Tyranny - PC Review

Tyranny has been on my radar for quite some time now. See, I rabidly follow Paradox as they publish some of my favorite games (Sengoku, Pillars of Eternity, Crusader Kings, Cities: Skylines, to name a few) so when they started sending out news about Obsidian's Tyranny I was both excited and a bit concerned. See, it is not often that a game can really hold true to casting you into the shoes of the "bad guy" without falling into the atypical hero fantasy; most games that follow a similar concept end up being hero-games in the long run. With Tyranny you could, with some creative mind-bending, see that it has a hero complex, but it is really all about being the bad guy, and dealing with those consequences. With some of the best writing outside of full-blown novels, Tyranny is an experience to behold, even for those of us that suffer hero complexes in real life.

To start, you are thrust into a broken world where Evil has triumphed, which is generally the exact opposite of nearly every single RPG trope you can find. You are not some young adult village bumpkin idling your time away with your roguish/bookish/muscle-bound childhood friend that is thrust into a cosmic battle between the forces of good and evil when your village is attacked as Evil is hunting for the Dormant-Yet-All-Powerful Person-That-Happens-to-be-an-Artifact/Relic/Alien/Heavenly/Object/Key where you see your father/friend/mentor die vainly in your arms, imparting you with the all-important quest to "Save the cheerleader/Save the world."

You will not find anything like that at the start of Tyranny; instead you start as a member of the Court of Fatebinders (sort of a political special forces unit) with a selectable background of "Bastard" "Bastarder" or "Bastardest" of bad back grounds that really do paint the picture that you generally suck as a human being. It is pretty great actually. Once you select your background, then your various physical appearance and voice, and finally name your toon, you get to choose two weapon types from about a dozen or so different styles. From sword-and-board or spearwielding to Zappy McLightningface or "people really play healers in a solo-campaign?" to archer-like pew-pews and the Roman Legion-inspired javelin-tosser. I personally chose a bow & arrow as my first weapon and a spear for my second weapon and built my attributes around being a fleet-footed noble that sold out their family to live another day (which is the middle-of-the-road "Bastarder" that I mentioned previously).

After you create your jerk of a character you are dropped into the game as a messenger from the supreme Overlord McJerkyFace and you are off to deliver an Edict which is the cosmic equivalent of hate mail. It really is bad in the fact that it is effectively a threatening note that will destroy both the Scarlet Chorus and The Disfavored, the two primary bodies of the Armies of Kyros (aka the bad guys). Yup, you read that right; you are delivering an Edict from the grand headmaster of evil, to his armies and it effectively says "get your s*&%t together, or I shall smite you and the gods-forsaken country you successfully invaded and subjugated."

Pretty metal, huh? This Edict is due to some bronze-age mother-lovers called The Vendrien Guard that had the audacity to rebel against certain death, likely dismemberment, and regular oppression just on the grounds that "it isn't right." Now, there are other factions (lots actually) throughout the Tiers (that's where this all takes place) and a part of your adventure to kick the evil-doing armies into shape so they can do more evil-doing will have you touching many different ones; whether you choose to subjugate, annihilate, ignore or whatever is up to you, because Tyranny is more a game about choices than it is a raucous romp through skeleton-filled dungeons (though, dungeons there are). In fact I fel that my actions had far more consequences both immediately and down the road, which helped me really define how I am playing and the fact that it really felt like I was a part of a living story rather than simply a piece moving forward in a storyteller's fable.

One really interesting thing that happened as I traversed the world of the Tiers ... Here is a completely new world, an exciting if broken and beaten world, and yet I was nearly hobbled by the nostalgic feeling that I got through the entire game. How is this possible you ask? I believe that it is because Tyranny is the first game that I have played in a long time that truly felt new, yet old at the same time. The last time I felt this amazed and nostalgic at the same time was when I first explored Azeroth in World of Warcraft.

As you progress through the game, fans of Obsidian's criminally under-appreciated Divinity: Original Sin (seriously, why do people not talk more about that game?) or those that grew up with the likes of Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale will feel right at home as you fight the good denizens or bastardly beast men of the Tiers, as the combat is near-identical to each of those titles. The real challenge for those of us that have been in the cRPG fandom is in the "classes." Even Pillars of Eternity and Divinity: Original Sin had near-classic, recognizable classes whereas things are a little less straightforward in some respects, while being really straightforward in others. Sword-and-board weapon style means you'll be a tank (dexterity tanking is not so good ... do not do it), but when you get into the other things like thrown weapons, which do more damage than other ranged items (like bows), yet do not have the distance / versatility of other raged combatants. There are a great many nuances to each weapon style that may result in a few restarts / changes to initial character setups. All-in-all though, figure that you are going to spend the next 30 hours or so grinding your way through every facet of Tyranny so it is more just put on your helmet and enjoy the ride.

From the gorgeous, if tired, brown-infused broken environments of Tiers to the colorful noble classes and shabby peasants, every aspect of Tyranny redefines what it means to be a great cRPG title. Incredibly memorable and haunting overtures play softly in the background as the apocalyptic-ly hostile world swirls around you in a bevy of an ambient aural explosion that is deep enough that you can almost feel the dusty, rust-filled Blade-Grave to the soaring and ancient Spires, every moment in Tyranny is truly a moment to behold. The attention to detail and push for a world that feels both truly alive while simultaneously feeling broken and defeated is marvelous and truly a work of art. It is without a doubt that future generations of gamers will look upon Tyranny with the same grounded, yet awe-inspiring greatness that we currently see when we look back onto Baldur's Gate II.

Tyranny is a future classic and a shining example of how to redefine a genre so beloved by millions of gamers worldwide.

Game Information

Obsidian Entertainment
Paradox Interactive
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

 Provided by Publisher

Article by Robert