Tyranny PC Review

It has its faults, but its approach to magic and reputation, alongside predominantly good writing make Tyranny a valid choice for cRPG enthusiasts.

By Woozie, Posted 24 Nov 2016

After going through the great cRPG experience that Pillars Of Eternity turned out to be, the news of Tyranny being in the works got me equally interested, especially due to how it was supposed to be a cRPG where you are an agent of evil. I’ve spent around 30 hours on my first playthrough and gathering my thoughts about Tyranny turned out to be harder than I expected.

Tyranny, Screenshot, Review

Tyranny feels similar to Pillars of Eternity, yet represents a departure in more than just one way. We’ve covered the “you serve the evil Overlord person” bit, but it doesn’t stop there. Jumping into the campaign will have you go through a Create Your Own Adventure type of scenario, where the early years of the Overlord’s conquest of the Tiers unfold on a beautifully drawn map, allowing you to make a series of important decisions. These decisions will not only be reflected in attitudes certain characters have towards you, but also events and locations you end up visiting in the game proper. It’s also a neat introduction to the world, the context and, more importantly, the two factions that, more or less, take center stage throughout the majority of the game.

Character creation has fewer options this time around. One race is available: the seemingly ever-present humans. Classes are also gone, instead being replaced by talent trees. You can, however, still pick backgrounds and training disciplines which will affect both conversations and the skills that start with an initial bonus. While very much in tune with the game world where humans have the largest organized structures, it is slightly disappointing to see just this one option. On the other hand, you are free to choose talents from whichever tree you want, at any time, rendering it possible to have a number of “hybrid” characters. For my playthrough, I went with an almost-pure mage that focused on debilitating the opponents while, occasionaly, conjuring ice spikes and impaling baddies. Six talent trees are available to your character, with two being present for each companion, with the exception of Lantry, who has access to three talent trees. The talent trees include a number of new skills and passive damage and skill buffs. There is enough so as to not be able to see everything in just one playthrough, but I have to say, the skills and talents that truly feel great are few.

Tyranny, Screenshot, Review

The UI was rearranged to some degree and offers the information that’s needed in a decent fashion. One issue I had with it was related to the skill buttons. You’ve 10 assignable slots, with excess skills and quick items being available from dedicated buttons that lie at the bottom of the UI. They’re also organized in a rectangle which had me reading skill descriptions one too many times as I constantly lost track of the skills, especially towards the late game when their number grows significantly. Spells have also been tinkered with. Players can now craft their own spells with the aid of sigils of which there are three types. Core sigils determine the magic school, Expression sigils determine how they manifest (short range, long range, auras, weapon enhancements, etc.) while Accents enhance the spells in a great many ways. Any character can wield magic from any school, given they have the necessary amount of Lore skill points. Of course, using a frost spell on a character that also has points in Control Frost will yield better results than otherwise, but it’s good to know that, again, you can spice things up with an extra spell or two. That being said, these sigils have to be obtained from merchants or looting, which can potentially lead to missing out on certain sigils because you prioritized spending your currency on something else at the time, or because you missed that highlighted pixel which contained it (and the game does a very poor job of highlighting certain lootable areas).

The combat in Tyranny treads familiar ground. You’re doing the same, pause-assess-attack cycle you do in isometric cRPGS. However, despite there being more skills available to use than in Pillars Of Eternity, fights never shine out in the same manner. It may have to do with normal difficulty being considerably easier. It may also have to do with the lack of oomph most abilities have to them. Combo abilities are a new addition that requires two characters to pull off. Aside from being generally more powerful, they never feel like anything special. You usually obtain them when reaching a certain reputation threshold with a faction or a companion and afterwards, they’re just skills you get to use once per combat/rest. Over the course of my playthrough I’ve also encountered some pathfinding issues, with characters getting stuck on terrain, or behind other characters. While this generally happened mostly in tight spaces, it wasn’t exclusive to them.

