What is Obsidian Repentance? -IGN


Josh Sawyer’s just-announced medieval narrative mystery Pentiment has been in development for about four years now. But if you ask Sawyer, it really started in 1992.

At the time, Sawyer was enjoying an RPG called Darklands, developed by Microprose Labs for MS-DOS. It’s set in the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century, but with a supernatural bent that leaves room for demons and Templar conspiracies. Sawyer fell in love with his approach to historical fiction, and while he earned a degree in history and later worked in games, the idea of ​​a historical fiction game stuck with him.

Sawyer first laid the seed of what would become Pentiment to current Obsidian CEO Feargus Urquhart back when they were still working together on Black Isle. There, Sawyer was a designer working on projects like Icewind Dale 2 and the original, canceled Fallout 3. As Sawyer explains, Urquhart was “not into” his speech at the time, and thought the people who didn’t know the story wouldn’t. want to play it.

But Sawyer disagreed, and the idea came up years later when the two were reunited at Obsidian Entertainment, where Sawyer was lead designer on Fallout: New Vegas and Pillars of Eternity, and director of Pillars of Eternity 2: Deadfire. During the post-Deadfire lull, as talk of a Microsoft acquisition floated, Sawyer revived his old pitch as a narrative adventure game. It wasn’t quite a murder mystery, but with mystery elements, with a strong visual style and gameplay, like Night in the Woods, Mutazione or Oxenfree. It would include exploration, talking to people, and little puzzles strewn everywhere. Sawyer knew what he was offering would be niche, so he wanted a fairly small team and didn’t want to do anything too mechanically complex.

This time his pitch won out and Sawyer got to work on Pentiment: a 16th century narrative adventure set in Upper Bavaria. As he explains, you play as Andreas Maler, a journeyman on the verge of becoming a master artist who travels across Europe, taking odd jobs as he goes. While staying in a Benedictine abbey and working on an illuminated manuscript, his friend and mentor is framed for the murder of an important figure. His friend maintains his innocence, but no one seems particularly interested in investigating who the real killer is. This leaves Andreas to take over, becoming something of a medieval detective as he talks to the many suspects.

You are never told definitively, canonically, [who] the murderer [is].

“One of the key things about the game is that we never tell you definitively, canonically, [who] the murderer [is]says Sawyer. “You have to investigate, find as much evidence as possible. You make your decisions based on what you think is most important. You basically decide who is going to pay for the crime. This may be the person you think actually did it. This may be the person you think should be punished, whether they did it or not. He may be your least favorite person. He may be the person you think the community will miss the least.

But the scenario described by Sawyer is only the beginning of Pentiment. In total, it covers a period of about 25 years, during which multiple crimes, murders and conspiracies occur in which Andreas somehow finds himself. But despite the detective story leaning on Sawyer’s explanation, he is opposed to calling Pentiment a detective game, as he says it’s light on detective game mechanics. It’s a narrative adventure, he says, with elements of mystery and murder, and where choices have consequences. For example, Andreas is an artist with a college education, but players can choose what he excelled at in school. This choice will dictate the types of conversations he can have with others as he tries to find information on various crimes.

Besides its narrative, one of the central elements of Pentiment is the one that immediately stands out in its trailer: the art. Sawyer says that without art director Hannah Kennedy’s ideas and execution for the style, Pentiment might never have existed. In fact, for a while early in the project, Pentiment was mostly just two of them. “I really believe that if I had gone to Hannah and said, ‘Hannah, I have this idea for this style’ and she wasn’t interested or just [couldn’t make it work], I would have dropped it. I wouldn’t have,” Sawyer says.

His speech to Kennedy was quite specific and odd: Sawyer wanted to mix late medieval manuscripts with woodcuts, etchings and early prints, to better show the transitional period between late medieval and early modern Art. And Kennedy delivered.

Pentiment – 2022 Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase

“One of the things that I find really great about her is that she is very good at critically analyzing how a work of art is put together in terms of line thickness and color, where the colors go and where they don’t go, where blacks go and where they don’t go, when ink is used rather than paint, and things like that,” Sawyer says. “So she was able to deconstruct a lot of those images that we were reviewing for reference and then reconstructing a style guide so that she and the other artists on our team can synthesize this new style, which I think is truly irresistible.”

For some, medieval manuscripts can be a little intimidating to look at, with their stylistic font choices. Sawyer reassures that accessibility has been taken into account with a simple font mode, which he says was made possible in part thanks to Xbox’s support and interest in the project and access to its teams. of accessibility. In fact, Xbox’s acquisition of Obsidian in 2018 brought a number of benefits to Pentiment in particular, and Sawyer says he always envisioned it as an ideal GamePass game.

“I think Microsoft and Xbox have access to a lot of accessibility,” he says. “Their accessibility labs are extremely helpful. “This game isn’t really meant to be difficult. … So having the Accessibility Labs to give the game to people who have different limitations than you or mine, it’s really great to have feedback like, ‘This text is hard to read. We need better contrast. We need more options. We need voice synthesis. All sorts of things like that are extremely helpful to us. Normally, we would not have access to these resources.

“Also, honestly, Microsoft’s access to localization is really important. This game is very textual, [it’s] an obsidian game. Especially when people aren’t playing in English, the quality of localization will make or break their experience.

Sawyer says that although the setting and style are quite different, Pentiment explores many of the same themes as his past work on New Vegas and the two Pillars of Eternity games, in particular death, social transformation and class conflict. . Specifically, Sawyer says Pentiment examines these ideas by showing a broad and diverse portrait of medieval society and the many types of people who made it up.

I wanted to show the extent of the company and represent it as best I could.

“I wanted to show a wide range of people in this community, that’s why it’s not just monks, but monks, the nuns who live in the house near them,” he says. “It’s the peasant, the craftsman, the blacksmith, the miller that everyone hates because he’s awful, as is often the case. I wanted to show the extent of the company and represent it as best I could.

Although Sawyer is aware that Pentiment is a bit of a niche, with its in-depth exploration of medieval history, art and culture, he feels that watching the trailer shown today at the Xbox Game Showcase is a pretty good benchmark to gauge whether or not an individual will like it. But he also says he wants to capture an audience interested in medieval history or art who isn’t necessarily an avid gamer or familiar with his past work. And his ultimate goal for Pentiment is for it to be, at least on some level, educational for anyone who takes it.

“If people don’t know anything about the story and they just like the look and feel of it, I want them to play it and passively absorb the knowledge as they go through it,” he says. . “I want them to enjoy history, to be entertained, but also to better understand how people lived in the 16th century.”

Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.


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