Not really SHORT REVIEW: PC VERSION
Big wordy RPG? Oh no… This is ganna be a long ting innit.
When an ancient looking, sorry, classic Role Playing game is released in 2016, the simplest way to describe it is to reference Baldur’s Gate.
That was released over 18 years ago.
This is what happens when you grow up with games. So, for those that understand that incredibly old reference, skip to the review. If any of you young whipper-snappers have stumbled across this website by mistake, I’ll stick around and attempt to describe what an old-fashioned isometric RPG is.
No, there isn’t any video content… What do you mean you’ll just look it up on that youstubes. You young people, with your flashy comic-sans words, video content and hippidy-hop-scotch ways, not wanting to read things, grumble, grumble.
You know Fallout 4 and Skyrim an’ that. Baldur’s gate is the 2D version. But better.
Rather than concentrating on beautiful vistas and slow-mo shooting, these crusty ol’ games had lots and lots of words, world-building and ideas. Some of them very silly indeed. I’m confident no RPG has come close to the original Fallouts low intelligence dialogue options. If you create a stupid character, named… erm…. “Rory Plopper”, you weren’t given a penalty to spell-casting or hacking emails. You’ve spawned a barely functioning, simpering idiot, hardly capable of speaking. Don’t you wanna play that game? Don’t you want to be Rory Plopper?
Bloody hell… even the intro was bloody long. Ok, let’s get on with it!
Without a loud Kickerstarter campaign to flare your nostalgia-nostrils into action, Tyranny appeared out of nowhere. It is at around this time of the review you have to mention Pillars of Eternity. It’s a rule. Pillars of Eternity was a modernised Baldur’s Gate funded by Kickstarter, but you knew that already. What you didn’t know is that game left me cold and excited, all at the same time. Quite a conundrum. I’ve no idea what was “off” with it. Will Tyranny suffer the same fate?
The first important, need to know, Tyranny fact is that you’ll have to be prepared for a lot of written dialogue. This is a text heavy game, so don’t blame me when your eyes glaze over the games backstory. The backstory has even more backstory in the tooltips. Argh… Backstory!
Note – We use the word “backstory” once more in the review. Thank you.
Tired of waking up in a jail cell at level 1? Than you’ll love the character creation process as you’ll write your own backstory. The second thing to note is that Tyranny’s world, much like our 2016, is a complete mess. The good guys have lost and the grand Overlord Kyros rules by fear. So… Why not work for the evil Overlord? You work as a Fatebinder, enacting the rules of the land and resolving disputes, much like a dungeons and dragons Judge Dread. How you go about this is up to you. Charming.
You’ll begrudgingly meet Archon’s in the employ of the great unknowable Overlord. These leaders and warlords tend to veer on the side of bastardy, and soon you’ll be embroiled in a huge pain up an arse. The story, background and your influence over Tyranny’s world is the games biggest strength. Walking into a room with full authority to judge, as you see fit, is utterly corrupting.
Note – I generally play as a light fun-time rogue-ish character, but in Tyranny, I was able to shake people down for coin and ruin lives with impunity. There’s was no downside for doing so. As I said, corrupting.
A guard questions your presence, and the normal dialogue options present themselves. You note the arrogant line “I am always where I am meant to be”. The perfect introduction to pushing over the foolish guard. You craft your own (possibly twisted) moral code throughout the game, holding honourable truce chats one second, cutting down the unworthy the next. Games of this nature often give you good and bad choices. Tyranny gives you good, bad and bloody awful choices. Sometimes you’ll make these choices without being sure of how they’ll play out. At other times you know exactly what you’re doing. Unfortunately, throughout the course of the game I discovered I’m closer to Judge Anton Chigurh than Dread.
As the character creation gives you a sense of place in the world, it also gives you a reputation. You further enhance this by your deeds and actions throughout your adventure. Everything you do seems to affect the game, with history and reputation cleverly intertwined. Just look at your ever growing reputation list.
It might look overwhelming, but everything starts small and manageable. Of course, this being an RPG you grow into your role. You always do. You gather a cast of memorable characters that appear to have real depth. The only downside is you don’t get the opportunity to natter with them as much as I’d like. You’re scratching the surface with these guys. It’s testament to the games writing that I craved more.
Note – The first time I saw the reputations screen I scoffed and thought, nar… I’d never need to look at that again. How wrong I was.