Tyranny, Screenshot, Review

The more you use a skill, the more experience you gain with it, thus leveling it up. The more you level up your skills, the quicker you level up your character. A slightly different take to levelling, but a pretty neat one, as it always felt rewarding to see that when I disabled a trap, I got better both at disabling traps and overall. When leveling these skills in the field, experience distribution can be a bit strange. At times only the member using it will seem to gain experience, while in other instances every party member gains XP. Skills can also be trained at specific NPCS which allow you to train a number of five times per level. This has you going back and forth to the Spires, which act as you home base. Spires can host a large array of trainers, so much so that you can cover every skill. Merchants can also be hired, some selling special items. On top of that, each spire comes with an upgrade of its own which gives you the option to research recipes, sigils or artifacts. The Forge allows you to upgrade your equipment up to Masterwork level which does make you feel powerful. That being said, Spires feel like they’re never used to their maximum potential due to the third act being much too short.

Tyranny ‘s world is one that’s obviously torn by the conflict raging throughout it. This is very well transmitted through both visual and narrative means. Areas affected by Edicts, spells of extreme magnitude, are completely re-shaped from their initial versions. Knowledge is difficult to come by. In fact, one of your earliest decisions will have to do with the realm’s largest repository of knowledge. People’s lives are clearly marked by war and everyone is scraping to conquer or survive. Few things, apart from the Spires, are visually grandiose in Tyranny. The rank and file in your army will talk about each faction’s particularities while the conquered will respond appropriately, based on your choices. Many things will be repeated to you in the same form. This was one of the complaints I had in regards to the writing but now, to be fair, it feels justified. Kyros makes sure to control what’s known. The Tiers don’t seem to have any contact with the outside world, which is in Kyros’ hands anyway, so it’s only natural that taking this into account, the writing may repeat itself a little too much, at times coming off as bland.

Tyranny, Screenshot, Review

This goes down to the two factions in Kyros’ army. The Disfavored are disciplined northeners with honor and tradition while the Scarlet Chorus are a wild, rampaging force that recruit by force from anywhere they can. The factions themselves are portrayed very well, their principles and driving force, their loyalty to their leaders being made very clear. However, it’s done so when talking about the faction as an entity. Go down to the individual soldiers and, again, you will encounter few, if any, shining examples .This amplifies the notion that everyone is a tool in the Overlord’s hands. Be this as it may, I’d lie if I’d say I didn’t mind hearing things repeated way too often. I am still unsure how I feel about the writing in Tyranny, overall. The companions you end up sharing your adventure with are individualized enough, however, it was just Barik, a soldier trapped within his own armor, that left a lasting impression upon me. The lack of companion quests of any sort and the low rate at which new dialogue after the half of the second act make it so that they don’t feel like lasting presences.

That being said, the way reputation is handled in Tyranny is a welcome change. In making it possible for your Fatebinder to obtain both Favor and Wrath, or Loyalty and Fear when it comes to companions, the game avoids forcing people to see you either as a walking angel-winged halo or as a villain with a moustache so twirled that even you don’t know where it begins and where it ends. Reactions simply feel more natural this time around and extra weight is added to every decision you make. Tyranny also seems to take a Witcher 2-esque path when it comes to story as choosing to support one faction will lock you out from certain choices you could take when choosing the other.

Tyranny, Screenshot, Review

Tyranny’s greatest fault comes with its handling of its third act. At the end of the second act, events get into gear. Act three makes certain major characters reachable. You’re ready to discover more about them and then it just ends. Spires have a Power resource meter that’s only ever used twice despite being introduced in Act 2. It’s difficult to go into it without spoiling the story, but the third act feels rushed. It feels so rushed, in fact, that more attention seems to have been given to the epilogue screen which details, in text form and with a background that features some very beautiful art, the events that take place after your final decisions. I’m wondering whether Tyranny coming out merely a year after Pillars of Eternity’s last DLC had anything to do with it. We’ve seen this happening with Dragon Age 2 already, albeit in a different shape.

With all its missteps, I want to go back and replay Tyranny, simply for the sake of making different decisions and seeing what happens if I support the Scarlet Chorus or, why not, nobody. While not flawless, writing outshines combat and, for me, that’s enough to warrant a replay. There’s a chance that a second playthrough of the game will make Tyranny even better in the eyes of players. Regardless of how true that is, the good parts of Tyranny make it so that playing it should be on your to-do list, if you’re into cRPGs.

Bogdan Robert, NoobFeed
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General Information



Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Paradox Interactive
Developer(s): Obsidian Entertainment
Genres: Role Playing Game
Themes: Isometric, Old-school
Release Date: 2016-11-10

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