Last year, Obsidian Enterainment took a walk on the dark side and released Tyranny, an old school isometric CRPG with a twist — the forces of evil have won, and put you in charge of managing the aftermath, serving the evil overlord like a Darth Vader figure. The game told a nuanced story from the perspective of an agent of the evil army, but did being the bad guy pay off? Many fans left the game with the feeling that it felt somewhat incomplete. With a massive free update just out and more new content on the horizon, it looks like Obsidian is ready to pay unto evil what it deserves.
Tyranny was my pick for best #RPG of 2016, but in all honesty, I wanted to love it more than I really did. It was a flawed gem — a beautiful, engaging fixer-upper. Despite its many great qualities, however, Tyranny didn't sell so well, leaving fans feeling frustrated that an interesting new fantasy setting wouldn't get the chance to live up to its potential.
As Obsidian ramped up the development on Deadfire, the crowdfunded sequel to their more traditional fantasy RPG Pillars of Eternity, it seemed like Tyranny was doomed to languish in its incomplete state; an intriguing, albeit failed, experiment.
But with the surprise announcement of a series of new content expansions for Tyranny, it's clear that Obsidian aren't going to abandon the Tiers. Instead, they're giving the RPG in which it's good to be bad a new push. A corresponding sale is clearly aimed at converting fence-sitters into fans of the new and improved Tyranny, but what about those, like myself, who have already completed the game?
Tyranny Invites You To Conquer The Tiers All Over Again With New Game + Mode
Replayability was always meant to be a major selling point of Tyranny. During its development, it was pitched as a branching story that could be completed in just a few hours, inviting multiple playthroughs to see how all the different faction choices and consequences played out. But the released game abandoned this premise after the first act, taking the time pressure off and settling into a more traditional CRPG pace.
The game as it stands takes roughly 50 hours to complete. Though there are many choices to make that will make the various areas play slightly differently, they all ultimately lead to one of four endings, with the main difference between them being whether you face the Overlord at the head of one of the major factions, or stand alone.
These minor variances aren't quite tempting enough on their own to warrant sinking another 50 hours into Tyranny, so Obsidian are sweetening the deal with a couple of new features.
The free update includes a New Game + mode which lets you restart the game while keeping your favorite abilities and goodies from a previous playthrough. Aside from the shallow joy of feeling more powerful, this should let players blast past the game's many trash mob encounters more quickly in order to get to the unseen story branches in less ti — dammit, level scaling!
Tyranny's rather abrupt ending meant that you didn't get a lot of mileage out of the later game abilities and items, so there's that, at least. But if you want to really get the most out of a Tyranny replay, you're going to have to pony up some cash.
New Tales To Tell
The first paid content expansion is called Tales From The Tiers. Although modestly priced at around 7 bucks, the prospective offerings are kind of vague. The DLC peppers new content throughout the game, but it's hard to know before buying how much this will add to your playthough, with wording like "Random encounters while traveling may lead to new quests". So, you could get some new quests...maybe? If the random number god favors you.
No doubt Tales From The Tiers will flesh out a game that sometimes felt obviously rushed or incomplete in places, although some will certainly balk at paying money for what looks suspiciously like a restoration of cut/non-implemented features intended for the game at release.
Tyranny remains a game worth playing for any RPG fan, particularly those of an old-school bent. Buying the game on sale with the DLC would be a solid choice for anyone looking to get into the game for the first time. But veterans may want to hold off their next playthrough until the upcoming expansion, Bastard's Wound, offers up something more satisfying than Tales From The Tiers' bits and pieces.
Will Bastard's Wound Expand Tyranny, Or Complete It?
Publisher Paradox Interactive has revealed that Tyranny: Bastard's Wound will launch later this year. This expansion-sized release introduces a new area — a refugee settlement where people have found shelter from the wrath of Kyros. The player will have to decide how they will treat those who have fled the Overlord's dominion as they apply Kyros' law.
Aside from the fate of the refugee settlement, the new characters and storylines featured in Bastard's Wound include a closer look at the Beastmen and all-new companion quests for three of Tyranny's most memorable party members: Verse, Barik, and Lantry. The expansion will arrive alongside a free update to Tyranny that promises new voice acting, an expanded third act, and an all-new path to an unseen ending for those who wish to remain loyal to Kyros. This last feature in particular addresses a common complaint from fans who felt railroaded into betraying the Overlord.
Tyranny definitely deserves some love. It shirks boilerplate fantasy tropes in order to do something different. If Pillars of Eternity is Obsidian's Baldur's Gate, then Tyranny is their Planescape: Torment. Aesthetically and thematically unconventional, risk-taking, and philosophical, it suffered from a lack of time and resources that stunted its growth and left it feeling somewhat unfinished.
I'm glad to see that Obsidian and Paradox aren't giving up on their vision and are still supporting the game despite lackluster sales figures. Tyranny may be a fixer-upper, and it looks like it's getting the clean-up it deserves.
The only problem with this, of course, is that it's coming in the in the form of paid DLC and updates coming many months after release, when Tyranny would have so obviously benefited from a little more time in the oven before launch. Are we paying extra for Tyranny to be expanded, or simply to be finished?
It will be almost a year after initial release once we finally have the 'complete' Tyranny. Long term fans who believed in it from the beginning will no doubt appreciate the full realization of the gritty RPG's potential, even if they might resent both the long wait and price. Hopefully these updates will attract enough new players to bump Tyranny up from side-project status to one of Obsidian's flagship RPG franchises.
With Tyranny, Obsidian have developed a compelling dark fantasy setting that isn't afraid to explore tough issues of power, justice, mercy and ethics. If they're throwing resources behind developing the franchise further, let's hope that with the next game they'll have the confidence to commit to it from the get-go.