There is a perpetual battle between good and evil that exists within virtually every video game ever made. This battle will never end, as hope springs eternal that good will vanquish the tireless forces of evil with each uprising and–this just in. We interrupt this regularly scheduled game review to announce that the battle between good and evil has ended. Representing the evil party is Kyros the Overlord, and the forces of good are expected to deliver their concession speech momentarily and peacefully submit to the malevolent Tyranny of their newly appointed overlord and conqueror.
And such is the setting of Tyranny, minus the cheesy breaking news update format. Kyros the Overlord is a god like entity who has spent the better part of four centuries in a brutal campaign conquering the world of Terratus. Not much is known about the identity of Kyros, but that is part of his/her/their/its PR manager’s plan, which is to keep Kyros’ identity something of a secret to create a mystique that inspires wonder and fear. Underneath Kyros are various Archons, people who have been granted immortality and special powers and include non player characters such as Pox, the Archon of Ruin, and Tunon the Adjudicator, the Archon of Justice who also created the Fatebinders. Fatebinders are the next highest ranking agents underneath the Archons in Kyros’ empire, and also the rank of the player character.
For players who enjoy creating their own custom character there is no shortage of options in designing their Fatebinder to fit their own playstyle. There are many attributes and skills to choose from that influence how the character will behave in battle and also open up different conversation options. Emphasis can be placed on making the character a melee powerhouse or a spell caster, or some sort of hybrid class. A high Lore score can open dialog options where knowledge can influence an NPC, but a high score in athletics can allow the player to knock a boulder loose that can crush your enemies instead of being limited to having to find a path around the pile of rubble. Choice of gender does play a role in Terratus but this is done so in a separate but equal manner, an example of this in the southern lands only men can own or captain ships, but owning any real estate on land can only be done by women.
During character creation there is an optional Conquest mode that is a quick minigame. This takes place during Kyros’ conquest of the Tiers. This allows the player to choose how their character was involved in the conquering and shapes how other factions in Tyranny will react to you, most notable the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus. While optional, this portion is recommended to give more control in developing the character, shaping the world, and giving an introduction to what the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus are about.
Conquest mode is also where the player will receive their first taste of how their actions will earn loyalty and wrath among other people in the game, and that the adage trying to please everyone is the secret to failure rings true in Tyranny, though even if Conquest is skipped this will become apparent soon enough. Whether dealing with factions, Archons, or party members, virtually every choice in conversation will influence the player’s standing with the particular audience. Choices and the consequences they can have with social standing is on a scale large enough to rival Bioware’s popular titles.
As stated earlier, the battle between good and evil has ended with the victory going to evil. The game takes place several years after Kyros’ has become the Overlord, and as things tend to go when dealing with a hostile Overlord there are some rebellious individuals who will not calmly cooperate and respect Kyros’ authority. Frustrated with the army’s inability to squash this rebellion, Kyros dispatches a Fatebinder to deliver an Edict to this rebellious uprising that death will come to all if they do not fall back in line. How the Fatebinder goes about this is entirely up to the player. The player could try a benevolent approach that inspires loyalty and respect, or they could choose to live up to the game’s title and use fear to garner obedience. Or maybe the player might desire to rise up and try to achieve their own power instead of simply being a vessel to further the rule of Kyros.
It is impossible to experience everything Tyranny has to offer in a single playthrough. Every decision that is made does impact the game world, some decisions could be as simple as having a faction a slight bias in favor or against you while other choices can have drastic effects on the world with consequences that extend far beyond what can be seen immediately before you. Having multiple save files are encouraged, not just in case you make a decision you regret but also because playing around with difference choices and their outcomes can be a fun way to see how much influence one’s actions can have in the world. Near limitless freedom exists in Tyranny and this title does not hold the player’s hand. Guidance and direction is offered for completing the main story, but how exactly the player wishes to go about this is entirely up to them.
Tyranny is an isometric RPG much like Obsidian’s previous Pillars of Eternity but it is its own unique experience. Battles occur in real time but there is the option to pause the battle to assign commands to all party members. This actually makes managing combat pretty easy, especially when a couple party members have different abilities that can be combined to make a very effective special attack. Controls are typical mouse and keyboard mechanics and nothing should feel out of the ordinary to players who have played isometric RPGs on PC.
Tyranny contains a world that is filled with great visual design and a soundtrack that ranges from epic to atmospheric. There are different versions of Tyranny available for purchase, and while generally I prefer physical media to digital only the advantage all three editions between completely digital means that limited quantities are not something to be concerned with. I am a sucker for a good game soundtrack, which is available. Here is a list of what is offered in each edition, so anyone interested in this game can decide if the digital bonuses are worth the extra money to them.
Tyranny offers a unique RPG experience where the standard good vs evil format is turned on its side. Serving as Kyros’s Fatebinder, the player is free to carry out their master’s will as they see fit and watch the effect it has on the world. This is not a game that can properly be played casually as it is simply too complex and too vast to get the full experience from fifteen minutes a day. Mastering the nuances of everything that is offered and learning how to best interact with each faction and party member will take time. For those who have the time and desire, however, this is one of the more rewarding time sink titles available. With the winter months on the horizon, Tyranny is a highly-recommended game to lock yourself away with while waiting for the weather to warm up.