Tyranny Preview – It’s Good to be Bad
When I last saw Tyranny at GDC in San Francisco it showed lots of promise. The story is presented after evil has already won and taken over the world, and you play as one of the commanders for Lord Kyros. This time I got to go hands on with a vertical slice of the overall game to try out both combat and decision making.
The scenario I played was based on answers I gave via email beforehand. I was given a version of the commander who was working with the Scarlet Chorus. They, along with another rival faction, were sent into a rebellious location to quell the uprising. Due to the factions hating each other, not much had been completed and I was sent in to clean up. Pushing me along was a countdown for an edict, a massive spell that would destroy everyone in the area.
The demo started far into this quest line, as we prepared to attack a citadel. The main gate was protected by a magical barrier from inside, so we scaled an exterior wall to infiltrate. Once inside combat began and alternates between real time and turn based. The player can stop time at any point and plan out attacks for the four playable characters. I was an archer, and my most useful ability was an explosive missile that did area of effect damage. Unfortunately I couldn’t target a specific section of the ground to attack all my enemies, but was still able to hit a couple that were clumped together.
You can also perform combination moves with party members. One of which caused my tank character to draw attention and debuff other enemies so my attacks would do more damage. Another combo move was to sweep the legs of an enemy and have another character knock them to the ground, causing a bleeding effect. I was directed to focus primarily on the mages, as letting them run loose would cause major hassle. My mage was able to stun one with an illusion spell, and I was then able to move in close with a melee character for the kill.
The combat is fun, as planning and executing a plan of attack is inherently satisfying. The game keeps the player engaged by countering, or moving unpredictably. Neither battle I engaged in was particularly hard, but I’m sure that was thanks to both the nature of the demo and the difficulty level. For those who have played Obsidian’s last RPG, Pillars of Eternity, I feel a majority of this game will feel right at home. Both in visual style, controls, and overall gameplay mechanics. This isn’t a bad thing, since people really enjoyed Pillars of Eternity, and the change in narrative switches the feel of the game up enough to bring those people back in.
Moving into the citadel, I had another combat encounter with more enemies. Keeping track of each character’s health, their ability’s cooldown timers, location on the map, and current foe would be hectic and overwhelming if not for being able to stop time and reorient myself. Thanks to the quick nature of the demo, I was also able to let loose and use all my abilities constantly for a swift victory.
Once the combat ends and you subdue the rebel leader, the Scarlet Chorus appear again to claim the glory. I could have responded with a challenge but instead opted for a passive aggressive comment. Once that dialogue wrapped up the ground shook and my character absorbed what I assume to be a massive amount of energy. The demo quickly faded before the event could develop further. I assume this hints at a larger overall story that will connect these smaller events and missions.
It is hard to tell just how consequential my dialogue choices will be since I only got twenty minutes of hands on time. Given Obsidian’s track records with Fallout: New Vegas and Alpha Protocol, though, they have more than enough experience to deliver.
Combat is very much like their last game, Pillars of Eternity, with some modified layouts. The most promising aspect is the presentation of the story. Being able to view a plot from the villain’s point of view, after the war has already been won by the bad guys, is rarely seen. While I expect the story to eventually shift to my character overthrowing Kyros and choosing between a duality of good and evil, I still want to see it through.