Pentiment: Hands-off Preview
In the old world…say 10 years ago, the idea of a game built on the principles of art design and style from 1600s Bavaria would have been met with scorn and ridicule from publishers everywhere. It would be considered financial madness of the highest order. But in this day and age, an age where subscription services have allowed developers to stretch their wings, to dive into something new and unique, it feels like a stroke of genius. Welcome to Pentiment, Obsidian’s latest title and one that is unlike anything we have ever seen before.
Pentiment is another example of Obsidian going outside of their comfort zone since joining the Microsoft family. Grounded was the first sign that we could expect new things (as well as what we love) from the team and Pentiment follows through with that promise. Pentiment is, for all intents and purposes, an adventure game that is somewhat in line with a Telltale experience. It follows a character through a 25-year murder mystery that he, unfortunately, finds himself tangled in. What makes this stand out however is the stunning art of the game. Everything in the game, from the graphics to the text, is period accurate. The art team have taken the works of the era and created an authentic game out of these techniques and styles and I have to say it is wonderful to see.
What is exceptionally cool about this is how they have used the details of these styles in-game. For example, the character you play is a more modern, sciencey type, so the text used for his dialogue is a more modern style of the era. However, when a member of the clergy speaks their font is closer to that of what you would find in an expensive bible of the time. It is these little details that have really impressed me and it is clear that this is a project that is incredibly important to the 14 devs that have brought it to life.
As for the gameplay, in our presentation, it was explained while there were puzzles, dialogue choices and some light roleplaying (as you would expect from this sort of title) the game was really designed in a way that everyone, no matter their skill level or familiarity with games, should be able to complete it. The puzzles are there to simply involve the player in the world, there are no timed button presses required and no choices that can lead to a game over state. This is a game about letting people explore a narrative in their own way and not punishing them for a lack of ability. This is another reason why a game such as this is a perfect fit for Gamepass. It really is the sort of title that the whole family, from kids to grans, can play alone or even together.
During the presentation, I attended both Game Director Josh Sawyer and Art Director Hannah Kennedy were clearly passionate about this project. I must say over my years in games media I have rarely seen two developers so clearly keen and excited about something so different. I got the distinct impression that the development of Pentiment was a freeing, refreshing experience and one that they approached with their entire beings. It was honestly wonderful to see, but what is even better is that this very passion is evident in the gameplay I saw. Passion project is a bit of a cliched term, but in this case, it is very obvious that the term fits.
As I said before, the fact this game even exists is a minor miracle and certainly one that probably wouldn’t have occurred in the pre-Gamepass days. There is some understandable worry about what subscription services will do to development in the long term, but the fact that Pentiment exists is clear evidence that they can be a force for good too. I personally can’t wait to dive in on the 15th of November and play the game for myself if only to experience the talent, heart and dedication that went into making it.