In a year that’s been a bit barren for Xbox Game Studios, Pentiment is an absolute revelation.
Coming from the brilliant minds at Obsidian, players will travel back to the 16th Century and play as a young artist, Andreas Maler. He’s been working on his masterpiece for some time in a Bavarian abbey, surrounded by loyal servants to God.
Andreas is ambitious and sees things differently from his peers, quick with his wit and adventurous with his ambitions. He’ll chat to anyone, even if they won’t chat to him, but that often gets him into trouble as much as it opens up opportunities for him.
This is an adventure where your choices matter. Decisions about your educational history, your interests, and your birthplace will all play a pivotal role in how that shapes, the choices open to you and the way your story unfolds.
Pentiment is classed as an RPG, but there really is nothing else quite like this on the market. The illustrated art style is a beautiful homage to classic religious manuscripts, the text is presented in stunning fonts and italics that are thematically relevant, and the historical accuracy is clear to see while still managing to have a wry, smart, sense of humor.
Where The Procession to Calvary – perhaps the game most similar to Pentiment – kind of vibed with Monty Python esque humor with visuals that were straight rips from actual paintings, Pentiment feels less satirical and spoof-like, telling a cohesive story with interesting characters, all with a very clear identity of its own.
Characters will still convey the importance of its stories and why they transcend time, putting over the key points without it feeling like a history lesson or entirely patronising. Andreas is at least an open-minded protagonist, though, rather than a generic copy of his times. He’ll ask why he can’t talk to women like civilised human beings, and consider some works in a more progressive light.
I really enjoyed exploring Pentiment. Going beyond the usual objectives, there’s so many sub-characters to meet, learn more about and have some fun interactions with, like the young boy who likes drawing but is scared to do it front of his dad and all the creatures you can pet.
Movement and interaction can be a bit frustrating as sometimes you have to be stood in exactly the right spot in order to differentiate between two interaction points close to one another. But for the most part it’s easy to get around, the game flows extremely well, and the UI is nice, clean and easy to get to grips with.
The only other main issue I have is with the sound which doesn’t really add much to the experience for the most part and is incredibly quiet. Listening to birds chirping, grass whispering in the wind and ink scratching a parchment can be quite soothing, but with no voice acting and music only popping in on occasion, it mostly blends into the background.
Pentiment may not be for everyone. It’s baked in religious subject matter with dialogue that can be quite heavy reading at times, but given the chance, this is one of the best games you’ll play this year for its story, for its stunning aesthetic, and for how unique this experience feels compared to everything else.
With no combat in sight and a very enclosed, tight space to explore that’ll become overly familiar within the game’s first few hours, Pentiment attacks its niche efficiently and effectively and doesn’t try to shoehorn mechanics to fit in or stand alongside its peers. And because of that, it’s one of the most memorable, enriching and rewarding gaming experiences I’ve had in years.
Pentiment has unexpectedly shot towards the top of my favourite games of the year. It’s yet further proof of the amazing talent and creativity bubbling away in the Obsidian studios and is one of the best examples of a game that dares to be different by not trying to do everything, instead focusing its approach. Smartly written, beautifully drawn, and masterfully designed, Pentiment is an intelligent, humorous adventure that is as enriching as it is enjoyable.
+Intelligent writing and expert characterisation
+Well engineered puzzles and environmental design
+Great accessibility options
– Sound a bit too low
– Minor control frustrations
Pentiment is out now on Windows 10/11 and Xbox Game Pass
Played on Xbox Series X
Code Kindly Provided by Microsoft
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