Obsidian have helped the resurgence of top down RPG’s in recent years with one of the most successfully funded Kickstarter games, Pillars of Eternity. Alongside Pillars comes a host of top down RPG’s with a renewed sense of consumer interest with the likes of Divinity Original Sin and the success it produced for Larian studios.
Being evil isn’t all that bad.
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Pillars of Eternity was a great game and became a blend between the classic and modern. Obsidian have now teamed up with the publishing end of Paradox Interactive to create Tyranny, another top down fantasy RPG but with a twist.
Tyranny’s twist is that the Overlord Kyros together with the Archons, an elite group of powerful beings, have conquered the world. You take the role of a newly appointed fatebinder under the court of Tunon, the Archon of Justice and Kyros’ right hand man. As a fatebinder you have the authority over life and death and soon become centre point of unfolding world events.
Mechanically Tyranny works very similar to Pillars of Eternity and fans of the game will easily be able to jump in and become accustomed to the basic gameplay elements. First up is the character creation menu which provides appearance customization options and the ability to choose your choice of weapons, stats and skills for your starting character.
The game has plenty to offer in terms of character building. You can choose from four schools of magic, ranged weaponry or melee combat. As in Pillars, hybrid characters are going to be harder to play so it’s best to specialize early; I opted for a heavy armor wearing two handed sword badass myself. There is a lack of appearance customization in terms of character facial choices. Skin tone and tattoo selection are all there, as is the ability to create your own army banner.
Once in the game, players will realize that this is a product of Pillars of Eternity’s success. The game uses the same formula and many of its core mechanics. Combat itself works the same, so it’s a real time system that can be paused to issue commands to your chosen party. There is a wide range of abilities available for characters each with their own unique skill trees, which contain both active and passive abilities.
claiming a spire
Where things get interesting combat wise it’s in the combo and reputation abilities. Reputation is very important in the game and you can build reputation with both factions and individual characters. Regardless if you gain favour or wrath with a faction or character, you’ll still gain abilities the more reputation is earned. These abilities can be powerful, especially the party combo ones. Party combo’s will use up two characters actions in combat and then they will both perform a powerful move, often with a fantastic visual animation to boot.
As was the case with Pillars, Tyranny offers several difficulty levels with the higher settings offering a difficult challenge. You can also enable ironman mode which offers one save and if you die it gets deleted. Another fun option is permadeath in which once characters die, they will be gone for good. Put these all together and you’re in for a hell of a challenging time.
Character progression in the game is solid with a multitude of items, abilities and stats to improve upon. Characters have skills such as athletics and subterfuge that can be used to overcome obstacles, gain dialogue options and provide new ways to complete objectives. Character progression moves well with the flow of the story of the game so that you never really feel overpowered, at least not on the harder difficulties.
Pillars had a stronghold system that allowed players to have a base to research items and rest up between battles. Tyranny adopts a similar system but instead of having a single location, you can capture multiple giant spires that can be upgraded to contain things like a forge or infirmary. These spires also act as instant travel points across the world map allowing quick backtracking to locations.
Once you have obtained several facilities in your spires, you can research rare artefact items, improve gear, train and craft. Spires offer a great time sink into making your characters better equipped and more proficient at their combat roles.
Where Tyranny really distinguishes itself from Pillars is in its setting and story. You’re not a would be adventurer or a hesitant hero, you are the very face of an evil regime that has taken over by force. Your role as a fatebinder in the court of Tunon puts you in a unique position. You are for all intents and purposes playing a fantasy judge, your word is law to both the subjugated and to the Kyros forces.
In the heat of battle
This allows you to be who you want to be within the world you’re in. Can you be outright good to those who would see Kyros toppled? No, you’d be reported and killed by your colleagues. But as judge, jury and executioner, you can bend the rules to get the outcome you desire. Perhaps you can spare some civilians cornered by soldiers through a technicality? The army won’t like it and you’ll be questioned by Kyros loyalists, but it can be done.
Equally you can side with Kyros and be her ever loving servant and carry out her orders with cold hatred and ruthless precision. Tyranny offers bundles of choices and consequences that offer different experiences. This gives the game a good amount of replay ability for anyone looking to invest in multiple playthroughs.
Performance & Graphics
Tyranny runs like a charm with its beautiful art style and world design. It does suffer from one major flaw in that load times, particularly when first booting up, can be extremely long. Other than that, it’s hard not to be impressed with the art design, map design and overall aesthetic of the world and characters, each with a distinct look and personality.
Talking to the local folk
Minimum System Requirements: OS: Windows 7 64-bit or newer Processor: Intel Core 2 Quad Q9505 @ 2.80 GHz / AMD Athlon II X4 840 @ 3.10 GHz Memory: 6 GB RAM Graphics: ATI Radeon HD 5770 or NVIDIA GeForce GTS450 with 1GB VRAM Storage: 15 GB available space Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card
Recommended System Requirements: OS: Windows 7 64-bit or newer Processor: Intel Core i3-2100 @ 3.10 GHz / AMD Phenom II X4 955 @ 3.10 GHz Memory: 8 GB RAM Graphics: Radeon HD 6850 or NVIDIA GeForce GTX 560 with 1GB VRAM Storage: 15 GB available space Sound Card: DirectX Compatible Sound Card
Audio / Voice Acting
Tyranny contains a phenomenal soundtrack that produces some quality tracks that smell of Game of Thrones mixed with Pillars of Eternity. It is one of the few games I have digitally downloaded the official soundtrack to keep.
Most of the dialogue in Tyranny is written text and of course it’s well written, as Obsidian usually delivers on that front. There are some fully voiced sections that work well, each voice actor produces a solid performance and certainly adds to the overall experience of the games story.
Overall Tyranny provides a fantastic RPG experience with solid mechanics and an interesting choice filled story that should keep players engaged throughout. Everything about the game oozes quality and while it has taken a lot from Pillars of Eternity and feels very similar, it offers a unique story that certainly sets it apart.
It’s nice to have a game where the setting isn’t about stopping the evil but instead working within the confines of that evil. Doing good deeds overtly will get you killed, using the system to your benefit is key. The game gives players a choice of who they want to be within an evil overlord’s regime and the execution of that by itself, is impressive.
Another fantastic game from Obsidian, the formula they have created from Pillars has served up another brilliant RPG for people to sink their teeth into for hours of Tyrannical enjoyment.