Obsidian Entertainment’s Tyranny is a modern take on the classic role-playing-game genre of isometric games. Unlike most games where players follow the footsteps of the traditional hero, Tyranny takes place on the fantasy world of Terratus, where the evil overlord Kyros has all but taken over the many continents and countries of the world. The player takes up the mantle of a Fatebinder, one of Kyros’ highly ranked agents who is tasked to restore order and maintain Kyros’ rule throughout the world. Following the previous CRPG kickstarter success Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny’s gameplay and graphics is built upon the same engine with a greater emphasis on player choices and consequences.
One of Tyranny’s biggest and most interesting departures from traditional CRPGs is the inclusion of Conquest Mode at the beginning of the game. Here, players are able to craft the history of the world and possible achievements of their main character during the beginning years of Kyros’ takeover. This allows for different dialogues, favorable or unfavorable actions from different factions, and various unique abilities granted by actions taken during the Conquest. This allows for a high degree of playability whenever the player starts a new game.
As mentioned before, Tyranny uses the same gameplay and graphics engine as the previous title, Pillars of Eternity. I found this to be a favorable factor when playing the game, as I was shown beautiful, handcrafted worlds and characters. The dark fantasy world of Terratus felt alive and heavy, with the use of Iron Age weapons, lore, and mythology. The phenomenal voice acting in the game helped draw me in to the world and made it more believable, and the writing style used in the text-heavy dialogue is usually worth taking the time to read through. The stories and sidequests are wonderfully written as well. Obsidian uses the term dark fantasy and uses it well; these stories included themes of rape, murder, and near impossible choices to make without all the facts available to the player. This also adds some semblance of reality to the game, as it is a bit of a parallel to our world, and what humanity itself is also capable of doing.
Tyranny’s gameplay follows the traditional roles of the CRPG genre. The game plays out with the player’s small party of characters, each with their own abilities, personalities, and histories to explore. The player’s character and his interactions with the world influences the party members’ expectation and opinions of him/her, which can lead to more dialogue options, special combat abilities, influence in the game world, and possible departure from the party if their opinions of the main character is low enough. Of course, each companion’s personalities are different, meaning certain choices and dialogue options will affect them differently; for example, saving a tribal child from slaughter may gain certain affection from some party members, and negative opinions from others. This allows for a sort of dynamic play style, as some players may try to play differently in a way they are not accustomed to, in order to keep certain party members available.
During combat, Tyranny allows for players to pause the game at anytime to allow position and slot different abilities for use. This gives players the ability to analyze the battlefield and discern the best tactical response to lead them to victory. Of course, environmental factors are available as well. Dousing the area with a water ability before using an electric ability will damage all objects in the area, as well as being able to set up traps and bait to ambush enemies with wildlife or spells. The game also includes different difficulties and modes to keep the game interesting, including traditional modes such as permanent death or no advice modes for more advanced players.
Tyranny is a well thought out and interesting CRPG developed by Obsidian Entertainment. Although the game does suffer a bit from trying too large of a departure from traditional CRPG games, Tyranny still holds well enough to be enjoyed by CRPG fans.