatest. There’s solely a lot time to unravel the case, however vital actions like consuming meals with suspects or looking out deserted ruins will push you thru the day, that means you solely have a restricted variety of possibilities to chase down the reality. I used to be determined to study as a lot as potential, however there are extra leads than time to comply with them. Whereas many homicide mysteries finish with a satisfying conclusion, Pentiment forces you to choose a offender with the data you’ve and dwell with the results of accusing them.
It’s not instantly clear whether or not or not you made the right resolution, however it’s instantly clear how the city feels about it. Accuse a brother of the abbey, and the church resents you upon your return; accuse a beloved member of the townsfolk, and the individuals of Tassing may not admire you as they as soon as did. These penalties are a part of what made Pentiment’s story so impactful for me. Every act is years after the final, and the consequences of your decisions within the earlier chapter at all times really feel vital. The city of Tassing adjustments an ideal deal too; infants are born and develop into adults, the aged become old and go away, and the townsfolk adapt and alter. The city is arguably extra of a protagonist than Andreas.
Maybe the strongest a part of Pentiment is its adherence to its core themes. It’s a recreation about passing tales down from era to era and the way the reality can change into distorted over time, for higher or for worse. There are rumors that Tassing harbors ghosts, conspiracy, and a darkish historical past, however the one sources of this info are tales from the locals, and every individual has a distinct opinion on what’s true and what isn’t. Andreas’ seek for the reality is introduced as a narrative being copied right into a guide, which is becoming. Just like the participant, he’s attempting to chronicle the entire fact as soon as and for all.
This book-like aesthetic is one in all Pentiment’s most charming qualities. It begins from the primary moments of a brand new save file, the place you scrub the pages of an older guide to put in writing this new one. Characters and their environment are depicted as stunning, era-specific illustrations. The menu can also be a guide, full with a glossary to maintain the participant stuffed in on all of the historic phrases they won’t be conversant in. You’ll be able to press a button at any time when one in all these phrases seems to see their definitions scrawled within the margins of the guide the sport takes place in.
The dialogue maintains a storybook aesthetic as effectively. You gained’t hear voice appearing; as a substitute, the font adjustments relying on a personality’s social or occupational standing. Andreas speaks with a neat but elaborate font, the place every letter is traced, stuffed in, and outlined. Widespread townsfolk converse in plain cursive, the printer and his household converse in blocks of printed textual content, and the brothers of the abbey converse with ornate lettering that appears prefer it belongs on the inscription of a Roman statue. And as a reminder that the participant is witnessing the guide’s creation dwell, dialogue is usually written with a typo or two that the invisible writer of the guide rapidly erases. The fonts are a splendidly efficient means of instilling character into the characters of Tassing, however in case you have a tough time studying cursive, they are often disabled within the settings in favor of “easy-read” fonts.
Whereas the presentation of Pentiment’s story is gorgeous, its pacing leaves a little bit to be desired. I adored the sections with homicide mysteries, however the sections with out them felt sluggish. The story previous the primary homicide takes some time to get going, and I wouldn’t be shocked if a less-patient participant bounces off the sport due to it. Nonetheless, it’s much more noticeable within the third act, when the stakes noticeably dwindle earlier than ramping again up within the remaining hour or so. With out going into spoilers, the third act brings vital shifts within the gameplay and story, each good and unhealthy. At that time, it began to really feel like I used to be watching the occasions in Tassing slightly than enjoying them; I nonetheless loved the story, however I didn’t get to make large selections like within the first two acts, and there was no impending trial to push the characters alongside.
In these sluggish sections, I additionally began to course of my points with the sport’s audio design. More often than not, Pentiment doesn’t have music enjoying within the background, which feels awkward when many of the gameplay is simply speaking to individuals. The sound of the quill scratching is sweet, however I’d have favored to listen to extra of the sport’s rating, even when it was one thing sparse and atmospheric. Background characters additionally don’t cease their idle animations while you discuss to a distinct individual close by, and the audio for these animations continues as effectively. Principally silent conversations can be one factor, however speaking to a personality for 2 to a few minutes whereas the one sound is the repetitive, incessant sweeping of a close-by broom had me taking my headphones off greater than as soon as.
Regardless of some points with the audio and the slowness of the third act, Pentiment is a splendidly distinctive storytelling expertise overflowing with respect for the historic period it strives to recreate. Very similar to the sport’s themes of tales persisting over time, I’ll be fascinated with Andreas Maler and the city of Tassing for years to return.