Reviews - Updated on November 22, 2022

Director of Pentiment Josh Sawyer (Josh Sawyer) claims that he would never have developed this project in his life if it were not for the Game Pass subscription. From the first minutes of the game, it is obvious that he is not disingenuous – this is a very niche and unique game that would not be sold in large numbers for many reasons. And the story is unusual, and the gameplay is specific, and you need to read a lot, and the visual style is non-standard … But those who fall in love with Pentiment for these reasons will get great pleasure and will probably want to return to it more than once.

A friend in need is a friend indeed

We are transported to 1518 and are controlled by Andreas, an artist who has arrived in the town of Tassing. He will work in the scriptorium (in other words, in the workshop) in the abbey of Cayresau. The protagonist meets the locals and the abbots of the monastery, and at some point a tragedy happens – someone kills Baron Lorenz right within the walls of the abbey. Moreover, Piero, Andreas’ mentor and close friend, is found at the crime scene. The old man would hardly have had the strength to kill such a strong man, but the archdeacon who makes the decision has no other suspects.

Andreas decides to retrain from an artist to a detective and is personally involved in the investigation. The situation is complicated by the fact that before the murder, he heard only good things about Lorenz: due to his donations, the abbey continued to exist, and in a conversation with Andreas, he was polite and courteous. But as soon as the protagonist begins to communicate with other suspects, a lot of unpleasant details emerge. Sooner or later, you will have to decide who is to blame, but the story will not end there – in three acts, the player is told about the events that took place over 25 years.

Pentiment is not entirely correct to call a detective – although here you really are investigating, the goal of the developers was much larger. They wanted to talk about an era that is almost never mentioned in games. That’s why the story covers such a long period of time, that’s why in each act the composition of the characters partially changes (someone grows old, someone grows up, someone dies), and therefore everything is framed in the form of a medieval manuscript. If you were expecting something like Ace Attorney, then you are in the wrong place – investigations are woven into the narrative, but do not become a central theme.

At any moment, they can recall the works of Aristotle or Virgil’s Aeneid, tell about Percht (the German version of Baba Yaga) or tell a story from the Gospel about how Jesus fed thousands of people with several loaves of bread and a couple of fish. The plot, built around the abbey, could not do without the mention of Martin Luther, who in his 95 theses criticized the Catholic Church and explained the need for reforms.

Not everyone likes Martin Luther's ideas.

Not everyone likes Martin Luther’s ideas.

All this is so masterfully served that even players who are not interested in history will enjoy and learn a lot of new things. The most ingenious thing is the ability, after reading the next remark, to press the button and see the explanations that the developers have added for potentially incomprehensible words. What is the “third hour”? Who is Til Ulenspiegel? There is no need to turn to the search engine – you will quickly read everything right in the game. This also applies to characters – when a hero mentions a citizen, you can look at his portrait if you couldn’t remember dozens of names.

There is also a separate glossary.

word master

There is a lot to be communicated. If Obsidian’s other recent game, Grounded, was purely about gameplay, then Pentiment is more like a visual novel. Occasionally there are mini-games, the quality of which leaves much to be desired, but mostly you walk along the streets, visit buildings and interact with characters. The local English cannot be called difficult (even there are no special curses) – in Disco Elysium the language was many times more intricate. In which case, you can wait for localization – the developers plan to add it after the release.

Although this is not the classic RPG that Obsidian is famous for, you can still mold your own character – as the game progresses, we compile his biography. Where he was before arriving in Tassing depends on the hero’s ability to understand different languages ​​and mention cultural references. If he understands the law, he can give advice or express his opinion about disputes around housing and not only. Make the hero a rogue – and he will be able to be rude to his interlocutors or threaten them with his fists. Hedonist, craftsman, orator, occultist, bookworm – there are plenty of options.

Sometimes it is obvious which lines are better not to say, although you really want to.

Sometimes it is obvious which lines are better not to say, although you really want to.

The choice of characteristics affects which replicas, in addition to the standard ones, will appear during dialogues. However, if in some Fallout you usually choose such phrases without hesitation, because they simplify the passage or allow you to get bonuses, then it doesn’t work like that here. In Pentiment, it is desirable to understand how appropriate certain statements are. If you try to be clever when the interlocutor is hardly interested in listening to it, you can get a rude answer. If you answer a philosophical question beautifully, you will surely be able to keep up the conversation.

This feature makes the game world come alive – you do not just choose the most successful answers, but compose your own story. Well, your character likes to show everyone his knowledge of the law, what can you do? How the characters will treat you and whether it will be possible to get their support at the most crucial moment depends on many decisions. Moreover, the game does not warn about how important certain answers are. Obviously, a lot depends on the choice of the suspect, but even remarks that are insignificant at first glance can then increase the chances of success.

One of the most interesting features of the local dialogues is the changing fonts. In the settings, you can make them the same to make the replicas easier to read, but this partially deprives the game of charm. The font depends on how Andreas feels about the person he is talking to. The townspeople’s handwriting is not the most accurate, the letters of the nobility are beautiful and clear, the servants of the monastery “speak” in the Gothic font. And if the protagonist’s opinion about a person changes in the middle of a dialogue, then the font also changes. Since the action of the game takes place on the pages of the book, the authors often make typos in the replicas, which are immediately erased and corrected – the reception gets boring over time, but gives the game charm.

History mistakes

For all the merits of the narrative, some details blur the impression. No matter how interesting the history and development of the game world, the plot seems to be drawn out – this also applies to the third act, which could easily be shortened, and the introduction. An hour or even two would pass before the baron was killed, and a long acquaintance with the characters could get boring.

Gameplay novelty also does not shine. Throughout the game, you have to run back and forth, using a map that does not always correctly show the way. Over time, you remember the path to this or that building, but running is still tiring. Yes, along the way you can chat with someone or even find evidence, but the game does not tell you who is ready to chat with you for a long time, and who will just say hello and continue to do their own thing. Or which door will be closed and which will not.

In general, Pentiment leaves a positive impression, in particular due to the unique graphics. The authors were inspired by the facial manuscripts that were popular before the advent of traditional printing. What is happening is reminiscent of animated miniatures, drawn in the same style. No satirical overtones, as in Rock of Ages – the developers respected the sources of inspiration.

There are a lot of beautiful illustrations in the game.

There are a lot of beautiful illustrations in the game.

With music, the opposite is true – the soundtrack turned out to be meager. There are very few compositions. They sound great and complement the atmosphere great, but much more often you hear only the creak of a writing pen, which gets boring after two dozen hours of passage.

Pentiment has no analogues, and if someone falls in love with her, they will fall head over heels in love. While history buffs should try it first, fans of story-driven games with tons of dialogue will also be pleased. Not everyone will like it – a boring start and not the most exciting gameplay can discourage interest. However, if you immerse yourself in this world, fall in love with the characters and want to experience a quarter of a century with them, then the adventure will be unforgettable.

Pros: luxurious visual style in the spirit of facial manuscripts; an unusual setting that allowed the authors to saturate the story with numerous references and facts; the ability to create a character’s backstory affects the options in the dialogues; a changing world whose inhabitants remember your actions even after many years; good design ideas like a handy glossary and different fonts.

Cons: viscous beginning and prolonged third act; running from one location to another is tiring, and besides it and the dialogues, the game has little to offer gameplay; poor soundtrack.

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