It’s just so good to be bad.
Tyranny on PC
Obsidian Entertainment has a long history of creating role-playing games with vibrant worlds and rich stories like Neverwinter Nights 2 and Pillars of Eternity and their new project, Tyranny, continues to push those boundaries even further. The setting for Tyranny takes the traditional “hero on a quest to save the world” tropes and throws them completely out the window in favor of one more akin to something from an evil D&D campaign.
The year is 431 TR and the Grand Empire of Kyros has just succeeded in conquering all of the known world using their brutal military tactics and destructive magical capabilities. Unfortunately, the two main forces of Kyros’ military, the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus, have fallen to infighting between one another, sparking a pseudo-civil war within the newly claimed territories all while dealing with the threat of an organized resistance. It is up to you, the Fatebinder, to reign in both of these factions using whatever means necessary in an effort to stomp out the resistance and maintain the laws of Kyros.
In my travels throughout Tyranny’s world of Terratus, I took on the role of Cahl, a no-nonsense Fatebinder who used his former criminal experience, expansive knowledge of the world, and gifted magical abilities to end disputes and dispense justice in the name of Tunon, Archon of Justice in the Empire of Kyros. And when those failed, or should the punishment fit the crime, I wasn’t afraid to weave debilitating Atrophy magic into a naysayer of Kyros or two, just before putting an arrow right between their eyes. Every decision that I made, every action that I took, was all for the betterment of Kyros.
Right out of the Gate, Tyranny begins by bombarding the player with an almost overwhelming amount of backstory beginning with Kyros’ first push for world dominance all the way to where the player is initially put. After taking it all in, the player is thrust into the character creator, and while it isn’t very extensive when it comes to the physicality of your character, it is for determining the character’s backstory and abilities. The creator allows the player to pick one of several backstories, weapon/magic expertises, and starting abilities in each corresponding expertise, all of which help determine the character’s starting stats as well as future dialogue opportunities. In standard fashion, you’ll also be granted the option of allocating beginning stat points as well as secondary skills, such as Two-Handed Weapons or Lore.
After finishing the character creator, you will be given the option of determining how your character influenced Kyros’ conquest of the known world. While this is an incredibly lengthy process that can be skipped if the player chooses, I highly recommend that you don’t. Not only does it deliver crucial information into the world and each faction of Kyros, it also provides the chance to become very invested in the choices your character has made to become the person they are at the start of your adventure. Part of what makes role-playing games, and Tyranny especially, so fantastic is their ability to merge the player and their character into one singular being and choosing your role during Kyros’ conquest is just one of the incredible ways Tyranny manages to seamlessly intertwine player immersion and fluid storytelling. The choices your characters make during Kyros’ conquest do affect the game in a very big and noticeable way, often providing special dialogue options that could wind up helping or severely hindering you.
Upon landing in the starting zone, one of the first things I immediately noticed was how much there was to learn about Terratus and its inhabitants. In fact, it often felt as though I was drowning in dialogue in a way that keeping up just didn’t feel like a realistic possibility. And while a majority of it is understandably not voice-acted, it did feel as though more of it could have been and it would have made conversations more engaging. Especially because the voice-acting that was there was extremely well done, most notably when it came to Verse, one of the companions that can join the party. It does help that the player is supplied with an in-game codex for a quick reference on important terms, however I didn’t find myself looking at it as often as I’d thought as many of the characters I met reiterated most key concepts so many times that eventually it was all drilled into me.
Although much of the side quest stuff felt superfluous outside of providing a means to gather items and experience, the main story for Tyranny is magnificently put together. Each of the main characters feel unique with very specific character traits that really define who they are and what their end goals are. Both of the warring factions, the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus, act as amazingly well-done foils to one another, which makes decisions involving siding with one over the other very difficult and clearly important. Sometimes, choosing sides can lead to permanent, game-altering circumstances, such as a companion becoming an enemy, which really forces the player to think long and hard about what to say and who to say it to. The player also builds reputation with both factions as well as specific key characters throughout the game in the form of Favor and Wrath by selecting certain dialogue options or performing certain tasks.
Combat in Tyranny is also very well done. Pausing combat to develop the best battle strategy and issuing commands to each of the four party members feels really good and the mechanics are much simpler than many other strategy role-playing games. All of this is done in a superb way that still keeps it all satisfying. Special attacks and magic play a very large role in combat which continually gives the player a reason to micromanage the party while maintaining a high intensity. There is an AI system that allows the party members to control their own actions which does work moderately well, however I found myself needing to turn it off for a good half of the fights in the game on normal difficulty.
As stated, magic is a key element in Tyranny in both the story and in combat. There is a system in which the player is able to create their own magic spells using learned sigils and enhancing the spells further with glyphs. This easily takes the cake as one of my favorite magic systems in an RPG that I’ve encountered. Using this, you’re able to tailor spells not only to what you’ll need in combat, but also to each party member’s designated role and personality. It only made sense to equip my fiery, murderous dance machine, Verse, with self-enhancing fire spells, while my burly, stoic warrior could cut loose a little with a spell that would let him rage out in a rampage of death for a time.
So much of Tyranny is enveloped in player choice, however the decisions you’ll have to make along the way will probably feel very different than what you may be used to. More often than not, players will be forced into situations where they’ll stare directly into the depths of their own depravity. The game certainly has its share of issues like extraneous side stuff that is never really fleshed out or an overabundance of abilities to the point where they don’t cleanly fit on the UI so you have to go digging through menu after menu to find that one spell you need, however a majority of what you’ll encounter is an extraordinary world filled with grandiose ideas and multi-dimensional characters. If you walk into Tyranny ready for a one-of-a-kind role-playing experience, then you’re in for an unforgettable journey.
Score: 4/5 – Great