The Enemy – Review: Pentiment is a dense and gripping dive into medieval Europe

Pentimenti doesn’t strike me as a game that will capture the interest of many people.

But I doubt that those interested will not be completely absorbed by it.

A small, personal project coming from Obsidian Entertainment, the game was developed by a small team led by Josh SawyerDirector of such famous RPGs as Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity🇧🇷

While it doesn’t bring anything particularly new mechanically (at least in isolation), Pentiment is a curious mix of the experimental and the personal that feels like it’s coming from the depths of the indie scene rather than a studio that’s been working on diversity. A million dollar RPG and survival game with a Honey, I Shrunk the Kids vibe.

And it might be my favorite game of the year.

Obsidian Entertainment/Playback

Pentment tells us Andreas Mahler – or, more precisely, the story tasteThe small town was formed in the middle of the Roman ruins and is located Upper Bavaria from Holy Roman Empire (now part of Germany), through the eyes of the 16th-century painter Andreas, at various points in his life as his path crosses the city.

In a narrative that unfolds over decades, Andreas begins as a wandering young artist working on his masterpiece in Kiersau Abbey, located on the outskirts of the city, working with Benedictine monks to translate and illustrate sacred and profane books.

… That is until a murder takes place within the walls of the abbey and Andreas has to become a detective overnight to find the real person responsible for the crime.

The decisions the player makes during investigative work have a significant impact on the lives (and deaths) of both the town and the abbey’s inhabitants, which can be felt for decades.

But Pentimenti’s story goes far beyond murder, as Andreas’ investigation serves as a game to explore various aspects of life and the central issues that affected the inhabitants of this region at this time in medieval Europe.

Through Andreas’s eyes and the player’s actions, it is possible to see great movements, such as the early results of the Protestant Reformation and the high clergy’s disdain for Martin Luther’s proposals. It also sees the exploitation and taxation of the peasantry leading to the sowing of discontent and the creation of the Twelve Articles, which would lead to a revolt against the nobility, as well as a brutal response from the aristocracy.

The daily life of that time also becomes relevant: the inhabitants of Tassing live in a society ruled by the Catholic Church, but their culture is ancient, even before the expansion of ancient Rome, and for this reason there are many pagan customs and tendencies. It remains in the imagination of the population — sometimes re-appropriating Christian customs… and sometimes not.

The evolution of artistic reproduction techniques is also the main focus of the game, after all Andreas is an artist and he lives in a transitional age between the transcription of handmade books and the expansion of typography as a faster and mechanized way of producing texts. .

Described this way, it may seem like a lot, but Obsidian manages to move these themes and interweave them so that in the end it seems natural, after all, many of these themes are connected to each other – and this is consistent with possible motives. for murder.

It’s hard, at least in this case, not to draw direct comparisons to Disco Elysium, since that game also has the primary goal of solving a murder, but which serves as a mechanism for exploring the world and themes of the game.

A medieval detective

Pentiment is essentially a point-and-click adventure game in which the player interacts with people and objects on the screen in search of information, answers, or clues that lead to the motives and suspects of the crimes committed in Tassing and Abbey.

But it wouldn’t be an Obsidian game without at least some RPG elements, and they are present in Andreas’ character creation.

Certain elements of his life remain unchanged, he was born in Nuremberg and attempted a brief academic career to follow in his family’s footsteps to become a master of art.

However, the player can choose and shape more specific details that affect the knowledge and skills Andreas will use to investigate crimes and interact with people.

Depending on where he spent his years traveling, he may be fluent in different languages ​​and familiar with the cultural attractions of certain regions. If the player chooses, Andreas can have excellent rhetoric for argumentation, or occult knowledge to learn more about paganism and rituals forbidden by the church.

These skills can contribute to certain investigative paths the player chooses to follow in order to find the culprit, especially since – and this is important to mention – you won’t have time to investigate all the suspects at once.

Although the game’s internal clock does not run in real time, when following a certain objective or looking into the motives of a certain suspect, the hours pass and Andreas can only delve into his investigation at certain times of the day.

This created a sense of urgency, desperation, and uncertainty the first time I played, as Andreas is nothing more than an amateur proto-detective with nowhere near the training or equipment to investigate a crime.

All you have is what information you can find and analyze ahead of time – and what you want to reveal or hide when it’s time to report.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to go into more detail without spoiling the narrative surprises, as there are some really curious twists and turns throughout the decades in which the game takes place.

Even the identity of the person responsible for the conspiracy covering the town and the abbey – which, at least for me, wasn’t too difficult to figure out – is affected when you realize what was behind the bloodshed. My only complaint about this is that discovery (at least twice I finished the story) is much more linear than the previous quests.

But while the main events are the same (as far as I know), the player’s decisions and actions affect the lives of Tasing and the people of the abbey, which can only be appreciated more by replaying the game and seeing how much better, or worse, you’ve made those people happy. Life.

Scriptorum

It’s impossible not to talk about Pentimenti without bringing up the visual identity of the game, which is completely immersed in the aesthetics of medieval paintings and illustrations.

The game’s narrative is told like a hand-written and hand-drawn book. art director Hannah Kennedy And his team was able to create an aesthetic that matched the medieval illustrations, and the animators were able to move them without looking strange to the viewer.

This passion and technical and stylistic effort can be seen in several other parts of the game: Pentiment has no audio dialogue, only text – including in Brazilian Portuguese – and Obsidian did a special job of giving the characters’ “voices” different calligraphy. (eg

But the most curious thing is that it also represents Andreas’ own perception of the characters, and if someone turns out to have a different level of education than the artist suggests, the type of calligraphy in the speech bubble changes.

The sound itself reflects this, with recorders having dialogue “recorded” in a bubble, with corresponding press sounds.

It’s an extremely clever way to match the aesthetic with the narrative, but just in case the handwriting is too difficult to interpret, Obsidian has also introduced a simpler handwriting mode.

The game also tries to identify the player who does not have a good knowledge of medieval culture and history by italicizing certain terms and names and clicking, moving the camera to the “edges” of the book, which gives a larger historical context.

There’s a distinct personality and style created by the team at Obsidian, and it’s reflected in some of the game’s most memorable moments, as Andreas helps the Illuminati, one of the librarian nuns protect the lost books, to present their views and opinions on the classic. Texts such as the Aeneid and Il Guerin Meschino – in the process discuss the social limitations of women and the dreams of the lower social classes for advancement.

sacred and profane

Pentiment is special just for the fact that it exists, because it shows that Microsoft is willing to let its studios do different and unexpected things (at least for now).

Josh Sawyer had wanted to set a game in the 16th century Holy Roman Empire (a subject he studied in history college) for years, and he didn’t miss the opportunity.

By using a murder mystery, the play manages to introduce audiences who may know nothing about this historical period in a natural way, connecting difficult themes and issues of the time to the characters and setting of Tassing and Kiersau.

It’s a dense set of topics—I don’t recall such an extensive bibliography in a video game title, from basic references like The Name of the Rose to studies of prostitution in medieval Barcelona—but it delivers this content in an easy and engaging way.

It took me four screenshots to get the entire bibliography

Obsidian Entertainment has long been one of my favorite game studios, and what has always drawn me to most of their games is their attempt to do things differently and unexpectedly.

As I said at the beginning, Pentiment doesn’t seem like a game that will attract many people’s attention. But I believe it will be something special for someone with the right face.

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