The Baldur's Gate games hold a special place in many players’ hearts. They’re a reminder of a time when PC role-playing games offered hours upon hours of gameplay, and where one simple dialogue choice could send you down radically different paths of the story. The Dragon Age games brought back that concept to some degree, but it was not until Pillars of Eternity that players were delivered a true successor to the games they knew and loved.
Tyranny looks to be following that same lead.
Published by Paradox Interactive and developed by Obsidian Entertainment, Tyranny was playable in a closed doors session at E3 2016. I was lucky enough to play part of a quest, which helped me to get a real feel for what the game had on offer. Stepping into the demo, I had a basic idea of what to expect; having played hours of Pillars of Eternity, I knew what the team at Obsidian were capable of. With Tyranny, I am happy to say they have delivered once again.
Tyranny transports the player to a land where evil reigns supreme. You have the choice of either pushing down the path of darkness or trying to bring light to the land. It all depends on you and the choices you make. Listening to the description of the world, it was evident that Tyranny is filled to the brim with lore just waiting to be uncovered. The demo I spent time with emphasized the importance of choice to the overall gameplay. Through dialogue choices and actions, I could change the outcomes of future battles, even skipping them entirely if I played my cards right. The reputation and karma systems play an integral part in the way the story unfolds, with every choice having a tangible impact to the story and what the player will experience.
Immersing players in a new fantasy universe is not an easy feat in today's market. Players expect a rich world filled with interesting characters, fearsome monsters, and fantastic places they can explore. This is why writing is something that can never be overlooked. It is clear the team at Obsidian know this, and are working hard to build a complicated, nuanced story that pulls players into the world. The dialogue within the E3 demo fits what you would hope for such a work, and although some of it might have been a bit melodramatic for my tastes, it all fits the setting and helps craft a believable world, one that I am very excited to dig into upon release.
Visually, Tyranny harkens back to Baldur's Gate with the traditional isometric style, combined with a modern, high definition feel. While it may not have the flashy graphics or intense action of the Dragon Age series, the game definitely feels very polished. The compelling aesthetic works to pull players into a dark, mysterious world filled with characters and settings you’ll want to know more about. It is a visual style that will please newcomers and old fans alike, with a polished look that doesn’t compromise that iconic style players have loved for years.
If you have played Pillars of Eternity, then you have you have a good idea of what to expect from Tyranny from a gameplay perspective. At its core, Tyranny is an old school throwback to titles in the vein of Baldur's Gate, with a series of modern gameplay elements thrown in for good measure. The real-time combat is mixed up with a pause mechanic that allows players to plan out moves and think strategically with the simple press of the spacebar, not dissimilar to the Dragon Age series. This gives players a sense of chaotic action, while still maintaining control and stability when things get tough. The Fog of War is also present, limiting the view to only what the characters would see. This ensures you always must plan each move carefully, as the tides of battle can shift quickly if you are not careful.
Players will rely heavily on their companions in battle, and interpersonal relationships are another factor players must manage in Tyranny. Every companion matters for the game, and it is up to you to ensure these relationships are cultivated. While the AI in Tyranny will hold their own in combat, working with your party and building relationships will open up special attacks. These are moves that, if timed right, can change the outcome of a fight. I found that these attacks had a real impact on skirmishes, and even allowed me to take down powerful enemies, further stressing the importance of character relationships.
In the short time I spent with Tyranny at E3 2016, it was obvious the team are putting serious effort into building a game people will enjoy. The visuals are crisp while still calling back to the games of old; the gameplay was fun and well designed, and the overall story was rich and teeming with things to discover. It is hard to say if the game can live up to all the hype, but if my brief journey into the world was anything to go by, Tyranny will be a game every RPG fan should be excited for.