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Tyranny [GOG, Steam, Humble Store] is the huge new RPG from Obsidian Entertainment that myself and BTRE had the great pleasure of playing before release thanks to my contacts at Paradox Interactive, so here’s our thoughts.


Note: While we have tried to keep it as spoiler free as possible, it's likely there will be some, so read at your own peril. The game is also rather large, so this is one of our wordiest pieces yet. This was being conservative in our writing too.

The story elements
Liam: You are one of a few known as a ‘Fatebinder’. A vassal of the evil Overlord Kyros who is equal parts judge, jury and executioner. You are trusted by Kyros and her right-hand man to carry out ‘Edicts’ on Kyros' behalf—these Edicts are generally extremely destructive. You are to help Kyros conquer the southern lands known as the Tiers, the last remaining area of the world not currently under his total control.

There are two main factions to Kyros invasion force. The Disfavoured, who are battle-hardened veterans with the best equipment and training. Then you have the Scarlet Chorus, who resemble nothing but a band of thugs as they conscript captives into their ranks at any opportunity. Each faction is lead by an ‘Archon’ who is well respected by their armies.

There’s a constant unease between the two factions, constantly bickering between themselves and part of your job is to get them working together wherever possible, it requires a careful balancing act in your choices. You can of course completely favour one side—the choice is yours. Your choices do have consequences as the story progresses.

All through the early parts of the game I had this constant feeling that one of the two main Archons would ask me to join with them against the other, depending on who I had pissed off less with my antics. The Scarlet Chorus’ Archon named ‘The Voices of Nerat’ clearly has his own agenda, but the Disfavoured Archon named ‘Graven Ashe’ seems like a much more reasonable commander, who just wants to get on with his master's orders and take over the world.

There will come a point, where you will need to make a decision on which faction of Kyros’ armies you truly align yourself with, and accept the consequences that come with it. Once you align yourself with a faction, there’s no turning back, and it will mean war between the two.
The game really does heat up when you reach that stage. Some characters will heavily dislike you depending on what choice you make, and the writing is fantastic.

As a Fatebinder, you will be called upon by the Archon ‘Tunon’ to explain the reasoning behind the civil war of Kyros’ armies, telling him why you sided with whom you did, or you could lie. The choice is, again, yours.

The entire first section of the game transpires around capturing one area, which has a 'Spire'. The Spires play an important role not only in the story, but also in the gameplay. When you take a Spire, you gain a magical connection to it and you need to find out more. It acts as your home base and stronghold as you advance through the game.

There’s a lot more to the story, but I don’t want to end up spoiling too much of it for you to see for yourself just how interesting it is to play through.


The gameplay
Liam: I feel like Obsidian have finally produced something that has be missing for a while, the ability to properly play as an evil character and damn it feels good. I get fedup of all these goody-goody characters that most games force you to be, it’s refreshing. I still personally feel like they haven’t enabled you to be evil enough, there’s still a fair amount of nicer options to choose from, but being evil is always available.

I’ve enjoyed speaking with GOL contributor BTRE who also had access. He made vastly different choices to me, and it sounds like he played out a rather different game, this makes me want to create yet another character and take a different side in the war.

BTRE: I feel like Tyranny has been a breath of fresh air. It’s gotten a lot of things right and known, more often than not, what to borrow from other games in the genre. It’s simplified quite a few mechanics and systems, usually for the better.

Liam: Tyranny is a story-focused RPG styled in a very similar way to Pillars of Eternity. It’s a real-time game with the ability to pause it whenever you wish. As opposed to the masses of turn-based games we have, it’s really great to see such huge, high quality titles coming to Linux.

As expected from an Obsidian RPG, it has masses of options when creating your character. Gender and colour, hair and beard, your character’s history and so on. I decided to be a Dual-Wielding ‘Pit Fighter’ with a secondary proficiency in short bows, as the background story sounded great of fighting my way to the top and who wouldn’t want to use those sets of weapons? When you pick a class this allows you to pick a special ability to start with too, same goes for the secondary class. You also have attributes to put points into, as well as skill points to put into specific areas—there’s tons to it!

It took me about 25 minutes to really set up a character I liked. It could have been far quicker, of course, but if you really want to get into the game you will want some time set-aside to choose wisely.

You have two ways to start the game, you can jump in quickly, or you can do what is essentially a prologue called “Conquest”, doing the Conquest mode will allow you to truly fine-tune your experience.

In the Conquest mode, you’re greeted with a map and locations to pick along with various options on how to proceed. Each choice you make shapes how the different factions will treat you. As each option is aligned with a specific faction gaining favour with them and wrath from the other. Even though this mode is only making simple decisions, I still found it exciting to set up the career history of my character in such a way, it’s truly worth picking this choice to get the maximum out of the game. Some of the choices are pretty savage too, and can end up making one faction lose entire sections of their army, or give an army a little more time to escape. The writing is actually great, and I was really getting into what I was reading which is pretty uncommon for me.

