Critic Reviews add missing review
Average score: 86% (based on 112 ratings)
Average score: 3.9 out of 5 (based on 6 ratings with 1 reviews)
I've played most of Obsidian's games, and now that I think about it, religion has always been present in Obsidian's writing.
Remember Joshua Graham from Honest Hearts? A man burning with the fires of shame, guilt and the drive to make it up to his Creator that has given him another chance? A man casually dropping Bible quotes, because these are a sweet nectar to him?
Or Pillars of Eternity, which managed to portray personal faith of it's characters in a manner that was very true and human. Even if they believed in fictional gods, the way they believed was very much like how real people believe.
There was someone working in Obsidian who understood religion and especially what that reveals about human condition.
Now don't start thinking that this game - Pentiment - is going to be a Jesus propaganda. No, far from it.
But if you want to capture something true about human condition, you will eventually have to deal with religion and philosophy.
Turns out that Joshua Sawyer had wanted to make something truly artistic for a long time. Just waiting for the right chance.
He's been making RPG's his entire life. And when he finally switches genres, he creates his magnum opus.
Pentiment is an adventure game. It belongs to the same genre as Monkey Island and Gabriel Knight.
Now, if you are going to be very mean, you can say that it's just an interactive book, because you'll be reading so much text. Fine...
For it is indeed designed as a book. It purposefully evokes medieval manuscripts in it's art and even script appearance. Sometimes, like with a medieval script, a word will be written wrongly, then erased and rewritten correctly.
Pentiment, the title of the game itself, means writing or painting over something. Everything in this game is because of a focused artistic vision.
It's all about this central theme.
Medieval Bavaria, during the time of early Reformation and Peasant War. The character you play believes in God and Devil, Heaven and Hell, Curse and Blessing.
Everyone in this world takes these things for granted and it's in this framework that they will wrestle with the difficult questions about human misery.
The events of this game can be quite sad and tragic. And you are never given the certainty that you have made the right choices.
There is something very raw and shocking to see the person you accused, executed brutally in front of your eyes, pleading for his life.
But it's not just misery you will experience. It's also the small joys, the tiny moments of happiness that give us hope.
It's telling that the designers of this game worked so hard to portray medieval eating as accurately as possible.
You'll be making choices with whom you will eat together, with whom you will have relationship with.
It was important for Josh Sawyer for the player to experience human condition like this.
Sharing bread has always been one of the most fundamental ways people relate to each other.
It's a very rich game, in it's visual design, it's writing (the conversations you will have about medieval theology), the situations it puts you in, the historical background of these events...
It captures something very true about the human condition and will give you deeper insights every time you play it.
Like a true work of art.
A complaint is made that this game gives you illusory choices. Now if I said it's part of the point, would it satisfy you?
But Pentiment is an existentialist work. In games that give you power fantasy, you can make all the right choices and save everyone.
But Pentiment is not about this power fantasy. In the eyes of the Eternal Judge... or the Great Nothingness, if you prefer that there is nothing but the meaning we make ourselves - you can only represent yourself (the main character of this game, as he stands under the eyes of the God he believes in).
You cannot make choices for other people.
Just because you played it right, you cannot avert an historical tragedy (The Peasant War) that happens anyway, no matter what choices you made.
People can be driven to do horrible things. And sometimes it was they themselves that drove them to do horrible things.
Still, as a game made by designers that have always prided themselves in giving player choices, this game does purposefully err against standard player experience conventions, which can be off-putting to people.
You cannot even save your game. And you probably did made a mistake, and the consequences were not to your liking. There is no reload button in life.
So why would there be in a game that tries to say something about what it is to live? We all have to live with our mistakes, including your character in this game.
This game will not make you feel good. But it will evoke in you what it is to be human.
The Bottom Line
There is nothing else like it.
This game was purposefully designed to be art.
And it's one the greatest games ever made.
Windows · by The Fabulous King (1330) · 2023