Screw Heroes, Obsidian’s New RPG Tyranny Is All About Villians

Are you tired of classical fantasy RPGs about a ragtag group of downtrodden underdogs saving the entire world from a vile villain of villainous villainy? Yes? Well, Obsidian Entertainment is too. So enters Tyranny, a game where evil has already won the war against good and it's your role to continue the dominance of the empire. If you've got goody two shoes, burn them.

Shown for the first time at GDC 2016 under the Paradox banner behind closed doors, Tyranny may be surprising given that Obsidian is the creative force behind Neverwinter Nights 2, Dungeon Siege III, and Pillars of Eternity. But Obsidian has a non-classical streak too with Fallout: New Vegas and South Park: The Stick of Truth, both of which are among the best RPGs in the last decade. By combining this bold approach with the developer's success with Pillars of Eternity, Tyranny hopes to smash the RPG genre beneath its heel.

Played from a third-person isometric perspective, Tyranny follows the exploits of a Fatebinder, which Obsidian essentially describes as this world's equivalent of Judge Dredd. Wielding the authoritarian power as a high-ranking officer of Kyros the Overlord, whose armies conquered the world, you act as both judge and executioner of the remaining denizens who must obey your word. Under the supervision of the Overlords Archon of Justice, you can choose to command with justice and loyalty… or fear and cruelty. Maybe both. Whatever your style, you're not here to play nice.

To contrast how decisions significantly impact the game, Obsidian showcased two similar scenarios that take place in the same town, just in different playthroughs. The main conflict is that a beastman, who has been caught in the middle of the village square, has become the scapegoat around an angry mob but may have important information into the real cause for the nefarious magic that has been occurring throughout the area. The faction controlling the town, the Scarlet Chorus, wants this resolved quickly.

In the first, more civil approach, the player has decided during the world-building phase that the town called Plainsgate has been hit by dark magic and that the empire is allied with the Scarlet Chorus. Speaking with Rancor, the representative of the Scarlet Chorus, the player decides through dialogue choices to handle the situation with the beastman, putting the sole responsibility on your shoulders. That provides favor with the faction and allows you to waltz into the angry mob and free the beastman to the ire of the crowd.

That might incite a riot later down the road, but it's worth learning information about the actual problem. Besides, they're peasants. If there is a riot, they'll just be experience points. On top of that, your character will gain abilities for either pissing off a faction (favor) or incurring its anger (wrath). It seems as though that as long as a faction isn't apathetic to you, you'll reap some kind of benefits.

In the second, more aggressive approach, the player has decided that the two has been gravely destroyed by a magical rift, turning the name of the town from Plainsgate to Halfgate. No longer an ally of the Scarlet Chorus, your team needs to tread lightly in town but, no matter, two Scarlet Chorus fighters decide to pick a fight. Luckily, you can bluff your way out of the battle and scare off the two thugs away. This allows you to enter the square easily and opt instead to kill the beastman. Bwahaha!

While the game's core mechanics weren't explained at length, given that it's still deep in development, Tyranny does have an interesting classless system. Inspired by how characters develop skills in The Elder Scrolls, skills in Tyranny primarily only level up by using them. This goes for both your created character and three companions, and since the setting of the game takes its cue somewhere between the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, you can expect your party to wield primitive weapons.

With the right skills, your companions can create powerful combos, especially those who have a strong relationship between them. For a particularly strong opener, you can use a skill called Death From Above, which has a melee character pound energy into the ground, vaulting a companion into the air and shoot fire arrows at a group of enemies before they know what hit them. Obsidian also boasts that the magic system is highly craftable and the various schools of magic can be deeply affected by the environment. Again, not sure how, but it's something to look forward to as we learn more about Tyranny.

Tyranny is slated to arrive late in 2016 for PC. Cautiously but optimistically, this is a game that has a place on my most anticipated games list for this year. Check out the official website for more info.