You have the option of continuing after making all your choices, or starting over if you feel you made some iffy decisions. I soldiered on and it gave me a small cutscene detailing my next move, and then dropped me right into the thick of it. The transition between the cutscene at the start and being in the actual game-world was seemless and smooth too.

The game has all the usual features you would expect from a traditional RPG. Plenty of dialogue, while voiced only in small amounts, is bang on the mark. You also have skills that can affect the dialogue options opening up more choices in how you deal with situations. You can upgrade your ‘Might’, ‘Finesse’ and other attributes when you level up and the more you use certain skills, the more those particular skills will level up, which is a nice touch.

You will be dealing with the different factions of the world, and dealing with how your companions feel about you directly too. Every action you take has a consequence with someone or a faction, often an action you take will affect more than one faction. You can end up feeling the need to save-scum at times if you didn’t like the outcome, but I decided to make my decisions stick to see what happens, and it has been an interesting ride for sure.

Thanks to the evil way you’re able to play the game, I’ve pissed off a few people repeatedly. The dialogue choices you get depending on your character’s history can be extremely fun! Intimidating people as soon as they open their mouth is glorious. I’ve grabbed a few by their helmets and thrown them down, and other times I’ve been a real git and outright punched people in the gut as a show of my status.

BTRE: Personally, I like using legal arguments and lore to completely shut people down and put them in their place. There’s nothing quite like making an Archon mad because you called them out for breaking the rules.

Liam: Essentially, me and BTRE would make a terrible team. I throw people off of dizzying heights and intimidate everyone I can, where as he is the voice of reason in this crazy world.

BTRE: Nonsense! It’d be like a buddy cop movie. Two mismatched Fatebinders learning how to work together as a team to bring order to the Tiers. Sounds like fun to me!

Liam: When you have enough reputation with a certain faction, either being favoured by them or disliked enough you will unlock abilities:

I especially like how differently the characters treat you based on your choices in the Conquest mode and your actual characters history. I challenged someone to a duel at one point to save an old man and have him as a party member, once I had dispatched the soldiers in the battle I had the option of holding up a severed limb to celebrate with due to my choice of being a Pit Fighter. Gross, but amusing, and a show of my strength—do not piss me off!

I’ve got two characters on the go at the moment, and I can easily see how the story is different at specific points. At one point when speaking to the Archons near the start of the game, one section of the dialogue was completely different to my first playthrough. Due to a choice I made during the Conquest made, The Scarlet Chorus’ Archon was pretty thankful and gave me a ton of ‘Rings’, which is the currency used in Tyranny.

There’s masses to take in, with plenty of lore to get through and understand. Thankfully, during conversations you can hover over specific phrases to read some backstory, some of it may be from the Conquest mode because you chose a specific outcome. It’s always fun to see how the conversations are shaped by your previous decisions, or by a factions feelings towards you directly.


BTRE: Trading stories with Liam, it would seem that our games developed in rather different directions. We picked really different ways to deal with characters and factions. The end result? By the end of the first chapter things had turned out drastically differently for us. He was really surprised at how I aligned myself with a faction that wasn’t a very obvious choice . As a result that had changed the starting objectives of the next chapter and how the world saw me. It wasn’t just the quest lines and supporting characters that changed, but the locations too. He eventually ventured off to an area on the map that I simply had no reason or ability to visit at all in my playthrough.

Even before we got around to chatting, I could tell that things in-game were open to change depending on what I did. For example, I ran into an important character for a faction earlier on and could have chosen to end things violently. If I had, certain events that affected a whole town would have not happened at all. For the sake of thoroughness, I loaded up an earlier save and tested the theory for myself - and found that sometimes even relatively unimportant encounters can have consequences later on. The bottom line is that there’s no ‘optimal’ way to play Tyranny. It would seem and it's up to each player to decide how they wish to enforce Kyros’ laws (or not!). And even things like your decisions during the conquest portion can open up areas in later chapters.

Liam: When travelling the map, you sometimes get encounters. These are not random, but scripted story events. You could gain new companions, talk your way out of trouble and gain favour with someone, or fight your way out of it.

The fights can be quite chaotic, but remember to pause early and often to allow yourself some time to think your strategy through. The game does have some settings you can adjust for when it auto-pauses, like when entering combat which I have turned on as I find it incredibly useful. Your companions also have different sets of AI, so do make sure to use them to not have an insane amount of micro-management going on.

One part about the battles that I especially like, is that consumables don’t take up an action turn. Consumables have their own cooldown per-character, so they don’t get in the way of actually fighting the enemy, which makes it ideal to quickly heal up characters.

