Developer: Obsidian Eterntainment
Publisher: Paradox Interactive
Release date: November 10, 2016
Tyranny is a very interesting game, which gets stuck on it’s complex mechanisms and abrupt ending. Game has a lot of replay value, which expands it’s lifetime in library.
Known world has fallen under evil overlord Kyros. Her Archon of Justice Tunon acts as her judge. You are one of Tunon’s Fatebinders, acting as his eyes and hands during the ongoing conquest of Tiers. Setup is far from traditional and gives very interesting concept for the game.
Character creation is simple and straightforward enough. Skills and attributes are easy to understand. However, this simplicity does not carry over in to gameplay itself, where mechanics are more complex than character creation allows player to understand.
This is where problems with the game begin. Vast number of different values will make the game feel incoherent at first. Player learns to understand the mechanics over the gameplay, but they are not always self-explanatory and understanding some of them might take more time. In this regard Obsidian could have followed the golden rule of “Kill Your Darlings” and make the system slightly less complex for new player to understand.
While vast number of different mechanisms can feel taunting at first, these do add to replay value of the game. You can plan and build your own character and even companions around minor mechanisms in game, which you might have completely ignored during the first playthrough.
Skill system is simple and progression coherent. All skills will grow over use. This is true for your NPC companions as well. You do not need to worry too much about base success change. You usually end up succeeding what you were trying to do in offense, so higher combat skill values end up affect to rate of your critical hits and related special effects. Defense values are a bigger deal. Attack success are counted as skill vs skill – such as One-handed vs. Parry – and it is well advised to pay attention to defensive skills and talents. Of course your attack values are important as well, but enemies seem to place more value for various damage resistances than high defensive skills.
Skill values are affected by character attributes. Player gets 1 Attribute point and 1 Talent point to distribute over each level up. Adding 1 attribute point to relevant skill can cause skill level to rise 1-3 points (x1.5 main, 0.5 secondary attribute affecting the skill.) Player can use trainer services in the game to advance their character skills. They can also advance NPC follower skills like this.
Combat and magic
Fighting against different enemies can be very rewarding, due to their various resistances. Game UI is lenient enough to allow player to see them, which allows selecting correct spells and skills against different enemies. Attackers in groups might have various resistances. It is not always said that your team will encounter them properly prepared for that exact combat. This forces spellcaster characters to expand their casting repertoire. This can be done without loosing the sight of their specializations.
Various resistances, talents and classes in encountered teams make each battle to feel like a small victory. Player rarely just walks over enemy groups. Game also has proper reasons for scaling enemies. Certainly inexperienced recruits in their first battle early in the game were easier enemies than experienced elite forces of various rulers later in the game. Tyranny does not give a feeling of artificial scaling of enemies. You will just encounter harder targets, because they should be so. Encounters are well balanced and might force your team to retreat and return later, if you really were not up to face enemies you ran in to.
As mentioned above, you usually end up succeeding in your offense. This does not mean it would take any proper effect. Heavy armors and high resistances can cause even a massive damage getting reduced just as 1 point of damage. Magic, accessories and artifact are playing a big role in combat, when you are trying to overcome enemies, before they overcome you.
Spellcrafting is quite fun and necessary. You can expand spellcasting abilities a lot by getting familiar with new runes you find during the game. Unfortunately some of the runes are locked so far in to endgame that players do not have adequate time to get used to them. It would have been better to expand single rune usability over spellcasting skill progress, compared to locking them away for so long. Of course, that would have made skill trainer system vastly overpowered in the game. Obsidian could have paid a bit more time to work with this aspect of the game.
Spellcrafting suffers from the lack of spellbook for already crafted spells. This makes redoing team spells unnecessarily complex. You hardly want to fight against a swarm of Bane with same spells you used to fight with a group of Bronze Brotherhood mercenaries.
World and storyline
World or Tyranny is brutal. There are not many “good” choices you can make. Each line will require decisions, which will hurt innocents either immediately or in the long run.
Story is divided between three acts. Act I and II are core gameplay acts, where Act III is more about tying loose knots and finishing your decisions. Sadly, Act III is where the game runs out of time and prevents you from actually enjoying your progress.
Acts I and II promise a lot for Act III, but final act is a needlessly short experience, which ends the game far sooner than expected. Obsidian could have dragged the final act longer and allow players to enjoy – or suffer – from consequences of their decisions. Some major decisions in the game are constantly being presented, but actions during Act II are barely revisited in Act III, where they should have had far more consequences in the world. You might have done something noble, or absolutely atrocious during the gameplay. None of this is really reflected in Act III and so your actions loose their meaning.
Fighting your way in to Act III is very satisfying. It is quite sad that this satisfaction is not properly reflected in the game, though it is visited in ending screens.
Tyranny has an interesting concept, which requires new thinking. This extends to both gameplay and correspondence between you and NPCs in the game.
Lore of the world is astoundingly vast. Too vast for the game of this size. Tyranny called for a longer playing experience, or second game where your choices could be imported. As a standalone game, it fell short on grand promise it gives and stops with a unnecessarily abrupt ending.
Game has quite a lot mechanisms in place. Some of them feel unnecessary for the experience, at least for the first playthrough. They do add to game though and also it’s replayability value. Vast amount of different choices in the game will leave players curious about other paths they could have taken, though that still does not justify shortcomings of final Act III, which should have been the climax of the game.
Tyranny stands as a good example of what creative team can do and grants relatively satisfying experience. It also stands as a bad example of how development team looses it’s sight of the gameplay experience, justifying sudden end with replayability value.
Like the Fatebinder, Tyranny does leve it’s mark on the world in both good and bad. It gives almost solid gameplay experience and acts as excellent break between other games you might be playing.
I have to raise my hat to Obsidian’s creative writing team for all the lore they added in to this world. I hope to see the world of Tyranny to continue. Even with poorly made ending and apparently less satisfying number of sold copies, world of Tyranny is made too well to be forgotten. It is my honest wish that Obsidian and Paradox would visit the game world with a new game, with better understanding of experience they want to give in the end.
Review page in Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/recommended/recommendgame/362960