First Impression: Tyranny

Last week, I got to go hands-on with the newest CRPG from Obsidian, Tyranny. Tyranny takes place in a world in which the great evil (your usual opponent in an old-school RPG) has already won the fight between good and evil. Lord Kyros, an evil tyrant, has taken over the world – with your character’s help, nonetheless. Now, you must find your way through the world by either being an evil thug, a redemption story, or possibly something in between.

The demo I played through at E3 went something like this: Lord Kyros has issued an edict (a super-powerful magical compulsion spell) that a group of rebels must be removed from a fortress. You, as his fatebinder, must complete the edict. In my playthrough, I was allied with the Scarlet Chorus, one of many factions in Tyranny.

Factions play an integral role in the game and, yes, often you are forced to choose one or the other. This means, according to Obsidian, that in a given playthrough you may miss half of the content in the game by going one way or the other. To compensate, Tyranny is aiming for a 20-30 hour completion time, rather than their previous game (Pillars of Eternity)’s enormous 60-80 hour completion time. Tyranny is a game intended to be played from beginning to end more than once.

At any rate, I was with the Scarlet Chorus, and early in the demo came up against another of Lord Kyros’ armies, the Disfavored (I would find out later that if I had picked an archer to play in the demo, rather than a mage, I would have been fighting for the Disfavored). A dialogue encounter resulted in avoiding direct combat with the Disfavored – instead, my mage and his three loyal companions plunged straight into the fortress to root out the rebels holding it (who I also could have been playing in support of, if I had chosen the fighter class at the beginning of the demo).

Once inside, more dialogue: a pre-fight conversation between my character and the rebel leader that resulted in one of the rebel mages abandoning their cause and fleeing. Affecting the composition of fights in this fashion is a feature of Tyranny; sometimes, you may even be able to avoid fighting altogether.

But, if we're honest, a little dull to actually play
Combat in Tyranny is really quite nice to look at

Finally, though, the fight got under way, and it was pretty typical CRPG, isometric fightiness. If you’ve ever laid hands on Pillars of Eternity, you’ll know exactly what the fight was like. Tyranny does bring some improvements – there are now combos, which are essentially synergies between your fatebinder and your party members, that you can trigger to great effect. Otherwise, things were pretty standard, though.

The fight ended with the rebels defeated and the edict fulfilled, relinquishing its hold over both the Scarlet Chorus and the Disfavored. Then, the demo ended.

All in all, I’m still relatively high on Tyranny – I love the premise and had a lot of fun with Pillars of Eternity, so there is no reason to suppose that Tyranny will be any different. I might even finish it in a timely manner! However, the demo provided at E3 was a bit lackluster, if I’m honest. There was no real sense of the changes in the world that take place as a result of your faction choices, though a dev on hand did provide some clarification: faction choices affect not only the world, but also your skillset. Being loved (or hated!) with a particular faction can grant special abilities.

Tyranny is due out later this year on Steam.