Pentiment preview: A ripping yarn - MrLiambi's blog


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Monday, 29 August 2022

Pentiment preview: A ripping yarn

Obsidian Entertainment stands as one of the grand old houses of the role-playing game world, with a long history of excellent narrative games to fall back upon.

While in recent times it's branched out into the world of bigger budgets, with the likes of The Outer Worlds, its upcoming adventure game Pentiment shows that it's still very capable of dipping a toe into the niche and weird too. We went hands-on at Gamescom 2022, and played a slice.

The old world

Pentiment drops you into the Bavarian Alps in the 16th century, a world painted in the style of illustrated manuscripts and ancient texts.

You play as Andreas Maler, an artist who just happens to be in the wrong place at the right time, as murder goes down in a remote abbey.

A friend being accused of the crime sees you jump into action, to attempt to solve the mystery yourself by questioning all the key witnesses and plenty more personalities beyond that.

We picked up shortly into the game, with the murder having already happened and a few options before us. It was also made very clear that we would only be able to choose one time-consuming task.

Would we interrogate a bitter widow about her beef with the murdered baron? Or watch a local smithy's movements to see why his conversation seemed so stilted?

We went with another option - heading to a back entrance in the abbey so that a friendly friar could let us observe his examination of the body to find out a few key facts about the crime.

The amount of branching that was evident from this single 30-minute slice of Pentiment has us feeling very optimistic about the degree to which it'll let your choices actually matter.

A witty world

Of course, an RPG like this lives and dies by its writing, and Pentiment thankfully seems to be maintaining Obsidian's heritage nicely. Its script is sprightly and great fun to explore.

There's no voice acting, although different types of script do differentiate between the voices of those you talk to, and this does mean that longer conversations could occasionally require a little concentration to get through. However, by and large, things flow nicely.

You're periodically offered choices of dialogue, and these take the chats down branches - although on a couple of occasions we noticed that the dialogue effectively moved through both our options regardless, which is slightly grating.

At the start of the game (and our demo), you can build Andreas' background by choosing some traits based on what subjects he studied earlier in life. These had noticeable impacts on our conversations, especially since we chose a medical background before attending an autopsy.

We can't vouch for how important these moments were in the grand scheme, but they speak to a degree of care going into the script that can only be a good sign.


The game also looks huge fun, with a style that apes historical paintings, tapestries and illustrated manuscripts nicely. Animations are amusingly stop-motion but nonetheless characterful.

If there's a downside to the game's style it's that the side-scrolling adventure game controls are perhaps slightly clumsy at this stage - reaching a fork in the road would sometimes mean a bit of analogue stick fiddling to get the right direction.

It's also slightly remarkable that a game so theoretically unique in its visual direction can actually have been gazumped a little on that front. The Procession to Calvary is also a side-scrolling adventure game that looks like old manuscripts and came out a couple of years ago.

They're not playing the same tune, though, thankfully - Calvary's tone is absolutely mad and full of fourth-wall breaks, while Pentiment is witty without breaking the universe of its setting.

As you'd hope, the ye-olde visuals are also accompanied by a lovely period-appropriate soundtrack that does wonders for getting you into the right headspace for cerebral chats or stupid asides alike.

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