Tyranny Review

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Paradox Interactive
Developer:Obsidian Entertainment
Release Date:2016-11-10
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Buy this Game: Amazon ebay

Your reward for most battles -- other than a chance to build up skills -- is some equipment.  Equipment comes in five tiers (from basic to masterwork), but it's not very exciting.  Way too many items have the same stats, and only rare artifacts have magical bonuses.  The only thing you have to worry about for equipment is whether you want to use heavy armor or light.  Heavy armor protects you better but adds to your cooldowns.  Light armor protects you less but gives you better precision for making critical hits.  So while characters aren't in any way restricted about what they can use, the end result is about the same with tanks using heavy armor and DPS characters using light armor.

Overall, Tyranny's engine works well enough.  It's easy to use, and it does everything needed to support a campaign, but it's more workmanlike than exciting.  This is especially noticeable during combat where the spells are minimalistic.  You're not going to see lots of fancy fireworks, or bells and whistles, while you're playing.

Campaign

The campaign for Tyranny is short.  I always find myself on the long side of the playing time spectrum, but it only took me 30 hours to work my way through the content.  Sometimes 30 hours feels right -- the Shadowrun games are an example of this -- but Tyranny plays more like a TV show that didn't get renewed, and the showrunners suddenly realized that they had to wrap everything up in one final episode.  I don't know if Obsidian is planning for DLCs at a later time, or if they had to cut content to meet a deadline, or if Tyranny is exactly how they intended it, but it feels like it's incomplete, and the ending in particular is sudden and unfulfilling.

That being said, what you do in the campaign is interesting -- and different than what you usually see in an RPG, which is great.  You start out as a Fatebinder in the employ of the evil warlord Kyros, which means you're supposed to travel around and settle disputes, but soon you get involved in Kyros' plans for conquest, and you have to make decisions that change the course of the war.

Your decisions give you four distinct ways to play the campaign.  For each of these branches, you visit the same locations on the world map, but why you're there and who you're fighting change.  Sometimes the campaign railroads you into doing something, and there are a few 180-degree tone shifts, but it's impressive how Obsidian squeezed four dramatically different campaigns into one game without exponentially increasing the amount of content required.

Also, while you're exploring a branch, you're free to play your character however you want.  Just because you're working for an evil overlord, that doesn't mean you have to be evil yourself.  So you can kill people, take bribes, and betray alliances, or you can be good and honest.  Depending on what you do, you can gain fear or loyalty from your companions, and you can gain wrath or favor from other characters and factions.  I've seen this system get heralded in a few places, but to me it seemed much the same as any other like/dislike system, especially since there aren't any ramifications.  With enough fear/loyalty/favor/wrath, you gain extra abilities, but that's it.  You can't scare your companions away, and factions won't stop working with you if you make them too mad, so from a roleplaying perspective, the counters are mostly meaningless.

About half of what you do in the campaign is talk to people.  Sometimes this is rewarding, but sometimes it isn't.  Your companions and some of the major NPCs are distinctive and well-written, but a lot of the dialogue is just filler to give you background information that your character should already know.  I hate it when conversations are written to inform you the player rather than the character you're controlling, and Tyranny does this a lot.  For example, at one point you can ask your fellow Fatebinders about the history of the Fatebinders and about the archon in charge of your order -- like you wouldn't know.  Unfortunately, you have to read through all of these conversations because you never know when one might lead to a quest or to a skill-building dialogue check.

Obsidian also sort of sabotaged themselves in the storytelling department.  One of the things the evil overlord Kyros does when she conquers a land is destroy all of the informative texts she can find (to keep people uneducated so they can't challenge her), but that means you learn next to nothing about the game world's history because nobody knows it.  Everything is just here and now, so there aren't a lot of subtleties or hidden motivations to the characters or situations.  Compare this to Pillars of Eternity, which had a detailed, emotionally-charged history, where you could understand why people did certain things just based upon where they grew up.  Unfortunately, this makes the world of Tyranny far less interesting than the world of Pillars.