Deep in the dim reaches of the far past, so around September 2012, Obsidian Entertainment needed to switch things up. Obsidian is no stranger to making games. Since its inception in 2003 they've worked on all sorts of different styles of games. However four years ago they were facing a problem and made a saving throw.
The dice were clearly in their favor as we ended up with Pillars of Eternity.
Tyranny follows in the same vein as the critically acclaimed Pillars of Eternity. You'll control a party, you have the real time combat with the option to pause at a button push and of course the isometric view of the world.
That's the basic similarities. Tyranny puts you in new shoes though. You aren't the hero setting out to slay a great evil. You aren't a hero at all.
Evil won, and you are on the winning side.
It's Good To Be Bad
Running through a demo at a convention combines equal parts excitement and exasperation. Tyranny has a beautiful magic system and most of the early part of the presentation was given over to it. However when a dev strongly suggests you craft a particular type of spell, that's not them being helpful, that's making sure that random idiots like myself go through the rest of the demo with approximately the right tools to use against things.
That said, let’s talk about the magic system.
Spells are created for your characters using Core Sigils, Expressions and Accents. The Gamescom demo had access to the core sigils of Fire, Lightning, Ice and Life. Every spell you make will first start with a core sigil and there are more to discover in the game. Think of them like schools of magic. After you pick your core, you have to pick how it is expressed.
Each spell symbol changes depending on what expressions and accents you use which I found to be a lovely addition that probably could have been skipped in design but I am glad that it wasn't. It's a little addition to the system that makes it feel thought out. Anyway after your core sigil you choose how it is expressed. Once again for the demo options were limited, you could create a touch spell, a bolt or a cone. Naturally in the game there will be others to play with. Finally you can add an accent, increasing aspects of the spell like range, damage or duration.
After you've put the spell together you will have a generated name for it, but every spell can be renamed if you want. The spell will also have a lore cost. Characters can only have so many spells on them and cannot use spells whose lore cost exceeds their own lore ability. I can already see myself having fun building some of my party up into lore wielding magic blasting monsters.
The exasperation aspect is only a tiny one and left to the weird world of media demos. If someone insists that you really need to make an ice spell, you can be sure that some of the mobs you meet will be 100% weak to ice. It was completely outweighed by the excitement of crafting what I wanted in terms of spells to use later on.
Pick A Path
Naturally there's more to the game than mere spell systems and the view point. In Tyranny we start out in a world where evil has won and you are a Fatebinder. Fatebinders are the judges of the world whose word is law and naturally carry out the sentences themselves. The demo I got to run through only teases at some of the world elements. I got my hands on an artifact which had its own added spell. In what I think is a great twist, every artifact has a reputation and can become even more renowned through use, which in turn will boost its added spell power. It won't just be my party that is the talk of the world, it can be the very weapons we carry and use.
Tyranny’s world looks great on the map and I can't wait to get my hands on more of it. The demo however kept me in a fun little dungeon full of traps, imps and a small quest to solve. What I played through, I can say I thoroughly enjoyed. Obsidian clearly don't need to be told how to run their business on the back of Pillars of Eternity. This shines through in Tyranny and left me with a fun experience crawling the dungeon. There's plenty of flavor in the world apparent even in the demo, partially coming through the NPC companions. I'm not entirely sure what my roguish companion was threatening to tear out via people’s asses, but she certainly was willing to try.
What will sell the game at the end of the day isn't the fun and varied magic system. It isn't the pedigree of the studio, rich though that is. It isn't even the polished RPG experience. It's the question and the thrust of the story.
In a world where evil has won, where you are no hero and no angel. In a world where you are one of the strong right hands of the big bad, what will you go on to be? What do you want to be? Will you make amends and bring back hope to a world beaten down and crushed underfoot? Or will you keep that foot on the necks of the common people while you show Kyros the true meaning of tyranny?
Tyranny will be available in 2016. What little of 2016 remains, of course. From my limited experience? I definitely recommend picking it up if you want a rich new world to make your mark in.