I could have rushed Tyranny. I could have spammed the game relentlessly, cracking it out over a weekend to write up what would be a lackluster review. But I won’t do that to you, oh faithful Real Game Media visitors, and perhaps more importantly I won’t do that to this game, which is without a doubt one of the better games I’ve played in 2016. Tyranny has a concept that flips the moral compass of RPGs on its head – usually you play the hero, you’re the underdog, you’re the one person who can claim his/her destiny as the savior of the people – or something along those lines. In Tyranny, you are an agent of evil – unashamedly so as well – and not the kind of agent of evil who repents and becomes the hero. No, you are the bad guy and it never felt so good to be bad.
To illustrate how you are the bad guy, the image above shows a small part of a side-quest. You’ve entered an NPC’s house (nothing new there then from the RPG genre) and rummaged around his things to find some iron, something which is quite the commodity in Tyranny with most weapons and armor being bronze, instead of there being any option to placate Old Man Mua, you can either abruptly demand that he explain himself or kill him. A lot of the options are very much like this, with noble, charitable or kind acts being pretty rare and generally offered to those who you are working with or can gain from. This is the mindset you need to have when you play Tyranny and it is a simple one: show no mercy, give no quarter.
When starting Tyranny, you have a choice of difficulties and ways of playing which are outlined above – but I would seriously recommend those not overly familiar with RPGs, especially isometric RPGs to play on the easiest difficulty – Story Mode. This difficulty is ideal for those new to the genre or those who want to focus more on the narrative of the game, as even Normal can be unforgiving if you let your attention slip. There are also 2 “modes” that can be applied to any difficulty – Expert and Trial of Iron. Expert mode basically removes some elements of the game that assist you as you go, without affecting the overall difficulty of the game. Trial of Iron is another beast altogether, and one that at the moment I would definitely not recommend – you get just one save slot and if your whole party is defeated, then that’s it – game over. Trial of Iron is like Dark Souls mode if Dark Souls didn’t have any bonfires.
The reason why I say I wouldn’t recommend this mode though, is that there were a couple of times through the game that I had to stop, go back a few saves and try again because of one glitch or another. This happened more that once during my initial play-through, where a certain character wouldn’t interact with you the way they are meant to to progress a mission, or quest details wouldn’t update to give you further instruction after completing parts of said quest. Sometimes these glitches you could just sail past, but others resulted in me losing hours of game time to replay sections in the hope that the quests activate and respond correctly. Don’t get me wrong, this was by no means a regular occurrence, but the fact it happened not once but twice when playing through was more than enough for a game that should have been more thoroughly tested before being released.
When you have picked your difficulty, and setup your character, there’s one more option before starting the game properly, to go through the Conquest or to quick-start the game. Quick start would be more for players who aren’t as bothered about the story and want to just dive into the main game – but then playing a game like Tyranny, I can’t see why anyone would play it and not care about the story. Conquest is right up my street, every time I would pick Conquest as it helps to lay the foundations of the kind of person your character will be during the game – I cannot understand why anyone would want to skip that part of the game. Conquest shows you a few scenarios that the invading armies of Kyros the Overlord (more on Kyros and the story soon) have to go through during their invasion of the last lands not in their grasp, known as the Tiers. You basically just have to do some reading into what the scenarios are exactly and pick your course of action.
When you’re in the main game, the controls are intuitive and easy to pick up, however sometimes selecting the enemy that you want to specifically target can sometimes be harder than it needs to be – thankfully the ability to pause the combat to plan and strategize your next move means that this doesn’t present too much of an issue as you just occasionally need to make sure the mouse is in just the right position to select your target. This doesn’t just apply to combat, but when you want to talk to an NPC or select a barrel or random object to search through, sometimes – again – you need to make sure the cursor is in just the right spot. These are little issues, but are little things that could easily be rectified to make the playing experience that much better, and the reason why I’ve scored the gameplay 8 out of 10 instead of 9 or perfect 10, which it could easily be revised to if the game is patched to rectify this.
One of the gameplay mechanics in Tyranny that I was very impressed by was the way that time passes in the game. If you want to go from place to place, like the image above shows, you will be told how long it will take to travel to that location, and the game’s internal clock and calendar moves forward. This mechanic is vital to keep in mind, especially during the game’s first Act, where you have just 8 days in-game to complete your main quest. This mechanic in Tyranny adds to the urgency of getting the job done and getting it done fast.
