Tacticular Cancer: We'll have your balls

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Review RPG Codex Review: Tyranny - You'd Think An Overlord Could Keep It Up

Discussion in 'RPG Codex News & Content Comments' started by Infinitron, Jan 11, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitron Trade Master Patron

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    Tags: Obsidian Entertainment; Tyranny

    Obsidian's latest RPG, Tyranny, only came out two months ago, but discussion of it seems to have pretty much died out over the holidays. One of the last people on our forums to really sink their teeth into the game before it drifted off everybody's New Posts pages was esteemed contributor Tigranes. Having recently retired from his longtime position as an Obsidian forums moderator, Tyranny seems to have put him in a contemplative mood, and he was compelled to write a review of it, which he presented to us a few weeks ago. I believe that those of you who were unhappy with our previous review's treatment of the game's narrative arc will be happy with this one. Plus, we do have a reputation for serial Obsidian reviewing to uphold. Here's the excerpt:

    Let me be clear: the game I described above lasts for maybe five hours, depending on your playing speed. Then it's gone, all gone. The rest of the game is best described as "go here, kill everybody, become stronk". This is strange, because on paper, Tyranny's structure seems set up to continue the good work early on. Like The Witcher 2, you smell out all the factions in the first part, make your super-important choice (TM), then experience one of several branching storylines with X faction. And indeed, there is a nontrivial amount of nonlinearity when you try playing more than once - an asset traditionally praised by the Codex. So what's the problem?

    Tyranny leaves us with the unusual lesson that having multiple paths doesn't help when the basic plot and gameplay underlying those paths is, well, bad. The Witcher 2 maintained consistency in the quality, style and density of its storytelling and gameplay before and after the branching point; Tyranny simply feels like you're riding the same boring railroad multiple times, just from slightly different angles. Of the four paths possible, I completed the 'anarchist' independent path, some of the 'rebel' path, and looked up info on the two faction paths. In all cases, the player is effectively told to go to region X, fulfil the conditions for breaking the Edict of Kyros (which means kill everyone except your chosen buddies), pick up powerful mystical macguffin, then rinse and repeat. You'll go to slightly different locations, since you won't exactly be assaulting your own faction's headquarters, and you'll fight in one playthrough a group that might help you in another. To be sure, there are relatively robust consequences to your choices in allegiance. Where you bulldozed over the local militia in one scenario, they might prove talkative and even cooperative in another, and many NPCs will have their own attitudes that cause them to rush headlong at the player for betraying their faction or take up a more cautious stance. It's not that Tyranny's branching is flawed; we know it can be fascinating to play through similar events from different ends of the stick, learning more about each side's motivations and operations, as masterfully shown in the Age of Decadence. The problem is that the core gameplay and plot at the centre of all the branches is mediocre at best, and awful at worst.

    The core gameplay, as I described, is mindless box-ticking; there are almost no quests with any degree of complexity, and you are reduced to following simple directions through small, relatively linear maps. Nearly every location soon boils down to "kill baddie, get macguffin", and there are virtually no disputes to arbitrate, mysteries to solve, secrets to uncover. Although one of the main objectives in Act 2 is to gather 'evidence' of wrongdoing by the two quarrelling armies, the player never actively performs any investigation. The gameplay feels even more bare-bones because worldbuilding drops the ball as well. Whereas you were previously the lawgiver of a tyrant, mediating between two proud allied armies and subjugating a hostile population, you might now go to a forgotten dungeon of mysterious purpose or function and fight some blobby-looking mysterious creatures, or go to a burning library, fight the opposing faction, fight them some more, then pick up a mysterious item of hidden knowledge - in fact, so hidden that you never actually learn anything from it! The putrid smell of 'generic RPG' progressively overpowers the initial freshness. This becomes laughably apparent in the anarchist path: the player must constantly trot back to the ridiculously named 'Bleden Mark' (what's next, Daark Freddy and Edgy Knick?), whose dialogue each time consists of "oooh, you have grown more STRONK! Now go here, kill some people, and bring back MYSTERIOUS MAGIC ITEM, which will make you EVEN MORE STRONK." If this were a film, I'd feel sorry for the idiotic lines the actor is forced to spew.

    The biggest issue is that whereas Act 1 focuses on your service as lawgiver to Kyros the Overlord, no matter what you choose, Act 2 ultimately becomes a standard RPG where your serial murder fuels your improbably fast-growing *powah* against all who might oppose you. In other words, all the things that made Tyranny's world interesting are now thrown out in favour of yet another juvenile power fantasy. To make matters worse, the game then throws at the player a motley of special magical powers, artifacts, connections, abilities, all of which remain either unexplained or handwaved. The Edict begins as the Overlord's signature move, one which obeys a set of rules that both the player and the world's denizens understand; once the power fantasy begins, they are all thrown out the window as the player's special snowflakiness allows him/her to basically do anything he/she pleases with them. And although I cannot spoil the ending here, the denouement in Act 3 is no less disappointing; there is merely a breakneck and forced elevation of the player from a hardworking fatebinder of the empire to a world-shattering power the likes of which has never been seen. (Bo-ring.) Kyros, who begins the game as an enigmatic entity whose calculated gestures allow him to control and anticipate events from afar, ends the game panicked by the newfound powers of the player - and to be fair, the player's special powers are so unexplained that it is hard to see how Kyros could have known, either. Whether in terms of plot and worldbuilding, or the actual gameplay, Tyranny just isn't compelling beyond the first Act.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Review: Tyranny - You'd Think An Overlord Could Keep It Up
     
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  2. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

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    Sounds like they developed the first act last again, and the "put effort into the first act at the end of the project so all reviewers play the best bit" stands out even more.
     
