Pentiment: We tried Obsidian's stunning narrative and investigative adventure

Pentiment: We tried Obsidian's stunning narrative and investigative adventure


For many it was a very welcome surprise in the middle of the Xbox and Bethesda conference in June, but in reality for several insiders, Josh Sawyer's new project had already been known for some time, at least briefly and for some general considerations on the graphic style and gameplay mechanics. During Gamescom 2022 we finally had the opportunity not only to try Pentiment, the new, wonderful work of Obsidian, but even to play it thanks to a small demo on the show floor, then deepened in a closed-door appointment that allowed us to deepen this title so strange, but already so familiar.

Let's go in order and let's start from the beginning: what is Pentiment, in concrete terms? Because it is not easy to understand, but if we were to reduce ourselves to a synthetic description we could consider it a narrative adventure with an investigative air and with an original and very distinctive artistic style, almost a sort of ideal cross between Disco Elysium and Inkulinati. The gameplay is clearly much closer to the first title mentioned, even if in Pentiment it seems to lack such a marked role-playing component, while from the turn-based strategic laggard focused on combat, the stylistic similarities can be easily noticed. But only those.

The story

The unique style of Pentiment The setting and artistic component of Pentiment are linked in a double way as can be easily understood by looking at a handful of images or the trailer of announcement: we are in Upper Bavaria in the 16th century, in the middle of the Middle Ages, and at our command there will be Andreas Maler, a small craftsman who, after abandoning his major studies, chooses to become an artist, but finds himself in spite of himself, precisely in because of his skills as a draftsman and scholar, to become a sort of investigator of the time.

A practically non-existent profession in that precise historical context, but which will lead Andreas to make a virtue of necessity, initially in an attempt to exonerate a dear friend and mentor of his, but which will later become a real reason for living within a long narrative arc that will occupy 25 years of the protagonist, clearly timed by a series of tragic events that will chase him and make him increasingly involved in a plot that almost seems to hypothesize the presence of a serial killer.

To start the interactive story there will be the murder of a very well known prince in Bavaria in a Benedictine abbey and Brother Piero will be caught "hands in the bag", folded over the victim's body and with in his hand a bloody knife just extracted from the victim's body. Clearly not everything is as it seems and our task will be precisely to trace the real murderer, to exonerate our friend and shed light on the murder. Or maybe not really.

Freedom of choice, the real one

The curious interface of Pentiment The main peculiarity of Pentiment is in fact inherent in a freedom of choice completely delivered into the hands of the player who does not only he will have to and will be able to evaluate which characters to question, which investigative activities to carry out and how to spend the time before the final judgment, but he will have to and will be able to accuse any of the NPCs involved in the case, deliberately or unfortunately, then assuming the consequences of this decision. Consequences that will have repercussions on the continuation of the story even on the epilogue which should on the one hand show a great variety and on the other hand stimulate the player to re-face the adventure by making other decisions, analyzing each case in a different way and then accusing different people , perhaps with the ultimate goal of finding the real culprit.

Going into the details of the proven demo, the session was set practically at the beginning of the game, let's assume a few minutes after the narrative incipit and the tutorial. The first contact with the game involved answering a handful of questions designed to define Andreas's "attitude" according to some choices related to his past as a schoolboy. The first 2 concerned the skills acquired through studies: among the options were oratory, logic, astronomy, occultism, or the possibility of having a past as a Latinist or botanist.

Subsequently we were asked to choose the magisterial path interrupted in the middle having theology, imperial law and medicine as options. Finally, to complete this sort of character creation phase, Andreas' chosen destination during his years of apprenticeship and the lifestyle adopted during the wandering period intervened. These elements contribute both to define how Andreas approaches the world of Pentiment, but also, more concretely, a whole series of options to which we will have access during the dialogues and the analysis of the environment that are clearly dependent on our innate skills. A little on the style of what we have experimented with the most classic and narrative RPGs.

Once this phase of creating our avatar was completed, we had a series of destinations available within the village where we were committed the crime. Andreas can be moved by following the paths on the various "maps" which are rich in detail and beautifully animated.