The best part about the combat? The combination attacks you can do with two people together, my favourite is being able to literally launch a character called Verse into the air with my magic, and then she fires a bunch of arrows at enemies. It looks amazing, and it’s seriously fun every time it’s done. There’s also another character you can combo with, where you launch a massive boulder into the air, they shatter and and the pieces go flying towards enemies—glorious.


BTRE: I also share Liam’s strong like for combo moves with party members and the additional flexibility that gives to combat. Both combos and regular attacks are rather good-looking; attacks and effects like glowing of weapons and wispy trails of magic pair well with the not-quite-realistic and larger than life animations. This attention to detail extends to various backgrounds and areas in the game. Though I think that a little more variety to the color palette like in Pillars of Eternity would have been nice, especially with fewer browns and greys and more vivid colors, Tyranny does a good job of showing the various areas affected by war and disaster in visually-striking ways.


Liam: You can queue up commands in battle too, if you hold down the SHIFT key, but be sure you’re really clicking on the enemy, as the hitboxes have felt a little off at times for me, resulting in a fair amount of miss-clicks where the attacks just don’t happen as I’ve tried to do it on an ally. What bugs me about queuing up commands, is you don’t see what is queued up, you only see what they’re doing currently or about to do.
One important thing to note, is it seems like you can only queue up attacks after doing one normally, so you can only hold down SHIFT to queue up attacks from the second one onwards. It makes no sense, I wish they would just make it so when you hold down SHIFT it will queue up all attacks you pick.

When it comes to magic, Tyranny’s system is actually rather unique. You craft spells yourself based on scrolls found throughout the game either from traders, or from looting. There are three parts that make up spells: Cores, Expressions and Accents. The cores change the type of spell it is, like Frost or Force. Then you have the Expressions, which change the range of the spell itself. Finally, you can pick an Accent, which which can affect many different attributes of the base spell. Characters can only use a spell that they have enough Lore to be able to equip. The Expressions and Accents change the Lore requirement, so having a mage with a high Lore attribute is a must. You can make some rather brilliant and destructive spells if you have the attributes needed for it.


BTRE: Vancian magic is overdone. In most games, having to prepare spells and being limited number of times you can cast them before resting really slows down the action when you play as a magic-user. The flexibility of Tyranny’s system makes customizing your own spells depending on your preferences both fun and easy. There’s no penalty for swapping spells whenever you feel like trying out something new.

Tracking down different accents and expressions can be a bit tedious early on, and acquiring them expensive. Loot from encounters and dungeons can help but it’ll still take a while to build up a sizeable arsenal. But, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to make your chain lightning be as awesome as it can possibly be and so tracking down scrolls is worth the bother.

Liam: There’s been a few times where the game has made me positively giddy at just how evil I can be. Striking fear into my companions, forcing them to stay in my service and kicking people off of extremely high towers. Barbaric at times, but delightfully satisfying.

The Spires system is quite good too, think of them like your bases of operations. You can upgrade them, and recruit some pretty useful people too like traders and trainers.

The entire game feels like a streamlined evolution over Pillars of Eternity, as I wasn’t the biggest fan of that one, although after patches it did become a much better game that I need to do a retake on. Tyranny feels like a familiar, but much more tame beast in comparison. Much easier to get into, and more exciting overall.

The companion system is good, as they each have their own inventory, skills and so on, but they feel underdeveloped when in comparison to how deep the rest of the game can feel. They have a very limited amount of phrases to use during combat, which can become more than a little tiring to the ears. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve heard “bleed out you…” and one or two other phrases.

You also don’t get to talk to your companions and learn about them as much as I had hoped, in fact that’s really very little of that.

BTRE: While there’s plenty to praise about the game, this isn’t to say that there aren’t a few glaring problems that mar the generally competent storytelling. Putting aside certain fantasy cliches like ancient and mysterious civilizations and their artifacts, some aspects of the writing are underdeveloped. Companions are a mixed bag whose appeal will depend on your interests but, more importantly, there’s no much they do when it comes to storytelling. They quip and add things when you’re talking to other NPCs, sure. And you can learn about their pasts. But it felt like there’s no clear character arc to them. All that loyalty and fear I had induced in them ultimately didn’t matter much as I reached the end of the game. Early on, you’re more involved in breaking their spirits or inspiring them but by the end they’re just there. It doesn’t feel like there’s much payoff other than unlocking the combo powers you can use in combat. For a game that’s all about how your choices affect the world, it’s strange that your closest minions are essentially static in their personality and aspirations. Even the inclusion of the typical companion quest line type deal that was present in Pillars was strangely omitted.

