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A screenshot of Pentiment showing Andreas on the ship of fools.

review

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need to know

what is it? A narrative-driven mystery set in a 16th-century Bavarian village.
expect to pay $19.99/£14.99
developer obsidian
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
audit date Ryzen 7 3700X, GTX 1080 Ti, 16GB RAM
multiplayer game? Do not
association Official website(opens in a new tab)

There are bloodstains on the walls of Kirsau Abbey. Beneath the long fresco of The Dance of Terror(opens in a new tab) lies a corpse adorned with jewels: A visiting nobleman is murdered behind the monastery gate, disrupting years of peace in the monastery and endangering Tasin, Bavaria surrounding villages.

It’s 1518, and Europe is teetering in a sea of ​​blood: Martin Luther threatens the Pope’s thousand-year rule over Western Christianity, the peasants of Tassin cry out under heavy taxes, and the rich and powerful – as always – Those who protect their wealth and power rudely are prepared to commit violence on their behalf. If ever there was a good time to find a dead nobleman lying on the floor of your monastery, it wasn’t. To make matters worse, the most convenient culprits for those in power to nail the whole mess are the people who found the bodies: your friends and mentors.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

In this example, “you” is a skilled artist, Andreas Mahler, who works in the writing room of Tasin’s temporary residence in the monastery – a room for writing and illustrating manuscripts, a A relic of a bygone era, long surpassed by innovation like the printing press. Andreas, a relatively wealthy outsider, has little incentive to kill a blueblood, but with good reason to save his friend, he goes to find the real killer himself. You have too many suspects and not enough time to gather the evidence you need to convince the judge—and yourself—that one of them is guilty. No matter how you choose to spend your time, there will be unanswered questions and unanswered questions.

So it’s better to choose wisely, isn’t it? That’s the heart of Penentiment, at least on a mechanical level: making choices over the game’s 25-year time span and watching the ripples spread. Yes, you must solve the nobleman’s murder, but this is just the first of a handful of scandals that unfold over the course of the game. After all, this is still Obsidian, even though the game is being developed by a 13-person Skunk Works division of the studio and led by Josh Sawyer, director of Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity.

This isn’t a role-playing game: you don’t inject points into character stats at any point. But don’t worry if anything leaves more room for narrative choices to make you miserable and regret the game’s 20-hour runtime.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

the art of murder

Most of these choices revolve around how you’re going to spend your time. The people demand justice and are impatient. You have to serve a suspect within days, which means every hour counts.

It’s not as painful as it sounds. No ticking clock. Exploring the town – which is presented in an evocative style reminiscent of manuscripts and woodcuts from the era – most conversations take no time at all. Instead, each part of the day (naturally divided into primary and secondary prayer times) ends when you make big decisions. It could be exploring an ancient Roman salt mine on the edge of town, or maybe a sit-down dinner with a suspect, but the game almost always makes it clear when you’re moving forward in time, and may sacrifice a chance to pursue what you’ve discovered One of the other important clues.

It works well. You’ve always wondered what you might have found if you had chosen option B instead of A, and the game has never been so kind to tell you if you’ve found the right culprit. I still firmly believe that the man I ended up serving with the executioner’s axe was just unlucky. I happened to focus on them rather than one of my other suspects, and as a result gathered more evidence pointing to them. To fully understand the true relationship between all possible suspects in Tasin and the noble murders requires multiple playthroughs and many different options. Grim consolation for the poor man I sent to lose his mind in front of a roaring mob.

The people demand justice and are impatient. You have to serve a suspect within days, which means every hour counts.

One qualm though: while the game almost always gives you a fair warning when you’re about to sacrifice a lot of time or potential leads of investigation, I did encounter a few times where I realized I had made a choice after I succeeded . Not often, and not important, but frustrating in a game that revolves around your choices and their consequences.

There’s a weird little game – including a variant of the card game Lansquenet(opens in a new tab) that I love so much that I lost all of Andreas’ money – but don’t be fooled, they’re more It’s more about taking a break from interrogation than posing a real mechanical challenge. For the most part, you’ll explore, chat, and experience the game’s rich and textured collection of fonts.

OMG, fonts. Never before has a game used fonts so consciously and uncannily. With no dubbing (except for some harrowing hymn music), everything in Pentiment boils down to brushstrokes. How Andreas sees someone’s status, social status, education level: it’s all encapsulated by the typeface the game uses to represent their conversations. Priests speak in intimidating and laborious Gothic script, peasants in variable scratches, haughty petty bourgeois in a mess of serifs and floral ornaments, and people like Andreas in a A sober and readable humanistic style. Unpretentious, maybe even progressive, but clearly an outsider.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

About the artist

But when you’re solving a murder case, an outsider is just what you need. Soon after the game begins, you will make a decision about Andreas’ past before he arrives in the village. Where did he spend his gap year? What are his hobbies? What is he studying in college?

