Reciting the story of an RPG game that you’ve played before might’ve followed along this tune: The hero started his life as a simpleton/rich kid until one fateful day, the enemies arrive. They proceeded to slaughter his/her family/beloved/dog/plant. The cruel event then sparked the decision for the protagonist to do everything in his power for revenge. Usually, that’s the kind of tale that we get. Not that I’m against vengeance stories, but they are kind of tiring if you do them again and again. This time, you’re the invading country who killed the kid’s family/beloved/dog/plant. You are the villain, the progenitor of destruction, the tyrant. This is Tyranny.
What the egg is Tyranny?
From the creators of Pillars of Eternity, this RPG is aptly titled as you are an agent of destruction. Everything begins with a despot having taken control of the country. That man, Kyros the Overlord, has the power to make edicts. What are edicts? These are rules that contain serious power when wrought upon its targets. From storms that ravage from centuries to quakes that shake the very foundation of the earth, these edicts are sights to behold and are of awesome power.
Kyros’ has his sights on the only remaining region that continues to defy him. This is where the player comes in. As a Fatebinder, you are the judicator of Kyros, the lawbringer and the one who leashes his subjects into place. Sent into the battlefield, the Fatebinder must keep all the subjects in line or face dire consequences from the Overlord. Doing so, you act as the lawyer, the judge, and the executioner.
This adventure takes the player to battlefields, towns, and cities, where the justice of Kyros has yet to be found or has already taken root.
Reading RPG (RRPG)
The developers of Obsidian are mostly composed of veterans from Black Isle Studios, people who made Fallout and Fallout 2. They are also known as the developers of titles such as Baldur’s Gate, Fallout: New Vegas, and South Park: The Stick of Truth. With tons of experience behind them, and with the recent success of Pillar of Eternity, they decided to make a game that gives us a view of what it is like behind the man giving the iron boot to the poor mewling peasants.
Game starts with the basics: character creation and history. Once the player has chosen one of the incredibly dark backstories, Conquest begins. In Conquest, the player has to choose what happens to the Tiers, the last remaining region defying Kyros. Decisions made in Conquest affects the overall flow of the game. Some quests will be open while some will be locked depending on the player’s choices here. For example, would you launch an open assault or a night attack? Each decision has consequences and the various parties present in the world will nag or congratulate you for the choices that you’ve made.
The world of Tyranny is founded on clear and good fantasy lore. Given that the previously mentioned RPGs are mostly about text and tons of reading, then expect such in Tyranny. Instead of relying on your poor memory to add meaning to words, the game is very helpful in providing a handy encyclopedia. Jargons and universe-only words are highlighted, inviting the player to hover over them to fully grasp their meaning.
How does it play?
Like Pillars of Eternity, but not. Out of combat, the player has full control of a party of four. The gang can go to various places to find and accomplish quests.
Character builds are extremely important as some methods are open for certain skill sets. One such example is scaling a wall. If the player’s character has low points in Athletics, the wall cannot be climb by sheer force. On the other hand, non-athletic characters can find some mechanisms or tools scattered around to traverse.
Character interaction also plays a keyrole as each companion and several major characters in the world are affected by how the player approaches matters. A helpful bar tallies how they view the player’s previous actions. There’s but one key change: there’s a bar for Good deeds and another one for bad. Being good or bad is not measured by just one swinging meter, but two of them. Sounds confusing, but in the general scheme of things in Tyranny, this sounds pretty perfect. Both meters have certain levels in them. Meeting a certain level opens up conversations and passive/active skills which can be used in combat. The more opponents/factions you gain favor / piss off, the better.
In combat, rules are quite simple. Each character has their respective timers, once it ends, they can execute an action. Locations and positioning are important as some skills and weapons have range limitations that come with them. After each encounter, the player can pick the remains of the enemies and enjoy automatic healing. If characters sustain a large amount of damage during the encounter, wounding occurs. Wounds are temporary debuffs that require resting to remove.
For those that love spells, then Tyranny has more for you. I was never fond of playing the magic guy (always preferred two-handed cleaving tanks), but I did try Tyranny’s magic crafting system. It makes for good customization as several parameters can be tinkered with. Want range? Add a sigil. Want more punch? Add a sigil. Adding these sigils increase the magic’s level requirement. But if your character is willing to brandish a spell fit for the gods, then Tyranny has your back.
Similar to Pillars of Eternity, there’s a castle-building simulator hidden in the crevices of Tyranny. Instead of having a town/castle, large towers stand as their replacement. These towers open up as the player ventures forward. They act as teleportation beacons, safe havens, and also as a location for the player to tinker with their tools and equipment.
Should You Play It?
A resounding “YES!” Recently, it is rare to play a game that glues me for more than twelve hours. Tyranny did just that. The story was enough to make me lurch forward. Mystery after mystery gets solved and you can really feel that you’re getting closer to the goal.
Choices are also what made me stick. Instead of the “He’s right, you’re wrong” kind of morality system, Tyranny employs more of the gray variant. What looks good, might not be good at all. Remember, the player is evil straddled between two legs. Though you can still be an angel, the game kind of encourages you not to be. More so that it made me spurt out profanities due to the decisions that I have to make. Should I kill an innocent baby or if not, risk an unwinnable war against an army of elites? Those are things that Tyranny presents the player. Not measly ones like, “apples or oranges, which is delicious?” Being good might not be really good and evil here might bring forth more good than you thought it would.
It would have been perfect for me if it wasn’t for the sour ending. It was so incredibly ridiculous to end the game after a very steep build-up, only to cut it short by rewarding me with cutscenes. Unanimated Cutscenes. I won’t spoil you about it, but again, the later part of the game is not something you’ll wish for others to experience.
For playtime, one run ranges for about 12-14 hours if you go at it straight. 20 or more if you can’t resist the good side quests. Seems short for an RPG, but the replay value of Tyranny is incredibly huge. New choices each playthrough and new character builds just lengthens the lifespan of this game.
Even so, I recommend this game to lovers of traditional RPG, those that embrace text and love to read encyclopedic lore. Tyranny is an incredibly rich world and Obsidian did well in creating something worthwhile.
It’s so damn good that we made an award for it. It’s not perfect but I won’t deny that it was very enjoyable. From now on, we will give this logo to games that we think would deserve your time and attention. Tyranny is definitely one of more to come.