Rating: Not Available
Available for: Windows, OS X, Linux
Not many games give you the option to be on the villain’s side. Even less games allow you to embrace being on the evil side without some sort of “change of heart” redemption arc where you suddenly start fighting for good. Obsidian Entertainment’s Tyranny (2016) places you in the position of deciding what kind of chaotic or lawful evil alignment you want to explore and how you will navigate in a world dominated by evil.
Your custom character is a young leader working for the Archon of Justice under the Overlord Kyros’ rule. As a Fatebinder, you are tasked in settling a dispute between two generals and their respective armies: the Archon of War with the Disfavored and the Archon of Secrets with the Scarlet Chorus, while trying to conquer the last remaining resisting region. Both generals have different ways of leading, which is what has been delaying the conquest and causing tension between the two. The Archon of War, Graven Ashe, prefers to keep his army small and disciplined to avoid rebels and untrustworthy recruits. The Archon of Secrets, the Voices of Nerat, is a mysterious and chaotic being, who prefers to recruit as many bloodthirsty soldiers as possible, finding each of them expendable in the long run. When the conflict has reached its climax (at the end of the first Act), you are forced to choose a side, but that isn’t the end of the conflict. Upon returning to meet with the Archon of Justice, he informs you that you must launch an investigation into who was the true cause of the conflict, laying blame on either Graven Ashe or the Voices of Nerat, all while you are uncovering secrets that place you as a threat to the Overlord’s power.
Tyranny is a decision-heavy game where you’re not always able to tell how impactful your decision will be. It doesn’t pause and highlight the “big decisions,” so you’re often wondering how much a decision to will to affect you later. While choices made in the prologue might only seem like backstory set-up and unimportant to a degree, almost all of these decisions will be brought up later on, have some sort of consequence in the narrative, and you will be judged by it. However, unlike most games where you might feel guilty about choosing one way or the other, Tyranny’s decisions can be purely selfish and self-serving. You can deal with conflicts in very diplomatic ways or in very bloody ways, whichever is going to serve your priorities better. Tyranny understands that there isn’t just one way to be evil and in a world where you have to constantly watch your back, why should you help your fellow leaders if it’s not going to benefit you in some way? The narrative embraces this way of thinking with the choices it gives you, and yes, if you’re feeling good you can throw away all your alliances and throw them all under the bus, too.
For this playthrough, I decided to side with the Voices of Nerat during the first Act, under the mindset of “keep your friends close and your enemies closer.” As a chaotic being, the Voices of Nerat is my favorite type of villain to watch as he tried to undermine other people’s goals for the sake of his own personal knowledge in the most bone-chilling manner. I knew I could never fully trust the Voices of Nerat, but I still followed his orders, afraid of anything that might harm the alliance and by extension, harm the goals of the Archon of Justice and the Overlord. As the game progressed and I found more evidence for both Graven Ashe’s and the Voices of Nerat’s involvement in the conflict, I found it hard to just blame one and was ready to blame them both when it came time to pass judgement. With having a customizable character, Tyranny makes it even easier to make your decisions based on how you have decided to play your character. I played more of a “chaotic evil” character this go around, but I could easily make a “lawful evil” character next time to align with Graven Ashe. Tyranny is also not limited to siding with one character or the other: there are multiple ways you can align yourself and many ways you can handle situations. Because many of the significant choices in the game are subtly presented, it relieves some of the pressure of “am I making the ‘right’ decision?” and lets you choose based on what comes naturally.
In order for your decisions to not exist in a vacuum (even a Fatebinder cannot do whatever they want), each decision was weighed on a Wrath vs Favor scale. Everyone from companions to Archons to armies had an opinion on what you did and they would not let you forget it. It was to the point that choices I made before I even recruited a companion were brought up immediately upon recruitment and I was greeted with either Wrath or Favor, accordingly. I played around with making both diplomatic decisions and bloody decisions (depending on whose company I was in), which resulted in a thorough round of scolding from all sides at one point or another. However, I was still able to garner Favor from those who approved of my decisions. Something I noticed that was especially interesting was how one companion’s Favor with me overruled another companion’s Wrath when pressing for questions. I wasn’t able to explore this aspect too much, but it was the first time I had ever seen companion approval having an affect on each other so directly.
In a game that focuses so much on your character being on the side of evil, it was important for Tyranny to show that they would not shy away from being evil. Tyranny embraced what it means to be evil by presenting it in different forms and definitions, allowing for a “play it your way” type of gameplay united with multiple types of decisions. This text-heavy CRPG was a lot of fun to play through with its interesting approach to an angle that frequently falls short in other games, and I recommend checking it out!