Forget knights, princesses, castles or troubadours: penitential Although it borrows its aesthetics from manuscripts from the Middle Ages, the new game from the Californians of Obsidian Entertainment, scheduled to be released on PC and Xbox on November 15, pushes us a little further in time . The action, which we saw during Gamescom in Cologne at the end of August, will take place at the beginning of XVI.e century in Bavaria, in the middle of the Renaissance.
Its protagonist, named Andreas Maler, does not wear armor or a helmet. He was wearing breeches and a hat. He is also not good at wielding a sword, rather a pen. His job? Manuscript artist. His superpower? His ability to reason and argue with individuals from all walks of life. He is very different from the medieval warriors of many video game products.
Half artist, half detective
By slowing down the action in favor of abundant dialogue, penitential constitutes a significant risk-taking for its director, Josh Sawyer, thinking head on Fallout: New Vegas (2010), one of the most beloved installments of the post-apocalyptic franchise, and co-creator of Pillars of Eternity (2015).
The director has not lost sight of the basics of role-playing that he has made his specialty, and the introduction does not avoid the traditional stage of personalizing the hero. Besides that, contrary to our habits, there is no question here to describe the aspect of Andreas, whose appearance reminds Albrecht Dürer, one of the most famous German designers of this time. It is necessary to fill out a kind of CV familiar to us in the profile of the intellectuals of the time. Would you rather Andreas be good at Latin or the occult? Did he study medicine or theology? Did he travel to Italy or Flanders to train? The paths chosen guide our game and open (or close) the field of dialog possibilities.
Their development is similar to an interactive comic strip: words written with a pen are displayed in bubbles. During each discussion, questions or reactions are suggested to us. It is up to us to choose the most suitable.
The dialogues are motivated by an investigation after a murder. Our Bavarian artist seeks to identify the suspects and unmask the culprit by questioning the inhabitants of a village and a monastery, like an Agatha Christie novel. In a novel way The name of the rose, by Umberto Eco, a detective novel set in the Middle Ages, anachronism allows the player to capture a time with customs very different from ours. It is up to us to adapt to this very unique socio-cultural context, the reality of which is one of the major concerns of the group of penitentialwho requested the services of three historians.
The neighborhood survey was wrong
Our game is punctuated by a meeting of about twenty minutes with the widow Kemperyn, a woman with a sad attitude who spends her time rejecting us and blaspheming. Faced with his lack of cooperation, we try to comfort him by collecting wood for him, offering the opportunity to relax with a mini-game episode.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. It is impossible to remove the worms from the nose of the widow, who nevertheless reveals to us the terrible conditions at the beginning of her bitterness. We realized a posteriori that, during the exchange, our haste to force the poor woman to get her testimony would only hurt her feelings. To make matters worse, our clumsiness was served with a notice that our actions had consequences for the rest of the adventure.
Next to us, one of our comrades who chose another path was badly beaten by a blacksmith. Putting our will to the test, making us feel disappointed in front of interlocutors who do not care about us, paradoxically increases the realism of this world of paper.
on penitential, the non-player characters (NPCs) don’t just seem to be there to reward us with useful information or things that are constantly given to keep our attention. The villagers encountered may be ordinary people, but they are worthy beings with a working psychology. Each one is a little puzzle that needs to be understood by considering their social status and their motives. This is what represents the video game role-playing game (usually designated by the acronym RPG, for role playing game) in its most mature and interesting form.
The demonstration organized by Microsoft is strictly limited to thirty minutes, it is impossible to know if penitential maintains that density throughout the story, which spans twenty-five years. However, its blend of cerebral and humor makes it one of the most unique acts interviewed at Gamescom 2022…