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Tyranny GDC 2016 Previews

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Tyranny GDC 2016 Previews

Preview - posted by Infinitron on Tue 22 March 2016, 16:34:08

Tags: Brian Heins; Matthew Singh; Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

The media embargo on Obsidian's recently announced RPG Tyranny has finally lapsed, and a bunch of sites have posted their impressions of the game from GDC:

I'll try to summarize the important points:
  • The game uses the Pillars of Eternity engine and is RTwP.
  • Combat seems more dynamic than Pilllars, with stuff like combo moves that can make companions shoot up in the air and fire arrows at the enemy.
  • Party size is four rather than six.
  • The character system is classless with improve-by-use progression, although there are still experience points and levels.
  • There's going to be some sort of spellcrafting system, but Obsidian aren't ready to talk about it yet.
  • The game will have a stronghold, which they also aren't ready to talk about yet.
  • It's a shorter game than Pillars, focused on choice & consequence and replayability. One site mentions a playtime of less than 20 hours (though I wouldn't take that as gospel).
  • Choice & consequence actually begins at character creation, with different initial world states depending on your choices in a CYOA-style character creation sequence.
  • The usual Obsidian faction reputation and companion approval mechanics are in and can grant you unique abilities, for both positive ("Favor") and negative ("Wrath") reputations.
  • The game world is called Terratus. The story is set in a Mediterranean-inspired region, during Terratus' equivalent of the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age.
Obsidian offered a gameplay demonstration set in a conquered village called Plainsgate - although it might also be rent in half and given the name "Halfgate" depending on one's character creation choices. I'll quote PCGamesN's description of this scenario:

In our demo, we’re introduced to a triplicate of opposed peoples - the townsfolk of Plainsgate, a conquered region that was once lush farmland, a regiment of the army called the Scarlet Chorus and the race of Beastmen that cohabit this area of the world.

It’s a complex series of relationships, and we see it play out in two vastly different ways. In the first, we’ve become good mates with the Scarlet Chorus. They like this incarnation of the Fatebinder - the in-universe name for the judge, jury and executioner role you take, who Singh likens to Judge Dredd - and want help in recruiting one of the Beastmen, improving the relationship between the two factions and continuing a quest chain focused on unlocking the magic of the land. The villagers, meanwhile, want to kill the Beastman for trespassing and generally not being a human.

There’s immediately a huge number of ways to solve this. We can try to explain to the townspeople why we need to take the Beastman. We can kill him for their favour and piss off our army mates. Our authority as an agent of Kyros, the aforementioned top nasty man, is unquestioned - they might not like us, become aggressive even, but they will do what we ask up until we actively attack them. In this version, we make the Scarlet Chorus very happy by freeing the Beastman, but taking the blame from the villagers ourselves. It makes the commoners even angrier at us, but doesn’t affect their relationship with the army. A (relatively) happy ending.

The scene is reset with a load. This time not only are our relationships different, but the land itself is totally altered. Due to some decision made in this save file, the same location of a dusty village is rent through with a massive crevasse of magic energy. This comes from one of Tyranny’s most interesting additions to the genre: when you create a character, you also create the world they inhabit and history they enacted. How brutal was Kyros’ army as it marched the land? What exactly were you in charge of?

[...] This also means the oh-so-friendly Scarlet Chorus no longer like us. This particular group are hostile but unprepared to fight, and still respect our position and power, meaning we can call their bluff on attacking us with a little intimidation, making them retreat. It wouldn’t be a modern, western RPG without a nice bit of chatting to dissuade combat, but Tyranny goes about it a little differently. If you manage to threaten, convince or otherwise dissuade opponents from active, killy combat, you’ll still get a collection of combat skill upgrades, as well as any ones from the social abilities you used to avoid.

[...] Once the Fatebinder arrives at the same imprisoned Beastman from before, the townspeople are still angry that he exists and the Scarlet Chorus still want to recruit him, but they also attack us immediately while the villagefolk scatter, a little braver than their comrades from before. Between the character combo mentioned earlier and a new magic system that allows for unique spell creation, it’s a one-sided affair. Despite a main character focused on sword and shield, our protagonist is still capable of unleashing a massive ball of lightning, custom-made to take out large groups.

In the end the Beastman dies, killed by our hand to help out a fourth faction we’re aligned with in this playthrough. Singh says that this means we’ll experience a whole different follow-up to this and many other areas of the game. This is part of why a single campaign might be a bit shorter than you would expect from an RPG in 2016. Instead, your run will likely be vastly different to mine, and your second as different again.
Age of Decadence: Obsidian Edition? We shall see.

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