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RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Just recently got and finished "Pentiment," a fascinating historical fiction game from Obsidian. It came out last November for Windows and XBox. Highly recommend it to history buffs and fans of oldschool "read a lot of text and follow a complex story" adventure games.

The story takes place in 16th century Bavaria and the whole thing is in an "illuminated manuscript" art style, as one of the main characters is a manuscript artist (even though said art is starting to die out in the time period due to the advent of the printing press). The art is utterly gorgeous. The minimalist soundtrack is beautiful if you hear it; I for one appreciate their choice to mostly include music only when it is either internally ambient (i.e., there's a person in the room actually singing) or for key dramatic moments only. I've seen other players express displeasure there is not a score over every scene, and the background noise is instead what you'd be hearing in the town (birds singing when you're outside, scribbling of pens in a scriptorium, etc.). I think the sound design is amazing, IMO.

It's basically a story game, sort of a cross between a non-combat RPG and a visual novel, focusing on the lives of the people in a town housing an Abbey and the town's history, with the theme of how perceptions and tellings of folk history change over time. Several murders occur and you would be forgivable if you thought the game was a detective story as the player has to find a culprit for the crimes, but the focus is really more about the tensions and issues of the day with the murders as plot devices to move the story along. The RPG elements are that you can select certain traits/training the player character has that can impact dialogue, although as it's a story game first, you are put into the role of a specific person with certain defined traits, not creating an original character from scratch. The dialogue choices you make, how you go about exploring the world, and of course who you accuse of murder (among other things) impacts the story's outcome and characters' fates to some degree. I've seen naysayers complain that because you can't really impact the core thread of the story it doesn't matter what choices you make, but I'd say that the consequences, as long as you may attention to them, have enough ramifications on both what information you can access as well as the final fates of all the characters fairly interesting.

I will say that it is disappointing that in the third act, there's a key decision you make (three, actually) that NPCs will go on and on about what trouble may occur based on your decision, and while you see the very immediate result of those choices, you never actually find out whether those three choices caused any trouble or not. Which is a bit of a letdown simply because the story makes such a big deal of it. (The immediate result you do see I will say is very satisfying.)

This said it is one of those games where you have to accept from the start that there is often no right answer and no matter what you do you may not always get the ideal result... it is better to play the game and accept the consequences to see what they are. The game took me only about 17 hours for one playthrough. It is very definitely designed to be replayed so you can see the outcomes of the different choices (plus once you know how everything ends I am finding it is fun to see the subtle clues to things that you didn't pick up on the first time). The game has a very avant garde, indie feel; I'm honestly shocked, but delighted, that Microsoft let Obsidian make it (I'm pretty sure the idea was very much the beloved brainchild of the lead developer Josh Sawyer and not something externally requested). The historical research the devs did to make the story work and reflect the time period is stellar.

It is a very niche game and may not be for everyone. I mean, it very specifically appeals to me as a medieval and early modern history nerd with a master's degree in lit and who is fascinated with the struggle between pagan histories and early Christian history as well as the struggle between mystical faith versus religious authority, and I'm not sure how many other people out there have those traits. Oh of course I also love it as an Obsidian fan (no it is not as buggy as Obsidian is often reputed to be; there are a couple bugs but nothing I found strongly problematic). So please note: YMMV. But if it sounds cool to you, I strongly recommend it.

I've seen reviews for it, it looks interesting, I like the art style, probably not a type of game I'd get but looks like fun for what it is.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

There's some fun Let's Plays out there to watch if that is one's thing. It was watching Felicia Day play it on Twitch that inspired me to get it.

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