To embody myself in Andreas’ character, I cast him as an unbearable jerk: a logically nerdy nerd who studies imperial laws and speeches and wanders Italy during his gap years, which Means he speaks Italian. I could easily have made him a hedonistic mystic who spent a year in Belgium, or a petty criminal with an interest in Roman history.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

The choices you make about Andreas’ background add new options to later-game dialogue and decision-making. My speaking skills allow me to make impassioned requests rather than outright ones, and my bibliophile has given me plenty of opportunities to make worrisome statements about the sanctity and beauty of books, speaking Italian makes me, well Well, talk to Italians, etc. These choices can also cascade and generate new traits. My nerdy Andreas was vehemently against destroying the heretical text, and the authorities finally let him keep it to shut him up. Years later, he’s wandering around with a new quality and some dangerous mystical thoughts.

However, there are no RPG-style voice checks, and default clicking on dialogue options unlocked through character traits isn’t always the right choice. By choosing imperial law as my main field of study at university, I might as well tick a box labeled “pretentious bragging.” Every time I show off my legal knowledge, I annoy the people I talk to, so much so that I get penalized in subsequent persuasion checks that add up your positive and negative interactions to see if you exceed Some persuasion threshold, not by rolling dice or checking character stats.

If you want to convince someone of something, you have to take into account their character and the context of the conversation. Sometimes the trick to convincing someone to help you isn’t the super unique dialogue choices you get from the background, but one of the easy Jane choices everyone gets, but sometimes it’s the other way around. Even if I’m being unfairly punished for loving the law, it’s far more subtle and rewarding than dumping points into speech statistics.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

so many faces

But Pentiment’s real victory is Tassing itself. As you wander around the city and delve into the lives of village families, you end up developing relationships with all of them. Over 25 years of chatting, sharing meals, and evening Mass, you’ve seen children become adults, adults into old age, and old age fade away (or stubbornly persist, against the laws of nature and common sense). It gets even more difficult when you want to condemn a crime that a man with a family might not actually have committed.

Villagers are also shaped by your choices. Buy an encyclopedia as a gift for a precocious young man who can grow up to be a hopeless nerd. If you want them to have any friends, don’t put them in imperial law, I think.

That’s great, but it also has to do with my biggest problem with the game. While Penentiment is pretty good at defining all of its weird early modern terms – you can hit the back button for a quick definition when almost any unfamiliar term pops up – I find myself often forgetting Tassing’s myriad roles, especially since they’ve been Age and change appearance without thinking. When a person’s name is mentioned, you can hit the back button, but all you’ll be shown is their photo (which is even more useless if it’s an adult photo of a character you knew as a kid). For some, maybe that’s enough, but I certainly couldn’t keep track of an entire village based on their appearance alone, so I spent a lot of time flipping through the game’s character index to figure out who “Masha” really was.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

The era and setting of the game is not a set, but an early modern aesthetic to cover up a murder mystery that could have been set anytime, anywhere. Taxin is a town full of 16th century contradictions. The peasants resented the priests, the priests were suspicious of the peasants, the merchants in the town vacillated between the two, and absolutely everyone hated the arrogant miller in the town, who represented the first green shoots of capitalism, and a few would be short Centuries later, come to completely obliterate the land and its way of life.

It’s a narrative style of historical materialism that fully justifies the game’s quarter-century time span. The Tasins made their own history, but they didn’t make it as they wished. The engine of class struggle churned beneath the surface, accelerated by events and choices like the Abbey Murder, slowed by others, but never stopped. 25 years later Tassing is still very recognizable again. The future is coming inexorably, but it only paints the past. In case you were wondering, a pentimento is when a painted element in a work of art reappears at a later date.

(Image credit: Obsidian)

layer upon layer

Penentiment is a rare beast: a relatively short, lightly-playable narrative adventure from a studio known for its lengthy, mechanically-heavy RPGs. Even more bizarrely, the team did it with aplomb. Yes, there are some mechanical quibbles, and it does take a bit of coaxing to get me to accept the final solution to the central mystery, but Obsidian’s rigorous grasp of its subject and a thorough understanding of what exactly…

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Bart Thompson
Bart is esports.com.tn's List Writer . He is from Houston, Texas, and is currently pursuing a bachelor's degree in creative writing, majoring in non-fiction writing. He likes to play The Elder Scrolls Online and learn everything about The Elder Scrolls series.