Even with sprawling conversation and decisions the time will arise, when you just need to kick someone in the nuts. You can set yourself up as a powerful armoured brute with sword and shield or throw magic around. Or even, both. Even the most basic of fighters have access to limited spells. Magic is a real joy to use in this game as it’s highly customisable and more importantly fun. You get to configure spells, pick different perks, and cobble the parts together to create wholly different spells. I had no intention of messing with magic as much as I did. By the end of the game, my character became a powerful magician by mistake.
Fighty times have been improved from similar games, which is handy as this isn’t a peaceful realm. I always felt clear in what works and what doesn’t. Magic attacks don’t harm your teammates, meaning you aren’t punished by spraying the area with fire. Passive affects strengthen characters with minimal fuss, ensuring your rogue hits hard without you having to push your special hit hard button. Naturally, you can pause the battle at any time to issue commands on a whim. Too much hassle? You can set up individual fighting styles for each teammate and leave them to it. It mostly works… Kinda… There’s a good chance you’ll have to step in as it’s pretty flaky. Now i’m pretty accustomed to this type of semi-real-time battle system but I’ve a sneaking suspicion a newcomer could find it anarchic and obtuse. Saying that, I don’t think I’m wrong in saying that this is one of the more manageable and user friendly systems I’ve come across, at least, in these types of games.
Battles are involved and potentially fatal at every turn. Supply your good friend Mr Autosave with your finest pair of slippers and welcome him into your home.
With all that battling you’ll likely require some respite. Luckily you acquire a fascinating base of operations, both pivotal to the plot and useful when upgraded. Sadly this bright spark does have the potential to annoy because you get a several bases across the land, but that’s ok as you can quick travel between them… except this involves painful loading times. Oooh the loading times! You hire useful people to lounge around your base an’ look pretty. Most of them are redundant. How many athletic trainers do I need? Where am I? LA? I loved hiring the spy-master, but he eventually ran out of things to say. No really… You click on him only to be ignored. I wouldn’t have minded a “piss off” for my troubles.
I’ve encountered my fair share of bugs throughout the game and now I’ve completed it, I’m pretty sure most of these issues have been patched out. In my time I’ve experienced odd freezes whilst talking to NPC’s, strange audio bugs and terrible fight framerates. AI teammates standing around like dribbling idiots as my head’s getting kicked in. One of my companions refused to auto attack whilst using her claws because no reason wotsoeva’. The scariest bug was my save file crashed whilst loading the game. I managed to fix this by loading an earlier save and re-loading the “broken” save after the game had started. Don’t remind me of the loading times!
The music’s excellent and well produced, but strangely sent me crazy after a spell. Considering the amount of time you spend in the world, my ears require variation. Not much, just a little bit.
The biggest problem I’ve had with Tyranny, is the game ends on an abrupt cliffhanger. The whole experience was a very large and involved part one. A great setup to a more epic equal. Whilst this particular part of the story has a definite and clear end, your main character character arc has barely been explored. Throughout the game you gain tremendous powers, but just as things get juicy… End. You could feel short changed, even after spending 40+ hours in this world. I can’t imagine a sequel won’t eventually come our way, but if it doesn’t…
Still, let’s not end on a downer.
Tyranny is a game of real consequence. It’s full of meaningful touches and neat concepts. I’ll give you one last example. In Tyranny we have subterfuge and athletic choices in conversation. These additional special options are not automatically the best actions to choose. You still have to read the dialogue, you still have to think. I love that.
You can play the game any way you want. No really. even the option screen’s filled with customisation.
Top tip – Extend the radius of loot pick-ups as far as you possibly can.
I haven’t mentioned the inventory because unlike most games of this type, its perfectly fine. Clear and concise with no real annoyances.
Tyranny has highlighted the difference between a true modern re-imagining of a 18 year old style of game and a mere updated retelling with modern conveniences. Pillars was a faithful reenactment of a game from that time, which was what I wanted and expected from that Kickstarter. Pillars is an excellent game. It has bigger maps, is dense, with plenty to micromanage. Spells are a right pain in the arse to use, whilst magic in Tyranny is a sheer joy. The design is tighter and there are plenty of reusable skills per battle, so you don’t break the flow of adventure by resting every 5 minutes to recharge everything. Pillars story and companions didn’t pull me in as deep because the story felt all-too familiar.
Tyranny possessed me till the end. Even with the niggles. You could legitimately complain that the story draws you in, only to cast you out without much fanfare… I want more dammit.
Tyranny’s world is malleable, exciting and intoxicating. Tyranny wowed me by simply letting me be a bastard!
The story demands a sequel and a sense of closure, which is fine as I’m hoping for a trilogy.
If you managed to read this long-ass review… Odds are you could very easily enjoy reading Tyranny.