Sometimes people have an irrational bias against certain genres, and in my case that bias is against fantasy. Maybe it’s because I think elves look stupid, maybe it’s because I really do believe that a good chunk of mainstream fantasy is just repackaged Tolkein, or maybe it’s because I’m just a giant jerk. Long story short, I’m not a huge fan of the genre. This means that I’ve avoided a lot of gaming’s critically acclaimed RPG’s. I heard great things about Tyranny, though, so I decided to take it for a spin. And boy, was I glad I did.
To begin with, Tyranny isn’t set in a fantasy world per se. It strikes me as something more akin to Warhammer: a violent, strange world where bloodthirsty hordes and zealots wage brutal wars. The hordes in this case are a group of vicious thugs known as the Scarlet Chorus, and the Zealots are a small, but powerful group of weirdos known as the Disfavored. Both groups work for Kyros a super-evil dude, but they are actually bitter rivals, and each seeks to gain more control of the territories. You enter as a Fatebinder, basically one of Kyros’ officials.
The first thing I noticed is that, although you’re the bad guy and you work with the bad guys, you seem to be as much of a victim as everyone else in a sense. Kyros much prefers the stick to the carrot, and the game’s first act sees you ‘motivating’ the Disfavored and Scarlet Song by telling them that if they don’t finish the job, Kyros is going to just have them all killed. Your own background story can be chosen from a variety of tales, but the common thread is that you kinda fell into working for Kyros, and it’s more about survival than it is about loyalty. This is a point I really liked, as it sets the game apart from stuff like Warhammer 40k, where everyone is a lunatic.
Tyranny’s story unfolds spectacularly, and the cutscenes are essentially voice-overs with brilliant hand-drawn scenes. With so many games (and even RPG’s) mangling the concept of choice or oversimplifying it, it’s great to see Tyranny make your choices feel like they truly matter. The fact is, you don’t have the very binary ‘good guy/bad guy’ dichotomy’; it has more to do with what kind of bad guy you’re going to be and how far you’re willing to go. The game makes you feel like a central part of the events, but you also get the feeling that Kyros is very much running the show and you’re almost his lackey.
In terms of the actual fighting and RPG mechanics, Tyranny didn’t wow me. It’s solid and it’s very functional, but it’s essentially a straightforward isometric CRPG experience with a blend of active combat and turn-based (you basically get the chance to pause combat as needed). The game really shines, however, when it comes to the party management system. I felt like they really streamlined a lot of the UI and they made it much easier to manage your party members. Moreover, you get the chance to execute some sweet combo moves, so the combat system really shines in parties. On the whole, however, this is much more of a story-based experience, so if you’re looking for combat you might not like it
One other thing that really stood out in Tyranny was the soundtrack. It seems to depart from the typical orchestral fare, preferring a more menacing sound that blends in elements of tribal music and percussion. It all comes back to this thesis: This isn’t a hero’s journey. You’re the bad guy, and more importantly you’re the bad guy that has to call the shots. Tyranny puts you in a lot of tough spots, but despite always playing the goodie-two-shoes, I found myself taking the more evil path more often than not. On some level, I felt it’d be kind of out of place to get soppy and emotional while working for a dark overlord. It made more sense to just commit to being a monster. You know what they say: Go big or go home.
Tyranny was reviewed using a PC downloadable code of the game provided by Paradox Interactive. The game was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 7 Pro, with a 4GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 970 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 8GB of RAM. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Innovative take on RPG stories
• Meaningful choice system
• Clean UI
• Amazing music
• Feels pretty short
• Some of the dialogue falls flat
• Combat system feels too familiar