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While it will take three hours for the game to unlock, the first reviews for Obsidian Entertainment's Tyranny are out. The title has garnered a few positive reviews so far, though they do suggest the reception will overall be more mixed than with Pillars of Eternity.
PC Gamer found the ending abrupt and its combat dumbed down, 75/100.
That abrupt end is conflicting and frustrating. On one hand, I'm excited by the prospect of a sequel and the implications that it has for my character. On the other, the ending feels so abrupt and unsatisfying—relieving none of that pent up emotion or tension I had. It sets the stage for a final battle, but then slams the door shut on the story and slips a half-hearted summary of what happens next under it and the credits roll.
It's hard not to let an ending like that color my impressions of Tyranny. At the same time, my second playthrough has reminded me what a memorable journey it was before everything deflated in service of setting the stage for a sequel. Tyranny has fantastic ideas and its worldbuilding is unparalleled, but botches the execution, preventing it from all coming together to form a modern classic. When the story isn't pushing you to make specific decisions or bombarding you with repetitive combat, it feels like it could have rivalled the likes of Baldur's Gate 2 or Planescape: Torment. It's still worth playing, but Tyranny falls far short of the excellent standard set by Pillars of Eternity.
MMORPG finds next to no flaw, on the other hand, 9/10.
I won’t touch much on the story, but Tyranny’s is a fantastic tale whose decisions are entirely up to you as the Fatebinder. Without giving specifics, I really started to feel the pressure of being the hand of an evil Tyrant when I was tasked with choosing between killing a baby because of its lineage, who also happened to be my ally’s grandchild, or trying to subvert Kyros’ law and drawing unwanted attention towards my rise in power. It’s a very heavy game, and what may seem like a simple choice at first can have truly far reaching consequences as you go on.
Tyranny is a game that must be played by any RPG fan. Some may knock its “old school” approach and style, but that’s about the only complaint that could be levied against such a wonderfully unique and deep RPG. It does everything Pillars of Eternity tried to do and it does so better. Consider Tyranny highly recommended and one of the best RPGs of the year.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun didn't finish the game but has a review-in-progress, with some very mixed thoughts. An excerpt:
Muddled? I am. There’s so much going on here, but I never really feel like I’ve got a proper grip on it. It feels like a puddle the size of the Atlantic – this vast concept, but too gossamer to sink in deep. Huge stories, but minor roles in them. Exquisite detail, but all going by too fast. And yet, pretty good with it. Just not as good as what’s come before.
Overall Tyranny provides a fantastic RPG experience with solid mechanics and an interesting choice filled story that should keep players engaged throughout. Everything about the game oozes quality and while it has taken a lot from Pillars of Eternity and feels very similar, it offers a unique story that certainly sets it apart.
It’s nice to have a game where the setting isn’t about stopping the evil but instead working within the confines of that evil. Doing good deeds overtly will get you killed, using the system to your benefit is key. The game gives players a choice of who they want to be within an evil overlord’s regime and the execution of that by itself, is impressive.
That said, my biggest nitpick is how the game wrapped up. It felt relatively abrupt, given the rather huge developments in the game world. Often in fiction a lot of specifics about developments will be left to the imagination of the reader so that one can fill in the blanks with what they like. This is a balancing act and one that in my full playthrough I felt was askew. Don’t get me wrong – I thoroughly enjoyed my adventure, the choices I made, and the reasons why I was making them. But even greater issues and questions that seemed to pop up in the relative background to your immediate actions, around halfway through the game, never got much closure. I fully expected a few more hours of gameplay after I did a few dramatic things in order to resolve an incoming crisis. The fact that things ended with a relative whimper may have been due to all my previous choices. However, I’m more than open to playing through the game again in hopes to see if the endings vary dramatically.
If not, the game at least sets itself up nicely for a sequel. And that’s a good thing! Despite my issues with some of the storytelling and systems, Tyranny gets a solid endorsement from me. It’s good to not have to follow a set path and it’s even better to be able to have such wildly different experiences than your friends. I certainly look forward to talking more to Liam after he gets to the ending. In the meanwhile, I’ll be starting a new game, leisurely seeing how things play out differently this time around.
In short, this is Game of Thrones, not Lord of the Rings. Being noble is all well and good in a standard fantasy story, but Tyranny makes sure that being smart is key. This is truly where Tyranny‘s quality really shines, steering the player off the path of a perfect avatar of incorruptible will.
Of course, the game is not perfect, and some may find the odd all-or-nothing decision regarding forces to recruit jarring, or the locations within the world itself a little too devoid of scope to be a truly immersive experience. However, it’s in the large concepts, and in its gentle manipulation of the player’s trained responses, that Tyranny finds its purpose. A must-have for fans of the genre, and a worthwhile title for those after a truly different experience.
I have to wonder if Tyranny was meant to be much larger. There’s certainly plenty of evidence to suggest that this is the case: the dearth of enemy diversity, the uneven pacing, the jarring final act, and then there’s a crafting and research system that barely has any time to develop – it feels like a lot of cuts were made. It’s especially disappointing in a game that is often genuinely exceptional.
Despite this disappointment, I can’t help but be impressed with what Tyranny does get right. Though I’ve mentioned Knights of the Old Republic II and Planescape: Torment, there isn’t really another RPG like Obsidian’s latest. It’s incredibly bold, and if you go down the darker path, often sickening. When it’s at its best – pretty much the entirety of the fantastic and thankfully quite meaty second act – it more than holds its own against the greatest PC RPGs.