The depth here isn't in the gameplay, but in the focus on storytelling. Pentiment's interactivity comes in simple button prompts where you talk with characters or observe objects and places around you. You're limited to roaming around a small village and church, and sometimes you'll play small mini-games where you select objects in a certain order or drag the on-screen cursor across a page to highlight words. Much like classic point-and-click adventure games, Pentiment keeps mechanics to a minimum for the sake of highlighting player choice with story direction. At first, you choose from a number of backgrounds, skills, and hobbies that influence your success in certain conversations and who you get along with. As the story unfolds, you put together clues across several time blocks each day. You can do a few activities, but what you do and with whom you eat requires sacrifice; you can't look into each potential lead or spend time with everyone. Many opportunities will pass by as you move forward, but these restrictions prompt thorough exploration and goals to work with what you have, which results in a thrilling race against the clock as you put together as many pieces of the puzzle as possible.
Despite seeming small, the village hosts dozens of citizens with rich backstories, complicated personalities, and shocking secrets. The game excels with its writing, ranging from deeply insightful to outrageously funny to emotionally resonant. This extends to the in-game journal, filled with helpful character bios, maps, and objectives, that not only helps you keep track of everything, but also contributes to an illuminating crash course on 16th century Europe with true (or faithful, at the very least) medieval history involving Christianity, politics, and culture. This is wrapped in a gorgeous art style mimicking medieval illustrations, along with stylized written dialogue in cursive, gothic script, and printing press type. Every aspect of Pentiment is a deeply researched commentary and respectful love letter to the medieval era, as well as a testament to how video games can offer uniquely engrossing stories where every decision truly matters.