Review – Pentiment


Developer Obsidian Entertainment
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Genre Adventure
Platforms Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), PC
Release Date November 15, 2022

Obsidian Entertainment has a long history of crafting story-driven action-RPGS in a wide variety of settings, from the apocalyptic wastelands of Fallout New Vegas, to the traditional fantasy lands of Pillars of Eternity, to the sci-fi environs of The Outer Worlds. But their latest game, Pentiment, goes in a new direction for the studio. While it still places a premium on its narrative like many of Obsidian’s other titles, Pentiment is a point-and-click adventure game with a colorful, hand-drawn art style, set in medieval Europe at the time of the Protestant Reformation. I’d never seen anything quite like it, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But given Obsidian’s stellar pedigree, all I really should have been expecting was excellence, because that’s exactly what they have delivered once again.

Content Guide

Spiritual Content: Given that this game takes place in and near a Bavarian abbey at the time of the Reformation, there is far too much spiritual content to cover in full detail here, so I must stick to the highlights. To put it simply, Pentiment is awash in spiritual themes from start to finish. Practically everyone in the game, including the player character, prays to God, quotes Scripture, and speaks of spiritual matters at numerous points, occasionally delving explicitly into questions of theology. Some people are more pious than others, and some hide certain sins in order to be accepted by the wider community. Your own character’s background can include theological training…or a study of occult practices, which do in fact take place in the game. Pagan deities, rituals, and prophecies are referenced, sometimes derisively and sometimes fondly.

Language: Some characters will take the Lord’s name in vain or utter a curse word, such as a**h**e or s**t. Foul language is by no means constant, but it does crop up periodically.

Violence: Violence does not appear often in the game, but it plays a pivotal role nonetheless. Some characters are violently murdered, and it is these murders that move much of the story forward. Corpses are seen, along with copious amounts of blood surrounding them. Depending on the choices made in the game, some characters may be burned alive, though their demise is not shown in detail. A deer can be seen hunted and killed.

Sexual Content: There is at least one LGBT couple in the game, though depending on the choices you make, your player character may or may not learn of this. A naked corpse can be inspected and an STD is described, but no genitals are depicted. Some scandalously flirtatious exchanges take place between characters as well. Some women can be seen bathing in a pond, but the water covers them almost up to their neck. You can come across a mural depicting a topless woman.


In Pentiment, you play as Andreas Maler, a young man who seeks to become a master artist. Andreas has traveled from his home in Nuremburg to the small Bavarian town of Tassing, as the local abbey has commissioned him to produce some artwork for them. Staying as a guest with a peasant family, Andreas travels to the abbey each day, working alongside monks in the abbey’s scriptorium as he splits his time between his commission work and his personal masterpiece. It’s not a glamorous life, but Andreas’ future looks promising, and he’s even made a few friends, including the kindhearted Brother Piero, an old monk working on another commission.

But one day, the local baron gallops into town to visit the abbey. No one in Tassing likes him; numerous peasants seem to have personal issues with him, he bosses people around expecting to always get his way, and he irritates the abbot and the town priest with his musings on a certain Martin Luther who has recently raised some eyebrows over in Wittenberg. No one is happy that he is here, and everyone will be pleased once he finishes the business he has with the abbey and moves on. And then, the morning of his departure, he is found murdered within the abbey. The abbot, scared of the potential reprisal from the local authorities, is ready to pin the blame on Brother Piero, who found the body and naively picked up a knife at the scene of the crime. Andreas knows that such a kind and frail man couldn’t be the killer, and so it’s up to him to uncover the real culprit before the authorities arrive.

As a narrative-driven adventure game, the gameplay and storytelling are intricately woven together, and you spend most of your time talking with the locals to uncover leads. These exchanges form the backbone of the game, and they’re expertly crafted. Each character has a distinct, multi-layered personality that makes him or her stand out from the others, layers that aren’t always apparent at first glance. Some of them have a gruff exterior, some are kind, some of them are thoughtful…and some of them are all of these things at different times. I never tired of meeting new characters and learning about their backstories, their everyday lives, and their dreams.

That includes Andreas Maler himself, who is more than just an artist. Early in the game, you choose some of the particulars of Andreas’ background, including hobbies, languages, and other areas of academic study, all of which will unlock unique dialogue options in conversations. For example, I chose theological studies as an area of expertise, which offered me both some surprisingly insightful, biblically-grounded responses to peoples’ fears and concerns…as well as opportunities to rudely declare someone a heretic for expressing a heterodox belief in casual conversation.

I appreciate that juxtaposition. In many other dialogue-driven games, the “special” dialogue choice is often the most optimal one. In Pentiment, that isn’t always the case. NPCs remember certain dialogue choices you make, and the subsequent impression they form of you—positive or negative—will affect their willingness to give you vital information. If you want your investigation to bear fruit, you have to read the room and pick the dialogue choices that will best ingratiate you with those who have the info you need. Sometimes showing off my intellectual chops helped me, such as during a fascinating theological discussion regarding book banning. At other times, discretion proved prudent, such as knowing not to dive into contentious theological matters while at the dinner table. Of course, part of the fun of this kind of game is the flexibility you have in playing your role, so if you want to be, shall we say, less diplomatic toward certain characters, you have the freedom to do that as well.

For all of the things I appreciate about this game, I do have one major complaint: the way that Pentiment limits your ability to load old save states. The first time I tried to load an old save, I wondered if the game provided any such ability at all; the pause menu does not contain a “load” option, and the title menu only shows “Continue”—which picks up at your last autosave—and “New Game”. As it turns out, you have to choose “New Game”; then, in smaller print below the main files designating your current playthroughs (of which you can have three at any one time, for the record), you’ll find a button prompt for loading a save. Sneaky, but hey, problem solved, right? Well, not exactly. You cannot manually save, and the game only keeps a handful of the latest autosaves for you to choose from. And since the game autosaves extremely frequently, you can’t actually go back very far in your playthrough, rendering the feature almost completely useless.

Given the obtuse and pointless nature of the loading system, especially compared to the relative accessibility and user-friendly loading systems of almost all other modern games, the design choices here seem deliberate. The developers don’t really want you to redo your choices; they want you to go with your gut and commit. I understand the logic behind this choice, and I imagine some players will appreciate its intent. I, however, found it downright infuriating. I value the ability to make change actions and dialogue decisions when I feel like I may be missing out on something important with my initial choices. I felt compelled to restart the game twice in the early stages, because the game gives you a very limited window of time for your investigation, thus forcing you to make painful decisions about which leads to follow and which to leave untouched; this drove me up a wall. Eventually I had to make peace with the fact that I simply couldn’t redo much, just so I could complete the experience. And while said experience ultimately proved quite enjoyable, my frustration never fully abated.

Despite that rather large caveat, I still heartily recommend Pentiment. The story takes some surprising turns, the characters display a wide variety of personalities and temperaments, and the dialogue is superbly written, not only drawing out the characters but also delving thoughtfully into personal, societal, and spiritual matters. It’s an easy call for anyone interested in trying out a unique narrative-driven adventure, and if you have Game Pass, you don’t even need to pony up any extra cash.

The Bottom Line


Pentiment delivers a thoughtful, intriguing story with a wonderfully compelling cast of characters.



Michael Mendis

Michael Mendis loves to discuss gaming, Christian faith, and how the two interact. In addition to his main hobby of playing video games, he also enjoys watching movies, anime, and baseball.

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