Tyranny is a cRPG made by Obsidian Games Studios, the minds behind Pillars Of Eternity and Fallout: New Vegas that tries to deliver a similar experience to Pillars but with a twist. The twist being that in the world of Tyranny the war between good and evil has already happened and evil has won. You are a Fatebinder, in the service of the evil overlord and you are judge, jury and executioner
. You set out into the world to deliver the warlords justice however you see fit.
From the beginning I could see that Tyranny was a beautiful game. The interesting almost retro cRPG style and the fantastic use of the unity engine compliments a fantastic and colourful art style to create a really fresh aesthetic (which helps because you'll be staring at a lot of screens for a lot of hours). It begins with character creation which is rather simple. You can only play as a human but can choose the things you'd expect such as gender, body type, hair, skin tone etc. You also get to choose your heritage from a list of preset choices (soldier, noble scion, thief and more...) and whichever of these you select unlocks unique dialogue options only available to the heritage you picked. You then pick two combat specialities from a list which you can switch between on the fly. I chose a mage character focused on frost magic with atrophy (life leech) magic as a secondary whose heritage was a noble scion who volunteered himself to the service of the warlord to save his family and their lands.
Retro cRPG view, vibrant and colourful graphics.
The first hour or so of the game is a choose your own adventure series of dilemmas that describe the part you played in the aforementioned war. You can, for instance, choose to level a city without warning the inhabitants or you can give the citizens warning and level the city anyway. It is during this sequence -dubbed "conquest"- that you realise what Tyranny does that makes it so alarmingly different from other RPGs. There is no good option, only degrees of evil. You can choose to let a person go here or there but at points in the game come choices where there are no "good resolutions". You have to wrestle with your conscience and weigh up what must be done for the good of the campaign against what horrors you can live with. The choices for the most part really hit home and the absolutely stellar world building and character development really adds weight to the decisions you make. You can gain favour with the various factions and loyalty with various characters by making certain choices and the game is begging for you to replay it as some decisions simply close off paths to you that will require you to start again to explore.
Character creation is simple but well executed.
Admittedly the combat is the dullest part of Tyranny. The 4 man party is simple to control and you can pause mid battle (a la Mass Effect) to issue orders to your party and then unpause to see the action unfold in real time. Don't get me wrong, it IS fun but I can't help but feel it's missing a level of complexity that would really make it a challenge. Most of the time I just steamroll over groups of enemies even if they outnumber me 3 to 1. I also had an issue with the party members themselves. I played a good 2 hours of Tyranny with 1-2 of the same squad mates and one in particular called Barik (you'll know how awesome he is when you play it) and at around hour 3 I added a 4th companion to my cause but no sooner had I started to get to know the newcomer than I discovered not one but TWO new companions which I would have to swap and chop in order to fit into my party, barely giving me any time at all to get to know the characters and their often alluded to back stories. I understand that this is probably again tied into the replay-ability factor and that I can focus on other companions next play-through but I can't help but feel that I'd appreciate less characters and more time with those characters more than sheer volume.
Barik is one of the most interesting companions.
The first act of the game involves a quest that has a time limit (which I personally don't like in my games) but luckily it wasn't too invasive and only lasted as I said until the end of the first chapter. I did find, in fact that it added a sense of urgency to my play and even though I finished the first act with plenty of time to spare I still felt like I missed stuff which DID make me want to play another character. I can't decide whether that is genius or another cheap way to make me replay the game on the developer's part.
The start of the game, "conquest" mode.
It isn't a perfect game that's true, and it will not be to every-bodies taste. Perhaps seasoned cRPG players will hate the lack of hardcore combat, perhaps n00bies to the genre will find it befuddling and complex but I found that as a player new to cRPGs it was a perfect jumping in point. The story rich environment was more than enough on its own to hold my attention and get me really, REALLY invested in my choices and actions. The beauty of the game in both appearance and the tale it tells really is something special and (providing you don't mind reading text) you really shouldn't miss out on such a well crafted game. It lacks depth in some areas but rarely does there come a game so well executed and so full of memorable characters, areas and tales. I wrote the majority this review having only played 6 hours of Tyranny but I have now played substantially more of the game and I can confirm that my opinion remains the same. Some MAY find the combat repetitive but personally the story of Tyranny trumps any of its shortcomings. If you value story in your games it is well worth the purchase.
A must buy for fans of story driven RPGs