Tyranny Preview: Becoming the Bad Guy In Obsidian’s Next RPG

When it comes to epic storytelling, there’s always different sides of the narrative to experience. But there are times where it seems like the bad guys have more interesting plots and motivation, making the good guys seem a bit boring. The developers at Obsidian Entertainment have taken note of this, and taking advantage of their long history developing games focused on storytelling and rich RPG mechanics, and their next forray into the cRPG sub-genre aims to get you to step into the bad side and bring the world under your rule.

In Tyranny, players will experience how much of an impact they’ll have as the primary enforcer and ward to an evil empire, which is on the cusp of having total world domination. Speaking with game director Brian Heins, we talked about what Tyranny aims to do, and how players will have a more active role in shaping their lore and history than ever before.

In this dark-fantasy RPG, the known world has been taken over by the evil overlord Kyros, and you’re one the empire’s most valued assets. As a fatebinder, you’ll have to restore order in the land after wartime has altered the dynamics of civilization. Along the way, you’ll band together rival factions, and make enemies of others. Exploring the war-torn land, you’ll come to find out how far the reach of Kyros’ empire goes, and how you’ll be the one to shape its future.

Of course, this is a fairly broad description of what you’ll be doing throughout the game. One of the major features of Tyranny is that it allows players to tailor their own world’s lore and back story —or if you want to be surprised, tackle a randomly generated one. Think of it as a more hands-on approach to world-building. Instead of hearing about great conflicts or battles from days past, you’ll decide what happened in the past, and then explore the world that came after those fateful decisions.

“step into the bad side and bring the world under your rule.”

In similar vein to cRPG titles like Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale, and the recent Pillars of Eternity (also from Obsidian), Tyranny is a traditional isometric role-playing game where you control unique characters, do battle with swarms of foes, and make important decisions for the world at large. What sets Tyranny apart from the others is that it kicks the later point up several notches. During character creation, players will be able choose their character’s classes, attributes, and their background, which has a stark impact on the game’s generated narrative.

“We really wanted the characters you make to fit in with the world that you make, and give you different ways to have your character become a fatebinder and join Kyros’ empire,” said game director Brian Heins. “The game is constantly shaping and changing based on your choices, and they’ll either love you or hate you based on who you are and what you’ve done.”

Story and narrative has always been one of Obsidian Entertainment’s strong suits, and this darker take on the high-fantasy setting really lives up to their pedigree. In the Conquest mode, players can take their created character and choose the outcomes of the world’s major battles and events. Set on a strategic map with figurines, you’ll be able to side with factions, back stab others, sack and pillage towns, and occupy neighboring cities — all in the name of the Kyros empire. This not only serves to ease players into the world, but to allow them to have a say in what the world looks like once the game begins.

“One thing we decided early on was to make a world that wasn’t the standard high-fantasy with elves and dwarves. People understand those concepts already, and you don’t have to explain them, but for ours we wanted to focus on these unique key factions that are fighting amongst or along side one another, and we wanted get players to make the most informed and honest decision they could. We include a number of glossaries and texts in-game to give as much detail and backstory as we can. When you have a lot of names thrown at you it’s a little overwhelming at first, but once you learn about them, you’ll be able to make informed choices about them. Because it is about you being this evil character, the story and the choices you make just drive everything you do. There are several different paths you take, and many you won’t see because of the choices you make.”

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After the Conquest is complete, you’re dropped right into the game after a major battle between the factions. This level serves as the tutorial for the game’s core mechanics, such and the battle system, dialog menus, and traversal. During this area, the seeds you’ve planted during conquest mode are now fully grown, and you’ll find characters and key groups reacting to every choice you made. My character, a noble scion with a silver tongue, and some sharp hand-to-hand skills, made a name for himself by being the diplomat who wasn’t afraid to get dirty.

In Tyranny, you’re the bad guy. There’s no redemption, no turning point to become a decent person — it goes goes from black, to various shades of grey. Should I torture this man for information then publicly execute him afterward, or make him a slave for the more brutal and primitive faction that needs to be appeased. Though you can be a morally repulsive individual, you can also be a fairly pragmatic and somewhat conscientious person — of course, all in the name of bettering your evil empire. I’m really impressed how it never really managed to break away from the bad guy archetype. Even the decent choices had a villainous angle to it, which made it fairly refreshing as far as storytelling goes.

Obsidian Entertainment’s next title is definitely ambitious and looks to fit in very nicely with their history of rich RPG games. With over 900,000 words in the script, and with many different scenarios and plots which will remain unseen by most players, Tyranny is certainly a title for fans looking for a fresh take on the classic PC RPG, and for those who want to see an epic story from a different perspective. And with its release on November 10, you’ll be able to experience this game sooner than you’d think.