2022 brings us some rich stories in the game. While heavy players like God of War: Ragnarok, Elen’s ringor destiny 2‘S Witch Queen the expansion is likely to be the most lauded, there are also games like Obsidians’ penitent All deserve our attention.
penitent is an interactive piece of historical fiction, and while the game may be the most rewarding for history buffs, the historical background and well-written NPCs (who never felt like they exist only to read history lessons) making it one of this year’s best storytelling achievements. We sat down with Josh Sawyer, Fallout: New Vegas, pillar of eternityand penitentdirector, to chat about how the team has seamlessly integrated history and story into its characters.
penitent is a murder mystery set in the late 16th century. The historical premise and detective plot itself are compelling, but it’s the natural interactions with the various NPCs that keep me glued to the game. this. Everyone feels clearly authentic, purposeful and knowledgeable, and serves to sketch the historical context of the fictional town of Tassing specifically, as well as late medieval Europe. It’s both a history lesson and a character study, and engaging all the way.
Talk to Kotaku, director Josh Sawyer describes the process of choosing who to convey what historical lessons as an important aspect of world and character building. It’s not enough for penitent simply make sure that each character will have a good reason for their knowledge. A character’s personal preferences and who they are in the world are also taken into account, and that shapes when, where, and how they tell their story.
“It’s been a challenge for most of my career, and so the last few games I’ve worked on have been when the characters would essentially be involved in the interpretation, the question. mine is usually for the writer ‘why is this character like that? character to tell the story?’ Because if the answer is ‘well, we need someone to say that’, it’s not a good answer.
Sawyer continued: “The [exposition] what is being said must mean something really important to the person saying it. And I think that’s probably why people feel it’s more natural, like if you’re taking a history class, or a social studies class, and someone is giving you a lecture.”
One example Sawyer gives is Til Kreutzer, one of the penitentcharacters willing to talk about world history—especially the history of the Romans that preceded this period.. But that knowledge has to come from somewhere important to the character. Through the game we learn that he has been given access to the church’s library, access which he no longer has. Combined with the place where he worked, Til became the source of the natural world for Tassing (setting his history with the church) as well as the history of the area.
“[Til] work in this field. And he looks at Roman ruins all the time. He is a shepherd. And he said, ‘I love books and I love stories about the Romans,’ and I think this is something that he’s really interested in and interested in. When Andreas saw the figure jumping over the aqueduct, [that’s why Kreutzer says] ‘oh yeah, who knows how many Romans there are [spirits] here.'”
The scene Sawyer refers to is the scene where the protagonist, Andreas, watches what is believed to be a ghost near Roman ruins (though it’s not entirely clear what that is). Til is a natural fit to provide context and add to the spookiness of the scene, thanks to his learned knowledge and proximity to the ruins themselves. This scene, and previous conversations with Til, paint a portrait of history as vivid in Tassing. That history is seen and unseen, in the ruins and the stories people tell. That’s what makes the ghost sightings all the more spooky, even though there doesn’t seem to be anything supernatural happening in the game.
If Til is just a bogus standard NPC who gives lines about ruins, not something with a personal taste and a bit of backstory about how he developed that interest, then the scene This will not have the same weight.
A recurring theme in penitent is the history of paganism in the region. While the town is fully Christianized and many characters follow that faith, old beliefs and customs are not easily forgotten. As you are opening more and more penitentIn his story you will get a better understanding of the path that lies between different historical eras and how that ingrained in the daily lives of these people. For this, Sawyer described Ill Peter as an effective conduit for understanding how things went before the church.
“Ill Peter is one of the treasures of pagan knowledge in the community and he is frustrated that the new abbot doesn’t really respect their traditions. So this is something important to him. He believes it’s important to keep practicing [older traditions] and he’s somewhat resentful of the abbot and a bit bitter when young people don’t remember these old ways.”
penitentTheir characters don’t merely offer “abstract” history lessons, says Sawyer, and that’s what makes them so effective as protagonists of the story. Each character’s personal preferences influence your work as you investigate potential motives and unpack the sticky intersection texture that could lead to the murder in question. Everything is inherently bound up in historical and political connections. Chatting with any of the characters is an opportunity for the game to showcase the historical research in its development, while also providing plenty of hints about other characters, giving Andreas what he needs. to put the murder mystery together.
But none of that resonates, whether fictional or not, if these characters aren’t personally invested in what they’re saying or don’t feel like they’re real. Sawyer’s extensive work to establish them as reliable metrics is what makes penitentVery attractive character.
More than anything else in penitent, I enjoyed my time with these characters, learning about their lives and sharing meals with them. What they had to say about the world, the wider world that existed beyond Tassing’s confines and also their daily lives, was what drew me into the murder mystery. No one feels like a generic NPC towner tasked with going around imparting history lessons.
“These are all stories that are important to each person,” says Sawyer, “and I try to make sure that the writers convey the connection of the story to the people, not just the story itself. Because if you don’t communicate with both, you won’t feel comfortable.”
penitent is a unique game. One that may not be for everyone. But in 2022, it’s a prime example of how deliberate decisions about who should tell which stories serve the benefit of teaching players about the world while also introducing characters that have a head start. into the world around them. That effect is contagious, resulting in you as a player caring about the game’s world and the time you spend in it.