After my time with Pillars of Eternity 2 and my somewhat negative feelings on it, I decided to give Obsidian Entertainment another chance. Where Pillars was too dense and not particularly newbie friendly, I instead put my sights on Tyranny, originally released in late 2016.
Tyranny comes with an interesting premise. The known world has been taken over by Kyros, the Overlord, who has all kind of powerful magic at their disposal, as well as other powerful mages, called ‘archons’ leading their various armies and taking care of the smaller things. However, there’s one tiny corner of the world not yet taken over. Where other games would have the big rebellion and the war to take back your homeland, Tyranny goes in the other direction.
You play as the Fatebinder. One of the grunts for the archon of justice, Tunon, which means at the end of the day, your boss is Kyros, the Overlord, and you’re here to make sure they get this last piece of land. Essentially, you’re playing the bad guy. To begin with, at least.
The opening act sets up the lore of the world and allows you to make decisions that will have bigger impacts as the game goes on. You’re presented with a map, and given various options to support one of the two armies looking for supremacy in order to gain Kyros’ favor. The chaotic Scarlet Chorus, a gang of ruffians with a dog eat dog mentality, and the Disfavored, a tightly knit unit of elite soldiers. The opening act essentially decides which of the two groups comes out on top, takes over various towns, controls landmarks, that kind of thing.
Once the game begins properly, you’re thrown into a chaotic world where you are, essentially, the decision maker. Being an agent of the archon of justice, your word is the next best thing to law, which gives you a really solid story-based reason as to how your decisions drive the direction of the story. You choose who to side with, whether it’s the Scarlet Chorus, the Disfavored, the rebels, or yourself. You decide the outcome from the pettiest squabbles to decisions that could effect not only the small nation you’re in but the entire world.
The story can be a little dense at the beginning, though it’s helped by the tooltips available at all times, allowing the player to hover their mouse over key words, names and locations for a reminder on important parts of the lore, ensuring the player is quickly brought up to speed.
Combat is a little obtuse at first, using what would classically be a turn based system but having it flow in real time. While it can be paused at any stage and commands issued, I regularly found myself trying to slow combat down in order to keep up with the many abilities on offer. Companions can be controlled by an AI to make things a little smoother, allowing the player to customize how the AI acts (offensively, defensively, etc.) while the player controls one or two characters. I found this immensely helpful and kept it on throughout most of the game.
Though the combat is one small part, as the story and decision making is where I found this game to shine. The game keeps a fairly low number on the amount of party members, and they’re almost all available in the opening act, to allow the player to get a feel for each of them and their abilities, as well as their personalities. They’re all brilliantly written and voice acted, and I soon settled into my favourites, enjoying their banter with each other.
Characters and factions in the world also have a reputation system, where you can gain loyalty or wrath/fear. This impacts how they’ll see you, what dialogue options will be available and whether or not this will allow you to resolve events peacefully, forcefully, or even taking a third option. The game revels in letting players seek out every option available and even some that aren’t immediately obvious.
Though the issue then becomes it is a little short, the idea being it will take multiple playthroughs taking multiple routes to see everything the world of Tyranny has to offer.
Tyranny is a game that wants players to experiment. It’s an RPG that has an in depth combat system for those that want it, even if it is a little clunky, but more than anything, it wants the player to become involves in its world and events. And I absolutely was.
The biggest problem was that it ended on one hell of a cliff hanger.
I’d very much like the sequel now, please.