He hangs out with A 16th century Bavarian painter excites you? What if I told you that the game had no words, and explained its story in slowly translated words, and that, as an artist, all you had to do was show the abbey’s records, would it inspire you? Sounds like a snooze, of course. But get this: It could be a Game of the Year contender.
The game is Repentance, and although it sounds like scintillating like a root canal, it is really quirky and different, and is well received in the generation of loud and bombastic AAA titles. You play as Andreas Maler, an artist used to illustrate the abbey’s manuscripts. And so Andreas finds himself wanting to end a brutal murder. Everything you do in his shoes changes the story. Who are you going to eat with? Which path will you take? This town welcomes you with open arms; Whose secrets will you give up to realize this?
Again, this may not sound like a hoot to you, but trust me when I tell you that arguing with Martin Luther’s past and figuring out if removing the cross and bringing the Inquisition to town is a good time. Especially for history buffs.
Amazing and amazing games come out all the time. A quick browse through the Steam catalog will show you how many titles are available for each buff type. But what is the surprise? Repentance that is not a small game. It is produced by Obsidian Entertainment, the same studio behind it Result: New Vegas and Foreign Countries. A rich, diverse, and quiet game coming from a major studio feels like an impossible feat. Yet here it is, and it’s amazing.
Perhaps the best part is that you, like Andreas, don’t get a direct answer to what happened and the murder. It’s up to you to put the pieces together and show what you want, but there’s no telling if you got it right or not. But the choices you make (and the people you leave behind) in the first part of the game affect what happens later, when you revisit the town you once made an impression on.
Narrative design is also a big part of why this game is so fun. It’s all like a book – you can tell what kind of person you’re talking to – whether it’s a scholar, a noble, a religious person, or a farmer – from the type of text that their words are translated on the screen. (You can also turn this off if the different fonts are hard on your eyes, a very welcome choice.) It makes the whole thing feel like you’re contributing to history while playing the game.
And the game asks interesting questions about history, art, and literature. What is Andreas’ role as an artist? Is it to satisfy the client or to create his own unique image—his “art,” as he is called in the game? Set at a time in Germany before the Protestant Reformation, when the printing press was producing works like the classic Andreas, it makes you think about the whole nature of art (especially in terms of money) and how it affects our understanding of history.
Repentance it is meta in this sense—a piece about the nature of the art itself. It is a beautiful game that makes you think about the world of today, and the one that came before. It’s also a fun whodunit that got me hooked in a way I never have before Horizon Forbidden West in early 2022.
There. Do you believe me now?