The maps and paths of Pentiment In the vicinity of some elements of the scenario or of the houses, we will have the opportunity to observe the area or to enter the building. In the latter case, after a short loading, we will find ourselves with a much closer view inside the structure, always free to move in search of elements with which to interact. The latter are indicated with a small overlay eliminating any need to look around carefully: all the points of interaction are clearly visible and easy to reach. The same also applies to the numerous non-player characters that can be encountered in the various settings, all divided between them by small uploads. Once the interaction with the NPC has begun, the game enters its most "investigative" part since we will always have to choose with great care how to continue the dialogue, making the most of our "skills" and possibly deepening the moments in which Andreas launches into reflective ideas by analyzing his interlocutor and what he would (or would not) like to hear.

The day-night cycle

The time of day will vary the things to do in Pentiment From what we have been able to experience, these dialogues or in any case these more complex interactions necessarily lead to the conclusion of a phase of the day-night cycle that serves to time the continuation of Andreas's investigation by generating a distressing, but electrifying pathos connected to our freedom. of choice. Visit a widow to try to find out the reasons behind her hatred of the church and perhaps investigate the hypothesis that she was the one who killed the prince, or go to the abbey to attend the victim's autopsy? We will have the time and the opportunity to carry out only one of these two activities since once the first is completed, it will be evening and we will be forced to perform other tasks and, perhaps, the next day the body will no longer be available or the elderly lady she will no longer have any interest in revealing her hatred as we will no longer be able to help her with the housework. Everything is interconnected in Pentiment and every decision we make will involve the obligation to lose something along the way and to be able to deepen only certain aspects of the narrative arc.

Among other things, do not think that Obsidian's work is a mere walking simulator disguised as a narrative adventure because the interactions seem to be very many and in the demo there were also more interactive sequences such as a phase of harvesting the timber with subsequent "chopping" of the shrubs to make them the ideal length, or the creation of a sketch " hand "of the wounds of the slain prince, essential to get an idea of ​​the weapon used to hit him dead. Pentiment is full of digressions on the subject and small goodies that have really left us excited during our test. There is even a high-risk card game that featured in the second part of the demo. A sort of teresina who meets the broom where the player with the same card thrown to the ground by the dealer wins. A minigame that, who knows, will accompany us throughout Andreas's narrated life or perhaps will remain linked to a specific moment of the adventure.

Splendid to see

Pentiment is not just a walking simulator By now the artistic element has been gutted far and wide in the last few months: this particular use of a stroke and a drawing strongly inspired by the typical miniatures of medieval books written and drawn by scribes and by the woodcuts of the Middle Ages. However, during the rehearsal, we noticed another, small gem, a tinsel that helps to highlight how much the work born from the splendid couple composed of Josh Sawyer, the designer of Obsidian with an imposing pedigree and Hannah Kennedy, the art director to whom we owe all the charisma of the game, is it really an act of love towards the medium.

All dialogues appear in the form of balloons written with a quill and liquid and thick ink they have grammar errors that are readily corrected by an invisible hand ready to erase and rewrite the wrong letters, leaving even small marks of ink "smeared" on the paper. We repeat: this is an absolutely useless tinsel for gameplay purposes, but able to make it clear how the artistic choice at the basis of Pentiment has not only served to intelligently disguise a production with a reduced budget, but is itself an integral part of the idea that gives life to a project that we can't wait to play. And there won't be long to wait as the title hits PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X | S on November 15th. Clearly on Game Pass at launch.

Pentiment has been a bolt from the blue since its announcement at the Bethesda Xbox conference and being able to play it at Gamescom only confirmed our premature impressions based on a simple trailer. This narrative adventure could easily turn into one of the most interesting titles of the year, clearly taking into account its productive values ​​and the particular genre of belonging. It may not be suitable for everyone, but it will certainly thrill those who have the time and the desire to embark on this 25-year-old medieval investigation.


Freedom of choice all 'nth power The artistic cut is wonderful Dialogues and exploration in a mix that appears perfect DOUBTS Maybe he is too guided in the movements within the environments How much can we really influence the course of events? Have you noticed any errors?

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