Repentance Review – Medieval Justice Doing Justice

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Repentance is perhaps the ultimate proof that Microsoft wasn’t lying when it promised to do so giving newly acquired studios like Obsidian Entertainment the creative freedom to do whatever they want. The passion project of Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity designer Josh Sawyer, Pentiment is a sober, well-researched 16th-century murder mystery that will challenge even the most nutty acquaintances in history at the time. Even most independent studios would probably think twice before embarking on a project like this, and yet here it is, published by Xbox themselves.

Of course, a good game requires more than passion. Did Josh Sawyer and the small development team at Obsidian produce a one-of-a-kind piece of art, or did they paint themselves into a corner? It’s time to determine Pentiment’s place in history.

The repentance takes place in the early 1500s at a time when the Protestant Reformation and Renaissance had begun to sweep away the period of stagnation that had long gripped Europe. You start the game playing as Andreas Maler, a journeyman artist who seeks to become a master by completing his masterpiece (yes, that’s where the term comes from). Andreas finds himself in the small Bavarian town of Tassing, which is under the rule of the Holy Roman Empire. Tassing is unique in that its abbey still has a scriptorium where monks create illuminated manuscripts and other works of art (the work had mainly become the preserve of professional secular artists like Andreas by the early 1500s).

Andreas’ time in Tassing goes somewhat mundanely until a brash baron with a penchant for discussing Martin Luther and his new ideas comes to town and starts ruffling feathers. Soon the baron is dead, and one of your faithful monk friends from the scriptorium is accused. It’s up to you to find enough evidence to clear your friend and spare him the executioner’s sword.

Pentiment was compared to Disco Elysium before its release, but that’s not entirely accurate. There are some similarities as the Pentiment has no combat and you can determine certain traits by deciding where you are from, what you studied in college, your interests, your personality, etc. (these traits will determine how well you are able to respond during conversations). That said, it would be a stretch to call it an RPG. You have a good amount of leeway in determining the type of character you want to play as, but once your traits are set, they are set and cannot be changed or upgraded.

The general structure of Pentiment follows the rhythms of village life in 16th century Bavaria. The Catholic Church is omnipresent in everyday life and the difference between the haves and the have-nots is vast and sometimes stark. Time passes as you complete various tasks and you have to find time to adapt to various daily activities like having lunch, collecting firewood or baking Christmas cookies. Once you have a mystery in your hands, the game falls into a fairly regular pattern – you have different threads to follow and it’s up to you which one to pursue. Usually this just involves talking to people for information, but sometimes you may find yourself doing chores for a stubborn old widow, exploring Roman ruins, or other assorted things. Pentiment provides you with a journal that generally does a good job of telling you what you can do, as it’s more of a game about strategically planning your next step rather than figuring out what that step should be. .

Conversations feature plenty of dialogue options and periodic skill checks, as you can sometimes persuade characters to your side provided you’ve said the right things in the past. The game does a good job of clarifying why your persuasion succeeded or failed. Sometimes you blame yourself for your past choices. Persuading people isn’t always just about flattering them, because being nice can have unintended consequences. In one instance, my attempt to persuade a nun to leave the abbey failed due to all the polite platitudes I had said earlier about the place. This is just a small example – good intentions can also have far more serious consequences.

While Pentiment’s dialogue and day-to-day structure are well-crafted, there are issues with some of the more basic things. The game’s map offers a traditional aerial view, while the game itself is played on a 2D plane, which makes interpreting exactly where things are in relation to each other trickier than it is. shouldn’t be. The game also forces you to go back and forth a lot through the village and the abbey without any fast travel system.

Visually, Pentiment is designed to look like the woodcuts and manuscripts of the period, and for the most part the look works, with still shots of the game often looking great. Still, it’s clear that Obsidian was working on a rather tight budget, with characters coming to life stiffly and tiptoeing around like clumsy puppets. Pentiment’s soundtrack is generally understated but matches the theme of the game, although the loud doodling noise that accompanies dialogue appearing in text boxes makes me cringe (I had to completely turn off all sound effects to get rid of the incessant doodling sounds).

Ultimately though, a game like Pentiment lives or dies by its writing, and thankfully, that’s where it really excels. It’s a game on many things – religion, the nature of power, art, and the personal toll it imposes on creators – but at the heart of it all is Tassing himself. The village is full of richly drawn characters, all of whom have their own backgrounds and relationships that you can help shape. The story of Pentiment takes place over approximately 25 years, during which we see how a community can be misled, succumb to its worst instincts, but also how it can heal itself.

Each of the three Acts of Pentiment asks you to either solve a murder or make other more personal decisions. You will discover information that will help you in these decisions, but the definitive proof is never provided. When it came time to implicate someone for the Baron’s first murder, I had two main choices – someone who had a strong motive for doing it but was otherwise sympathetic and deeply sympathetic, and someone without a clear motive but with the means and mean. personality to do so. I picked that last suspect. Was it the right choice? The game never told me. While repentance Is solving some of its mysteries for good, you won’t get all the answers and absolution that you did the right thing. It may sound unsatisfying, and it is, to some extent, but Pentiment is more about the consequences of your choices and why you made them.

Your actions cast long shadows over the city and over yourself. Some people will never forget what you’ve done, and what may seem like lighthearted moments at the start of the game can have serious life consequences. Andreas may seem a bit superficial at first, but some truly heartbreaking new layers to the character are revealed as the game progresses.

Pentiment offers fantastic dramatic highlights, but I have to warn you, it’s also a game that requires patience. He takes his time to set up his world. It can be dry. It takes nearly two hours for the first murder to occur. That said, those who stick it out will be rewarded. The game’s second act, which sees Andreas return to Tassing to investigate another murder amidst a potential peasant rebellion, is particularly gripping. A shift in perspective in the third act reduces the intensity from a boil to a more laid-back simmer, but the story rebuilds to a fitting finale.

Repentance is quite substantial, with a single playthrough requiring at least a dozen hours, and after the credits, I did something I rarely do with a story-based title – immediately started a new playthrough . I suspect that I will not be alone in this case. Once Pentiment has taken hold of you, the story will be to repeat.

This review was based on a PC copy of Pentiment provided by publisher Xbox Game Studios.


Repentance

Repentance will not be for everyone. It’s bookish, sometimes a little dry, and forces you to take its questions about the nature of religion, art, and other heady topics seriously if you want to get the most out of its narrative. If that sounds like your kind of thing, you can expect a rich, well-researched world that you’ll really feel part of, and a fantastic story that offers plenty of memorable and moving twists. Repentance will leave an indelible mark on you if you just give it a chance.

Advantages
  • Unique and deeply studied framework
  • Lively and memorable characters
  • The story will sneak up and catch you
  • Hard choices feel meaningful
  • Charming visual style
  • Lots of replayability
The inconvenients
  • Can be a bit stuffy at times
  • All questions have no answer
  • Visuals not technically impressive
  • Those fucking writing sound effects

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