Pentiment review: Xbox exclusive appraises its own legacy

A bonfire rages at a Tassing celebration in Pentiment.

“Pentiment impresses with its stunning dialogue, intriguing themes and gorgeous visuals.”


  • Each part is personal

  • Amazing dialogue

  • Related topics

  • Educational and entertaining

  • Visuals inspired by illuminated manuscripts

The inconvenients

  • Frequent loading

  • Need auto advance option

All eyes will be on Repentance this fall — but not necessarily for the right reasons. Although the modest game is only a small side passion project of Josh Sawyer (director of critically acclaimed games like Fallout: New Vegas and pillars of eternity), the delays of red fall and star field This means the game now has the honor of being Microsoft’s only fall 2022 first-party game release. The creative ideas that Sawyer was trying to express, and potentially the game’s legacy, will be defined by a position unhappy in the market.

It is then appropriate that Repentance is a narrative adventure game about unexpected expectations and legacies placed on art. The notion of “death of the author plays a major role throughout the game’s narrative, as the art ultimately takes on meaning by those who experience it. Although Repentance may not be consumed in the most ideal way as it is reduced to a piece of ammo in the endless war of consoles, the game itself is a special work of fiction worth engaging outside of its circumstantial exit.

Repentance is a well-written adventure with an absolutely stunning art style and choice-based storytelling that engages players in ways genre leaders like Telltale never quite did. Because of Sawyer’s vision and the way this game came out, there will never be another game like this.

AP European history, visualized

As a high school student enrolled in AP European History at the time, I was fascinated by the Middle Ages. The Renaissance had not yet arrived, but religious reform and a more personal creative art were emerging. It’s an exciting time in human history, but one that games rarely explore, because medieval fantasy is more broadly appealing. Fortunately for me, Repentance nestles squarely in this period of history in both its history and its art.

Repentance takes place over several years in the 16th century, following companion Andreas Maler. He first worked on illuminated manuscripts for the religious institution of Kiersan Abbey in the small town of Tassing in the Holy Roman Empire, but soon found himself forced to investigate the murders of important individuals. for the city. During the nine hours of the play in three acts, Repentance highlights how a city, its people, its religion and its art change over time.

A Pentiment player chooses Andreas' background while talking to Lorenz.

As someone who recently moved to a place where I used to live, I could personally relate to this idea. Unlike my situation, however, Andreas’ choices heavily influence what happens in Tassing over time. This is even demonstrated in a more subtle way: I let a young girl steal Andreas’ hat in one of the game’s first acts, and in the last I saw her child wearing it as she thought to her history as a thief. Whereas Repentance is a point-and-click adventure game that initially gives off tonal vibes similar to King’s Quest, this is not a puzzle based game. Instead, it’s more of a narrative adventure game.

Early on, players choose information about Andreas’ background and personality that helps inform his dialogue options (largely where and what he studied) while trying to solve the mystery of each murder, Andreas must travel around Tassing, talk to the townspeople and perform tasks for them to learn more. This often comes in conversation, where players have to choose their dialogue choices wisely because they can impact a character’s decisions immediately afterwards or years in the future – they could even result in a death sentence for a character. resident.

For example, my version of Andreas went to law school, so I could help a character I wanted information from to prove that his land had no right to be seized by someone else. . In turn, they gave me valuable information to solve one of the murders. Tassing’s non-playable characters speak and behave like real people and change over time depending on what’s going on. This means Andreas, and in turn, the player’s choices always have real and palpable consequences.

Repentance does a great job of making my journey natural, with results that directly reflect my choices for dialogue and action.

There’s no way to pass Repentance without pissing off or offending anyone in Tassing – a young thief named Martin hated Andreas for the rest of the game after I called him out for being lazy in the opening act – but you might also learn some information that many other players won’t have. This is partly because of the time management aspect, which channels a bit of personas 5. Andreas can’t do it all in one day, so players must methodically decide how they want to spend the time as they can’t learn it all in one game. When choosing actions for the day, players progress through Andreas’ investigation, gather key evidence, and ultimately decide who gets punished for each crime. This setup pairs perfectly with the choice-driven narrative adventure setup, making the players’ journey even more personal as they have to choose what to do.

