March 2, 2023

Pentiment has the best sound effect of 2022

Pentiment has the best sound effect of 2022

Pentiment is an overwhelmingly quiet game.

Despite having hundreds of lines of dialogue for dozens of characters, there are zero voice lines. In lieu of audio dialogue, Pentiment provides the sound of a pencil writing on parchment as the letters and words of dialogue fill in the villagers' speech bubbles.

When the player isn't speaking to villagers, they're exploring the 16th century Bavarian village of Tassing. The village and surrounding areas themselves are filled with plenty of the exact sounds one would expect.

The fields outside of the village feature birds tweeting, crickets chirping, and the wind blowing. The inside of a church has only echoing silence and footsteps on the granite floor. In the village itself, the player can hear a broom sweeping, a hammer striking metal, or a farmer scything crops.

Throughout the first hour or so of Pentiment, these are the many quiet sounds that completely fill the game as the player guides artist Andreas Maler through his daily routine.

Wind blowing, writing on parchment, a broom sweeping. Writing on parchment, footsteps on granite, writing on parchment. Crickets chirping, wind blowing, writing on parchment. Over and over and over.

It all lulls you into a sort of peace. You understand the calmness of this village through these familiar sounds. Everything is exactly as it has been and exactly as it always will be.

One day, after Andreas leaves the scriptorium at the abbey where he works, a new sound breaks the comfortable monotony.

A scream.

A shrill, piercing scream. Not pencil writing on parchment, but an actual, human scream.

Andreas takes a few more steps, and the scream repeats.

Something horrible has happened. The calmness of Tassing has been broken, and as the player will soon find out, that calmness may never return.