Pentiment director Josh Sawyer has said that it is likely that Pentiment would not exist without Xbox Game Pass.
On November 15’s episode of Waypoint Radio, as spotted by Twitter user BenjiSales, Sawyer said that the content of his new game is too niche for most traditional publishers to pick it up. Sawyer said, “Xbox knew the project existed in a vague sense, but we didn’t show anything to them until after our virtual slice…then we had already executed on the core idea and [Microsoft] was very supportive.” Game Pass, as well as Microsoft’s official ownership of Obsidian, gives the studio flexibility to pursue smaller projects.
While his experience has been positive, Sawyer did say that “it’s totally reasonable to look at it and say there’s a tradeoff for both developers and potentially for the people using it.” The statement lines up with what he has said in the past, including in a prior interview with GameSpot. Pentiment is his most recent game, but Sawyer is best known for his work as lead designer on Fallout: New Vegas as well as director of both Pillars of Eternity titles.
Pentiment is a murder mystery set in the midst of the Reformation in Bavaria (now part of modern-day Germany). The main character, Andreas Maler, is an artist who gets caught in the midst of conflicts between an abbey and the local town in the midst of the chaotic upheavals of the time period. It has more in common with Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose than most video games, and even Obsidian’s previous output. It’s not hard to imagine that such a game might have had trouble finding a publisher. Although, other narrative games with an historical fiction bent, like Card Shark, have released recently to some success and acclaim.
In GameSpot’s Pentiment review, reviewer Jordan Ramée gave it a 6/10, saying, “Pentiment strives to exist somewhere between a history book and historical fiction, not quite committing to a detailed look at history or fulfilling a narrative arc.”