Often in choice-driven games, you can feel like you’re missing huge amounts of content and not getting the full experience without multiple replays. Although I know there are details I missed Repentance, the game does a great job of making my journey feel natural, with results that directly reflect my dialogue and action choices. You can always replay it to see the scenes you missed the first time around, but you still feel like you’ve got a full story from start to finish.

Death of the author

While it’s a murder mystery on the surface, RepentanceThe core themes of are about the impact of art. It highlights how artists are forced to create and establish their legacy through their work, but time ultimately dictates that legacy, proving that the “death of the author” perspective is true. Art inherits the meaning people give it. Repentance also has a key twist that helps redefine the game, something i’ve only released Immortality and God of War: Ragnarok This year.

Aedoc talks to Andreas in Pentiment.

Repentance is a clearly personal project for Sawyer, who reflects on his career as a developer of iconic and highly influential games. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like a self-aggrandizing puff piece, as it shows the shortcomings and ignorance of artists and is equally concerned with preserving a culture that is not often represented in the media. Tassing and its religious institution of Kiersau Abbey may be fictional, but the game contains timely references and features a glossary full of historical and religious characters, places, and terms so players can better appreciate its setting. Repentance makes you feel smart while playing it; that’s all I’ve learned about this period of European history since this AP Euro class.

Nice presentation

Penances story becomes even more memorable due to its fantastic visuals. His style is based on medieval art found in the illustrations and woodcarvings that Andreas himself was working on. We are not yet at the realism of the Renaissance; body and face proportions differ from character to character, while color and vibrancy are accentuated with realistic lighting and depth. The distinct style also helped me memorize Tassing’s layout at the end of the first act, and unique fonts for many of its citizens help make the individual characters stand out.

Andreas is in his memory palace in Pentiment.

Like its setting, this style of art is quite unique to Repentance. By being deliberately imperfect, it’s beautiful. Every frame in this game appears to be a real drawing from that era, and some shot framings even reference real paintings. Those who appreciate art history and like games with a distinct visual aspect won’t find anything else that looks as unique as Repentance.

While the visual presentation is exceptional, it has some pacing issues. Each part of the town of Tassing is its own painted image, so there’s a lot of loading (in the form of a literal page change) as Andreas walks from one part of town to another. It’s a new trick at first, but it can be hard work later, as players have to venture from one side of the village to the other with several quick loadouts in between.

Repentance may be a smaller game on a much bigger stage than expected, but it uses the opportunity effectively.

You will also read a lot dialogue in Repentance, and it’s a bit heavy to pass. While an “Easy Read Fonts” accessibility option makes the game more enjoyable for those who cannot read or understand historical ligatures and letters, players must manually click each phrase. Not only that, but each text box is animated, so players have to sit while the letters are inked in a bubble even as they move forward. I would greatly appreciate an auto-advance option for NPC dialogue in a future update, as it would delay my impending carpal tunnel syndrome a bit longer.

But there’s so much to love about Repentance that these minor annoyances are worth fixing. Repentance is a wonderful game that tells a thematically poignant story that anyone who loves to create will identify with. It avoids the pitfalls of narrative adventure gaming by making every experience completely your own and encouraging multiple playthroughs.

Andreas paints in Pentiment.

Repentance may be a smaller game on a much bigger stage than expected, but it uses the opportunity effectively. In fact, it’s all the more enjoyable for that. While people will likely remember it more for its release positioning than for the quality of the experience itself, it rises to the challenge of being the only major first-party release for Xbox this fall. More appropriately, it sets the bar high for creative side projects that may come from various Xbox Game Studios developers in the future. Andreas would be proud.

Digital trends reviewed Repentance on PC via a Steam version provided by Microsoft.

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