The story of Tyranny, as briefly touched upon before, is quite unlike any other I’ve played before. As stated, you are the bad guy – specifically a Fatebinder of the Courts and agent of Tunon the Adjudicator, the Archon of Justice. The world of Terratus has been systematically overrun by Kyros the Overlord, in a brutal and ruthless campaign that has lasted 400 years and the final free lands of Terratus are The Tiers, which is the where Tyranny takes place.
During the Conquest prologue of the game, you make the decisions as to how Kyros’s two main armies invade and start to conquer these lands. The two armies in question are the Disfavored, an elite group of iron-clad warriors led by Graven Ashe, the Archon of War – they don’t take prisoners and are tactically as close to perfect as you would want from an army, although they don’t recruit easily so their numbers are small. On the other hand you have the Scarlet Chorus, led by The Voices of Nerat, the Archon of Secrets, the Chorus are much more of a rag-tag army of all manner of soldier, with no real structure they wage war in gangs and use their overwhelming numbers to crush their enemies – although their structure is very cut-throat (promotion is earned by killing your superiors and replacing them “the strong rule”) they recruit freely; once they have control over lands they offer people a simple choice “join or die”.
Kyros is a mysterious figure however, you only hear of him/her (for the sake of argument, let’s say him) but they are a figure of overwhelming power and influence, and as a Fatebinder of the Courts, you are charged with delivering his Edicts. Edicts are basically curses on entire lands and its people, such as an Edict of Execution that you deliver in Act I, which will kill every man, woman and child in the land if Kyros’s armies have not won their battle by a certain day (the 8 in-game days from before). There are more Edicts that have been placed upon other lands in The Tiers that you will experience in the game, all of which will have an effect on your party’s skills when you’re in that area. When you’re in the different areas, you feel like you are in an unstable environment and the lands look worn and under the strain of the Edicts as well as the ongoing invasion from the Disfavored and Scarlet Chorus. The underlying theme however is the tension and unstable truce between these 2 differing armies as they vie for control of The Tiers and win favor with Kyros…
Then there is the issue of the Spires. Five massive structures, older than anyone could guess and spread around The Tiers holding a mysterious energy to them and all being very much an unknown quantity and as much a part of the lands as the rivers and mountains… but I’ll leave that one there – some things you just don’t need to know in this review.
This is one of those games which has a massive amount of attention to detail, both in the lore of the game and graphically. The amount of backstory and intricate information that you can read in the game is phenomenal and no stone is left un-drawn, with each territory in The Tiers having something of a unique feel to it, and you don’t feel like you’re dragging your way through the game, you feel more like you’re traversing an old land full of history and full of stories.
One thing that I felt did let Tyranny down somewhat was the odd use of voice actors within the game. The vast majority of the game was not voice acted (apart from the odd battle-cry or exclamation that a hidden object was found) but then on occasion when speaking with a main NPC or one of your companions, where you had been reading their dialogue they would on occasion be voice acted. I personally disliked this and felt it was a rather odd choice of direction to go in and would have been in favor of either voice acting all the major characters or to not use voice actors at all, just pick one or the other! This is obviously a minor quibble, but one that bugged me nonetheless. The sound effects used in the game worked well and the music was used to a wonderful effect, literally raising goosebumps down my arms at times for the amount of atmosphere that was added as a direct result of this.
Tyranny naturally lends itself to having multiple play-throughs, not only as other character types but because the story can branch off into various tangents with whole areas of the game not accessible if you chose certain paths. The way Tyranny plays out definitely keeps it open for a sequel, it really doesn’t matter how the game ends – a sequel would definitely be welcomed from this particular reviewer.
Overall, Tyranny is an absolutely fantastic game, unfortunately let down ever-so slightly by some bugs that will hopefully be ironed out with post-release patches. The characters you travel and fight alongside are rich and full of backstory, from Verse a member of the Scarlet Chorus with a blood-thirst and overwhelming will to fight to Lantry, an old member of the Sages Guild who fights with quills. I cannot recommend Tyranny enough, it’s a game for those who enjoy a well worked narrative and definitely a game for those with a penchant for tactical mastery and outwitting your opponents.
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