Preview Pentiment: The new game from Obsidian (The Outer Worlds, Star Wars Kotor) has everything to succeed.
preview The new game from Pentment: Obsidian (The Outer Worlds, Star Wars Kotor) has everything to succeed.
Pentiment is the “indie” project of Obsidian, a studio to which we owe a few nuggets of Western RPGs (Pillar of Eternity, Fallout New Vegas, among others). Developed by 12 people, this unique-style medieval mystery game was approached for 30 minutes at Gamescom. We would have loved to spend 4 times longer there.
The studio is now a subsidiary of Microsoft, Obsidian is working on its big project Avoid, a thematic RPG in the Pillars of Eternity universe. But in addition, a small team was built around Josh Sawyer (screenwriter of Fallout New Vegas) to bring Pentiment to the world. Less technically ambitious, the title is intended as a multi-disciplinary investigation game, whose pitch is inspired by the film Le Nome de Rose: in a 16th-century Benedictine abbey, a murder is committed. In the skin of Andreas Maller, a master resident artist, you must solve this crime which everything indicates was committed by a local monk.
Create your own detective
On the occasion of Gamescom, we were able to discover the beginning of the game and especially the creation of Andreas’ personality. Please note, this is not an RPG: there are no character sheets to create, classes or skill points to distribute. To define the profile of the detective, we must answer a question about his origins or his studies: Did he pursue a course in astronomy, theology or medicine? Is he sociable, a great talker or a bookworm on the contrary? Does he have an idea of the Italian or German language? During the first minute, we take the time to build a character that will have character and knowledge that, as we’ve seen, will have a real impact on the course of the story.
Because, apart from its one-of-a-kind graphic style (which may be suspended, but which deserves to stand out from the rest of the production), it is actually the multiple possibilities and branches of the story that have impressed us the most. From the beginning of the investigation, Andreas reveals several leads, which we may or may not follow: Are we going to question the victim’s widow first? Are we going to cast a shadow over the local blacksmith, who seems to have things to reproach himself for? Or are we going directly to the monastery to inspect the body and try to determine the cause of death?
From the start, we are offered 4 or 5 possibilities, knowing that certain choices will rule out others (spinning matches will prevent you from inspecting the body, for example, because someone else did it). Pentiment’s replayability seems so huge.
The scenario branches in all directions
The proof is: we were able to go through the demo twice (which stopped at the end of the first day of investigation) by taking completely different paths and creating a different “Andreas”. Thus the experience had nothing to do with, on the one hand, a formal autopsy (well, for the 16th century) that ended with the suspicious interruption of a nobleman wishing to inspect the corpse, and on the other with the blacksmith’s wanderings that lead us to the discovery of an isolated stele in the forest, a mysterious Causes accidental death.
And beyond the different paths to follow, Andreas’ personality structure offers very different possibilities. Good at medicine, he will notice specific details on the victim’s body. Gifted in Germanic, he can understand a hidden sentence more easily. If you want him to be a good speaker, he will have a better ability to get the suspect to talk. At 30 minutes in, the impression of only touching on the possibilities of interactions (which almost exclusively go through dialogue) has proven to be both extremely frustrating and particularly exciting for the future.
A visually appealing graphic style
In terms of gameplay, Pentiment therefore promises to be very accessible, above all based on its branching narrative and its multi-choice dialogue. Short QTEs can intervene, like when you have to stealthily chase a bug while hiding in a tree trunk to spy on a suspect.
Pentiment’s artistic direction, as we have already said, is unique in its genre, a style imitating 16th-century painting, which nonetheless provides detailed ornamentation and well-animated characters in keeping with the graphic style and which promotes multiple feedback attachments. And it goes further, with different fonts depending on the type of character speaking (monks won’t have the same font as nobles or peasants, for example), and even erasing some words for NPCs whose language will be approximated. In short, it’s charming, full of good ideas and the writing seems to be on point. We are very, very excited.
Pentiment enchanted us for 30 short minutes and we had only one desire: to stay in the test room to discover all the possibilities seen at the beginning of the investigation. The detective plot seems solid, the visual style immediately catches the eye, but it’s the multiple potential branches, shaped by the main character’s personality, that captivate us. This “small” Obsidian project could be one of the best games of the year. As a reminder, penitentiary is scheduled to end on November 15 on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, and PC. The game will be offered on GamePass.