Insight Pentiment: the new game from Obsidian (The Outer Worlds, Star Wars KOTOR) has everything to be a success
Pentiment is the “indie” project from Obsidian, a studio to which we owe a few nuggets of Western RPGs (Pillars of Eternity, Fallout New Vegas, among others). Developed by 12 people, this uniquely-styled medieval mystery game was approached for 30 minutes at Gamescom. We would have liked to spend 4 times more time there.
Studio now under the bosom of Microsoft, Obsidian is working on its big project Avowed, an RPG in subjective view in the universe of Pillars of Eternity. But besides that, a small team was formed around Josh Sawyer (screenwriter on Fallout New Vegas) to bring Pentiment into the world. Less technically ambitious, the title is intended as a multi-branching investigation game, the pitch of which is inspired by the film Le Nom de Rose: in a Benedictine abbey of the 16th century, a murder has been committed. In the skin of Andreas Maler, a master resident artist, you must solve this crime which everything indicates was committed by a local monk.
Make your own detective
On the occasion of Gamescom, we were able to discover the beginning of the game and in particular the creation of Andreas’ personality. Please note, this is not an RPG: there is no character sheet to create, class or skill points to distribute. To define the contours of the detective, we must answer a questionnaire on his origins or his studies: did he follow a course in astronomy, theology or medicine? Is he the sociable type, a very good speaker or on the contrary a bookworm? Does he have notions of Italian or Germanic languages? During the first minutes, we take the time to shape a character whose character and knowledge will have, from what we have seen, a real impact on the course of the story.
Because, in addition to its one-of-a-kind graphic style (which may put off, but which has the merit of standing out from the rest of the production), it is indeed the multiple possibilities and storyline branches that impressed us the most in Pentiment. From the start of the investigation, Andreas unfolds several leads, which we are free to follow or not: are we going to question the widow of the victim first? Are we going to shadow the local blacksmith, who seems to have things to reproach himself for? Or are we going straight to the abbey to inspect the body and try to determine the cause of death?
From the start, 4 or 5 possibilities are offered to us, knowing that certain choices will cancel others (going to the spinning mill will prevent you from inspecting the body, for example, because it will have been done by someone else). The replayability of Pentiment therefore seems enormous.
Scenario branches in all directions
The proof is: we were able to go through the demo twice (which stops at the end of the first day of investigation) taking completely different paths and creating a different “Andreas”. The experience thus had nothing to do with, on the one hand, a formal autopsy (well, for the 16th century) which ends with the suspicious irruption of a nobleman wishing to inspect the body, and on the other the spinning of the blacksmith who led us to the discovery of an isolated stele in the forest, evoking a mysterious accidental death.
And beyond the different paths to follow, the shaping of Andreas’ personality offers very different possibilities. Good at medicine, he will notice certain details on the victim’s body. Gifted in the Germanic language, he will more easily understand a hidden sentence. If you want him to be a good speaker, then he will have a better ability to make a suspect speak. In 30 minutes, the impression of having only touched on the possibilities of interactions (which almost only passes through the dialogue) proved to be both very frustrating and particularly exciting for the future.
A frankly eye-catching graphic style
In terms of gameplay, Pentiment therefore promises to be very accessible, relying above all on its branching narration and its multiple-choice dialogues. Small QTEs can however intervene, like when you have to chase an insect quietly while you are hidden in a tree trunk to spy on a suspect.
The artistic direction of Pentiment is, as we have already said, unique in its kind, with a style imitating 16th century paintings, which nevertheless offers detailed decorations and well-animated characters, in coherence with the graphic style and whose multiple reactions promote attachment. And it goes even further, with different fonts depending on the type of characters who are speaking (monks will not have the same font as nobles or peasants, for example), with even erasures on some words for an NPC whose language would be approximate. 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 during the start of the investigation. The detective plot seems solid, the visual style immediately catches the eye, but it is above all the multiple possible branches, shaped by the personality of the main character, that have seduced us. This “small” Obisidan project could therefore be one of the best games of this end of the year. As a reminder, Pentiment is due out on November 15 on Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One and PC. The game will be offered in the Gamepass.