Some games are easy to explain, and others are much harder to quantify. Obsidian Entertainment’s latest game, Pentiment, is one of those games. At first glance, it is a simple concept, but it slowly becomes more complex. However, this is not a game for everyone. If you want to know if this is the game for you then please, keep reading.
Pentiment was released on the 15th of November for PC and Xbox. The game styles itself as an adventure game, although it only scratches the surface. The game combines many different aspects to craft something unique, although that isn't to say it's perfect by any means. There's plenty here to look at, both the good and the bad, and we here are Robot Republic can tell you what we think.
Pentiment’s plot follows four acts, with several different player characters. The game takes place over many years but all of the acts follow from the other. Each act sees the player at the centre of a distinct mystery based in the small town of Tassing in Bavaria. You will need to make use of a selected background to unearth clues and learn more about the people of this world. It isn't all art projects however, there will be murder and mystery built upon a dark history that the characters will need to deduce and accuse. I don't want to spoil anything but I will say that the plot manages to keep the player invested, although the start is almost painfully slow. This isn't necessarily a bad thing as it does help to build the world and events well, but it can make starting difficult.
The gameplay appears to be pretty simple with the player being able to move in small areas and talk to people. These varying characters all have their own stories to tell and even the smallest note can be important later. There isn't much to explore outside of the odd puzzle here and there but that isn't the focus of the game. instead, the conversations are where the bulk of the game's mechanics hide. During conversations the player can comment on events or individuals and some of these will be remembered. Each of the characters holds their own views and opinions about events and the relatively small cast of each act makes remembering certain things much easier. These reactions are the main basis for how persuasion works in the game and how the town sees you. Essentially when you need to convince someone the game lists all the relevant interactions the character has been a part of. Each positive and negative have an effect on the likelihood that you will manage to persuade someone. However, sometimes it all feels a bit arbitrary and even a perfect list won't always mean that you will be successful.
The other aspect of gameplay is the exploration and clue finding. Essentially players will need to explore the world and find clues to the mysteries presented to them. This is where the player's background will come into effect. For instance, the player may have studied Latin and the occult and, as such, be able to comprehend a particular riddle better. There is an entire wealth of options to choose from but it never feels like any one choice of background is better than any other and that is a testament to the writing of the game. The clues are often quite easy to find, at least to start with, but the player can be blocked from moving any further down the line of clues if they happen to have angered a particular character. It is annoying to work hard to find all the pieces and then hit a brick wall, but the game is generous enough to offer other avenues to find the answer.
Graphically the game is designed to resemble some of the old medieval tapestries. The art and colour styles maintain a constant theme and the music is subtle enough to set the scene but not overwhelm it. The art style helps to separate the game from others of its ilk and, while it is a bit disconcerting at first, it soon becomes far more charming. However, if there is one thing that the game calls out for it is some voice acting. This isn’t to say that the game’s writing is weak, that isn’t the case by any means. However, the constant text reading becomes challenging to follow for long periods. Also, and this is somewhat of a nitpick but the player really shouldn't have to sit through the characters saying grace each time they sit down for a meal, also the text scrawl can lead to a bit of a roadblock in gameplay. Ideally, the player should have the option to immediately have the text in front of them rather than having it written word for word. It is a minor nitpick and certainly thematic but it does drag on occasion (especially during the constant saying of grace).
I’ve said it once before and I will say it again, the game has some fantastic writing. It reminds me of the old wolf in the village game I used to play as a kid. There is a killer and you need to find them, and to do so you need to question a colourful cast of characters. These characters are the strength of the game and they are all well-written and memorable. The game also maintains a comprehensive compendium during dialogue so it is possible to check which characters are which and even historical facts. However, the game seriously needs a map to help players get around and find what they need to find as it can be a bit hard to figure out.
Pentiment is a game that won’t appeal to everyone, there’s plenty here that requires a lot of attention to understand. However, if you are a fan of a good mystery then it is certainly worth exploring and the many different options mean there is a wealth of replayability. That said, some minor issues may deter some players and the slow start might turn off others at the same time.
You can pet the animals, it may matter, it may not. It did for me.
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GAMING. POSITIVITY. GOOD TIMES.