Tyranny (2016) by Obsidian Entertainment

Tyranny starts of as a game of impossible choices. You are the Fatebinder, a man serving the Overlord’s court and handing out sentences to maintain his peace. This grim position constantly asks you to consider; do you want to be the oppressor who enslaves or the oppressor who assimilates?

A unique idea to say the least, Tyranny sets out to offer a different experience from that of most RPGs. Obsidian happily ignores the usual good vs evil spectrum and instead replaces it with more nuanced meters such as Wrath vs Favor and Fear vs Loyalty. And though the game pulls no punches when it comes to placing you in difficult situations; it fails to deliver a gameplay experience that compliments the narrative.

While the combat feels superior and smoother to that of Pillars of Eternity, another Obsidian isometric RPG title, it fails to enhance the immersion of the story. Consider this, one of the recurring actions that you land up doing, is seizing heavily guarded forts. Either you do this for personal gain or to further the Overlord’s goals. However, as the game is an isometric RPG, it basically asks that you and your three other companions, take a fort by yourself. Realistically, this feels…unrealistic. Not because you’re not powerful enough, but because in the interest of being balanced, the game pits you against 3-4 guards every encounter as you take this so called ‘heavily guarded’ fort. This does not seem believable and at some point the immersion just breaks.

This experience is worsened by the lack of enemy variety. 13-15 hours in, all my enemies felt as generic as the ones in a Call of Duty game. They were so tame that I eventually found myself looking away as the combat played out. Perhaps a higher difficulty would have engaged me further but unless it would have brought a wider range of enemies, perhaps ones that justified why an army couldn’t take a fort that I and my three companions could, I might have cared more.

Tyranny is not a bad game. Obsidian builds an excellent and unique world, the characters it populates it with are just as interesting and complex. But one can’t help but feel that developers fall short of the bar set by the writers.

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