Another minor problem is that, for all the freedom that your choices normally grant you, is that occasionally you’re forced to pick something binary. It only happened 2-3 times in my playthrough but it was just a sharp contrast to the very many choices you normally get in encounters and when dealing with situations. It was enough to remind me that I was playing just a game with a finite amount of scenarios. These rare moments that break the illusion of the intricate web-like story threads is a minor sin. It ranks down there along with reputation earned for towns being relatively useless in affecting the story when compared to the effects that faction reputation can have.

Liam: Performance wise, I’ve been getting near enough a solid 60FPS almost the entire way through. There was only one area that dropped the FPS down to 40FPS, as there was a lot going on graphically.

Liam: The only bug I have encountered, was at one point the game kept me in combat mode after defeating all the enemies I could for 2-3 minutes, but after being patient with it, it finally dropped combat mode and allowed me to continue.

A pretty engrossing RPG full of options, lore and an enthralling campaign that is interesting to play more than once thanks to the amount of decisions you can make that will alter your experience. While the overall story stays essentially the same, the way it’s played out can feel very different based on the choices you make.

It brought back memories of playing Baldur’s Gate many moons ago as a child. I can certainly recommend checking this one out. It also has one of the most amusing achievements in a game ever with “This! Is! Tyranny!” you will know what I mean if you take that path.

BTRE: I had slightly more free time to play the game before its launch and was able to finish my first playthrough. My run took about 25 or so hours, which is a slight bit shorter than the standard CRPG experience. But because of all the permutations and quests that can potentially show up or not depending on what the player does, there’s heavy incentive to replay the game multiple times.

That said, my biggest nitpick is how the game wrapped up. It felt relatively abrupt, given the rather huge developments in the game world. Often in fiction a lot of specifics about developments will be left to the imagination of the reader so that one can fill in the blanks with what they like. This is a balancing act and one that in my full playthrough I felt was askew. Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure, the choices I made, and the reasons why I was making them. But even greater issues and questions that seemed to pop up in the relative background to your immediate actions, around halfway through the game, never got much closure. I fully expected a few more hours of gameplay after I did a few dramatic things in order to resolve an incoming crisis. The fact that things ended with a relative whimper may have been due to all my previous choices. However, I’m more than open to playing through the game again in hopes to see if the endings vary dramatically.

If not, the game at least sets itself up nicely for a sequel. And that’s a good thing! Despite my issues with some of the storytelling and systems, Tyranny gets a solid endorsement from me. It’s good to not have to follow a set path and it’s even better to be able to have such wildly different experiences than your friends. I certainly look forward to talking more to Liam after he gets to the ending. In the meanwhile, I’ll be starting a new game, leisurely seeing how things play out differently this time around.

Liam: This last shot perfectly sums up my playthrough

The game will release later today. We give it a total score of 4/5 Archons.

You can find Tyranny on GOG, Steam and Humble Store.

Glory to Kyros. Article taken from
Tags: GOG, Humble Store, Review, RPG, Steam | Apps: Tyranny
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Guppy 10 Nov, 2016
Feel free to include an "executive summary"
Liam Dawe 10 Nov, 2016
Quoting: GuppyFeel free to include an "executive summary"
Both myself and BTRE included a summary near the end. A one line "TLDR" won't do the game any justice.
Stupendous Man 10 Nov, 2016
I suppose the question we all want answered is: do cloaks show?
Liam Dawe 10 Nov, 2016
Quoting: Stupendous ManI suppose the question we all want answered is: do cloaks show?
The game as far as I could tell, doesn't have cloaks.
QuanTuM 10 Nov, 2016
Quoting: Stupendous ManI suppose the question we all want answered is: do cloaks show?

Will they ever fix that? I check after every update but still no capes for tux in PoE...
lucifertdark 10 Nov, 2016
Quoting: liamdaweThe game as far as I could tell, doesn't have cloaks.
Well that's one way of fixing the problem, leave them out totally. ;)
cRaZy-bisCuiT 10 Nov, 2016
Why don't you guys just accept a game could possibly have no cloaks?

I'm pretty sure they were about to implement cloaks, but then the dev team took an arrow to the knee.
whitewolfguy 10 Nov, 2016
Quotereleases today day-1 on Linux

This is music to my ears.
raverrebel 10 Nov, 2016
Too bad that there is no multiplayer (especially local split screen, like Divinity has, would be nice)..
ZekThePenguin 10 Nov, 2016
I don't really agree with the notion that there are so very few bad guy games. Granted, a lot of games lean more toward anti-hero, but there has been no shortage of evil games.
Hate, GTA, WoW, Fable, many Star Wars games, and others allow players to be bad guys.
It's fun to play good guys and bad guys. This particular game looks terrific, and I'm looking forward to trying it out!
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