After completing the game the other day (29 hours of game time) I felt extremely unsatisfied. I don’t really want to write a full on review of the game, but I do have some thoughts I would like to express.
I don’t play many CRPGs. I didn’t play Pillars of Eternity which shares the same developer (Obsidian Entertainment) and engine. The last CRPG I played was the Boulder’s Gate remaster and I didn’t even finish it. That being said, some of the positives and negatives I’m about to go over may be prominent in these types of games and I just wasn’t aware of them going in. Anyway, let’s get started.
Tyranny has an awesome story that puts you in the shoes of a fatebinder following Overlord Kyros’ commands. Kyros is the ruler of the Northern Empire and the newly taken over Tiers where the story takes place. Fatebinders carry out Kyros’ will and commands. Kryos can cast mighty spells that effect whole territories, but only through a Fatebinder’s words. This is where you come in. You are tasked with stopping the revolting forces across the land and issuing an edict that must be fulfilled or else everyone in the surrounding land dies, including you.
There is a load of backstory and recurring characters that you will be introduced to and Tyranny does an amazing job of helping you remember all of it. Specific words in the text such as people, places, and concepts are colored differently indicating that you can scroll over them, popping up a brief explanation of who or what it is. This helped immensely over the course of the game.
The combat is a lot of fun although it doesn’t really do anything new for veterans of the genre. You control a party of up to 4 people, can pause the game at any time to issue commands to your allies, cast spells, swing swords, and shoot arrows. It’s the typical fantasy rpg. One system that is new is the combo attacks. These are powerful abilities that require you and a party member to perform that will devastate the enemy. Something like Verse sweeping the target while you pound the floor around it. They look great.
There is a diverse set of characters that you meet over the course of the game. The potential party members that can join you showcase a variety of moral and stylistic representations. Barik, for example, being an armored knight for the Disfavored army with a sense of loyalty to his leaders, but is intolerant of anyone opposed to his views.
During character creation you have a chance to craft your backstory in a rather unique way. Conquest allows you to shape the starting state of the world by choosing branching paths of actions you took to help Kyros take over the Tiers.
Spell creation is pretty cool. You first choose a base element (fire, lightning, ice, etc;), then a form (projectile, area of effect, cone, etc;), and finally you can add bonuses such as piercing, reduced cooldown, increased damage, and larger aoe. The only problem is that to use the most powerful spells, you need a high Lore skill, and by the time you achieve that, there isn’t many enemies left in the game to use the spells on.
The art style is fantastic. Not just in game visuals, but the drawn depictions of the characters and environments in between acts. I loved to pan the camera around an area after I explored it to take it all in.
Your actions during Conquest and over the course of the game actually have an impact on future events. There is a reputation system for each npc and faction which can sway storylines and unlock different abilities depending on your choices.
There is A LOT of text. A TON of backstory. Some may see this as a good thing because there is a lot of depth to the world and how/why it got this way. Some may see this as overly complex and don’t want to sit through sometimes 45 minutes of reading what each of your party members thinks about current events. Just know that there is a lot to take in if you want the full experience.
The voice acting is actually pretty good. The problem is that there isn’t enough of it. What really stood out to me was that mid conversation with someone, the voice acting would stop, forcing me to read the rest of the text. It catches me by surprise every time and takes some of the impact away. It will literally happen in the same conversation with the same person!
This is the big problem I have with this game and I’m not sure if it was just because of the specific ending I happened to get or not. It felt like it ended way too early, leaving an unsatisfying and unfulfilling feeling. It seemed to end at the climax of the story. Right when you were beginning to figure things out and see where it was taking you, credits roll. They even give you some unique items right before it ends that you can’t even use because there are no more enemies to face. What’s worse is that it seems as if there was going to be additional acts because of some concept art in the official art book. It’s like they cut the game short.
And this might just be me, but I’m getting sick and tired of the Fallout style slideshow ending. I swear some of the slides actually contradicted each other with events I completed over the course of the game. After 20 minutes of reading all the slides, I just sat there thinking about what could have been and why it ended so quickly. I felt like I wasted my time.
The AI group members aren’t perfect, and I didn’t expect them to be, but they can sometimes really mess up when you need them to come through. I set one of my party members to be a designated healer, but he wasn’t reliable on his own. He would attempt to heal others when they were below 40% health which sometimes is way too late. I know in other games of this type you could set a threshold of when he should be using certain spells, like say when someone dips below 70% health use X spell. I had to manually take over his role most of the time to make sure the right people were getting healed at the right times.
The loot drops from enemies and specifically bosses are underwhelming for multiple reasons. I would expect not just boss specific weapons (which do drop), but also their unique looking armor to drop. You can upgrade most of the weapons in the game to similar if not better stats than the legendary artifact weapons you pick up along the way. The issue with some of the loot continues with my next point….
There is no way to continue playing your character after the game is over. There isn’t a new game + and there isn’t a character import/export feature which I believe is important to CRPGs such as this one. And it’s a big problem for me because you start to get some awesome weapon drops near the end of the game that you have no one to use on. Enemies don’t respawn so I was stuck with this unique weapon and nothing to test it on. Where’s the fun in that?
I only ever ran into one crash to desktop which cost me about 30 minutes of progress. Unfortunately after reading a few forum posts, others are experience game breaking scripting issues where they can’t progress because of an event not triggering. Hopefully these problems will be fixed with a patch.
I can’t help but feel like they could have done a better job with the UI. The bottom left corner shows TWO sets of character portraits. It takes up unnecessary screen real estate.
I guess there WAS enough for me to say to warrant some type of review, but this is what came out of me. It’s unfortunate that a game that started off so strong left me feeling empty and unfulfilled.
I really did like the game and wanted to do another playthrough, but knowing what the ending brings and the lack of continuing my character just prevents me from doing so.