Published on November 15th, 2022 | by S. Masoud Kazemi
Summary: Pentiment is one of the best games of 2022 that anyone could play.
Pentiment is the newest piece of art made by Obsidian Entertainment that is mostly known for making Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity. As the studio, itself stated the game is heavily inspired by Disco Elysium, it is essential to know this before diving into the world of this game.
Players will take control of an artiste named Andreas that have to finish a commissioned work for the Church while also struggling to find time to create his own masterpiece. The game is set during the reign of the Holy Roman Empire when Christianity was at its most powerful state. This is the period of history where even saying something opposed to what the Church or Bible said was considered a mortal error.
Like Disco Elysium, Pentiment also requires some sort of knowledge about the Holy Roman Empire and the cultural circumstances to fully understand the story of the game and also play accordingly. Since it’s an Obsidian game, there is some element of RPG in it as well.
The game starts rather strangely but is magnificent. Strangely because you will see the main character debating with Socrates, Prester John, and Saint Grobian who lived in different eras. But as you listen more carefully you realize this is not the real world but rather a debate Andreas is having in his mind. Looking at a subject from different ideologies and points of view. This makes it a magnificent beginning since for the majority of the time players will have to decide how they react to the action and saying of people.
As you progress through the game, you can decide Andreas’ background story, like where he studied, and what he studied. It will become a huge part of the gameplay and narrative that each area of study will help players in a certain way. Depending on whether Andreas has studied in Basel or Italy, and whether he studied Logician or Alchemy, the game will take different narrative turns.
One of the good parts of Pentiment’s story is character building. While we have some great stories that were told in form of video games, there are rare games that have good character buildings, especially when it comes to NPCs.
The characters of Pentiment not only cover a wide range of character types but also manages to make players believe these characters can be real persons. This makes the world of Pentiment rich and authentic. You will encounter characters that seem tough and stone-hearted that you find have oceanic souls and characters that have vast knowledge and skill but lack human compassion.
It wouldn’t be right if I didn’t mention the effort Obsidian has put to add racial and gender differences in the game. In recent years we have seen many movies and TV series trying to talk about this issue, but almost in every case, they overdo it.
In the Pentiment on the hand, this matter has been added a way that would feel give a sense of familiarity. They didn’t make characters in a way that would turn them into an alien species. They simply show that each character is a human with emotion, regardless of their race and sex, and the difference doesn’t separate people but rather offers an opportunity to learn about culture and history.
After the first day, something tragic will happen in the little village where the game is taking place, which puts one of Andreas’ mentors in danger. That is where the investigation and detective part of the game will start, once again showing how much Obsidian was inspired by Disco Elysium. The investigation or rather the whole game is overly simple. All you have to do is talk to people or go to the required place.
This isn’t a problem where you would find yourself struggling to put more hours into the Pentiment. But the lack of complexity in gameplay, especially coming from a studio that can make such mechanisms is a little underwhelming. Nonetheless, the gameplay is not the most important aspect of Pentiment.
Without spoiling the details and beauty of the story, it is good to see Obsidian has also brought the economic and societal problems and the struggle between powers in Pentiment as well. While Disco Elysium is much more complex due to the complexity of modern ideologies and political parties, Pentiment does everything it can on the little space it has.
The game is not afraid to show the struggles of the poor and the unjust world we live in. It is as if Pentiment is the simplistic prequel of Disco Elysium that share the same spirit but got more complex and hard to understand over time.
The art style of Pentiment is very different from what Obsidian is known for but still, they managed to do a fantastic job of recreating the art and calligraphy of the Roman Empire. The game also gives players the option to use the original calligraphy or a modern one because it can be difficult for many players to read the original calligraphy.
This art style will show its true potential when other characters tell a tale or Andreas reads a story from a book. The characters will transform into the world of the story and let the little story and its macrosomic world take over the player.
While the art style is the puzzle piece of recreating the aesthetics of the 16th century, music and sound editing are the glue that keeps it together. The touch of sound editing is subtle but important. Like the sound of sheep or pen moving on parchment. Each of these minor details helps the authenticity of the game.
In the end, Pentiment is one of the best games of 2022 that anyone could play. The story is rich and wonderfully written, and it is not afraid to point out the hardest struggles of our past and today’s lives. The characters, same as the story itself are authentic and created thoughtfully. The gameplay of Pentiment is simple compared to other Obsidian games, and it might be too simple, but it is not something that would decrease the pleasure of enjoying this piece of art. I have lost count of many times I’ve admired the details and aesthetic of the game which becomes a full package of 16th-century culture when the music reaches your ears.