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  3. Shadenuat Arcane

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    Being an RPG player is suffering~~
     
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  4. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

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    The pain will only be passing. You should survive the process.
     
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  5. abnaxus Arcane

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  6. TwinkieGorilla does a good job. Patron

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    I was a little surprised at how bland it was given the premise. And then I remembered PoE and slapped myself for selective memory habits.
     
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  7. Iluvcheezcake Learned

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    I am SO glad that i didn't buy this turd at the original price. Will wait for bargain bin offers
     
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  8. Make America Great Again Kem0sabe Arcane

    Kem0sabe
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    I won't buy it at all...

    Fuck this shit of even marginally supporting rpg developers who release shit games.

    If you want to play it just to check out what all the fuss is about, then pirate it, because I guarantee that the only thing you will be doing is trying it, because no one in their right mind will push themselves to finish this crap unless they are reviewing it or have absolutely nothing more useful to do with their lives.
     
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  9. Iluvcheezcake Learned

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    Noted
     
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  10. Make America Great Again Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    That's a Best Practice to be honest, given Steam's statistics. The beginning should always be the best and most polished.
     
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  11. Lurker King Arcane The Real Fanboy

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    I will repeat this again. Obsidian doesn't give a fuck about cRPGs. They could just as well being selling hamburgers.

    It is suffering for those who play shitty games.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
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  12. yes plz Arcane

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    One of the game's biggest failings for me was how they constantly sold the the game on the concept of "Evil won and you play as one of the overlord's minions!"... but outside of the Conquest campaign they mostly throw that concept into the trash and rely on the typical generic 'chosen one saves everyone!' bullshit, like this review points out.
     
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  13. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    Not necessarily best practice for the customer (player) though. The skewed degree that they adhere to it is extremely self-serving.
     
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  14. Make America Great Again Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    'Tis. Instead of having to play hours of mediocrity to get to the good parts, you get the good parts right away and can safely shelve it once the quality drops off.
     
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  15. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    I disagree and the answer/solution/final product does not have to be as biinary as that. Nor does there have to be such sharp quality differentiation between stages of the game.

    Tyranny was never anything more than a low effort cash grab.
     
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  16. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    It seems logically unnecessary to presume malicious intent. RPGs have ever been plagued by slow beginnings that frustrate fans who don't appreciate the plodding pace and turn off new players who might otherwise appreciate the incline if they didn't quit so early. Making early game stronger is I think a worthy goal that many Codexers would support on principle.

    The real problem is that the rest of the game is shit, not that the first part is good. You also wonder if that was an outcome of trying to make a 25+ hour game with 4 separate branches with a small team - in which case they should have realised it was leading to poor quality, and ultimately it is no excuse.
     
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  17. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    Everything I've seen about the dev cycle of this game basically looked like a dead straight copy of the Pillars of Eternity production schedule. There was a lot of general feedback for Pillars was that the first part of the game was the best and then it dropped off after that, particularly in Act 2. I think instead of the Project Manager looking at how the cycle would affect the game content, they simply copy pasted it without a thought, or consideration of the strengths and weaknesses of the former approach - no desire to do better or improve, just get the job done. Not what I want out of a product.
     
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  18. Make America Great Again Roguey Arcane Sawyerite Sawyerist Sawyer's Bride No Fun Allowed

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    Yet that's always how it is.

    Your pie in the sky dreams just can't be consistently replicated in reality. The first two chapters of Baldur's Gate are lousy. Torment past Sigil is a drag.
     
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  19. Sensuki Arcane Cuck

    Sensuki
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    I disagree that the first two chapters of BG1 are lousy, large in part due to the fact that you can complete any of the side content whenever you like and there is lots of side content around Nashkell and Beregost. I usually have the most fun doing the early bits of the game because of the side content.

    Content quality is always going to vary, but I think it's a bullshit, lazy approach to just go "based on statistics, most people only play the first few hours of a game then toss it, so if we focus primarily on the beginning of the game then the game will get better reviews"

    I don't think it's a pie in the sky dream at all. Recently I put a week of hard playing of the Expeditions Viking closed beta and was pleasantly surprised that the content in both Denmark and Britain was quite good. Britain questing content wasn't finished but of the available content I don't think there was a quality drop other than polish (which is being worked on now). I think it's going to be a well received game on the Codex, much more than Conquistador (even if it isn't strictly better, just more user friendly/playable).

    The Witcher 1 content quality isn't even, but I think of the five acts, 2, 3 and 4 were all very very good. The quality of Act 1 isn't even bad, it's just that the setting of a Backwater Village isn't as exciting/wonderful/mysterious/enchanting etc etc as Vizima or the Lagoon area. 5 was short, it wasn't great but it was serviceable/not bad/the ending was good enough.

    The problem with Obsidian's current approach is I don't think their newer games have any staying power. We still replay the games of old, whereas I don't think many people will still be playing Tyranny 5 or 10 years from now.
     
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  20. laclongquan Arcane

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    Isnt RK47 doing a LP for it right now? Based on the screens, I say there's serious problem with writing quality: Pompously uninteresting, and uninterestingly pompous.
    There's interestingly pompous writing, if you must know. This game aint it.
     
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  21. Tigranes Prestigious Gentleman Arcane

    Tigranes
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    I don't think it's super pompous, relative to the high fantasy RPG norm, but there aren't really any moments where the writing itself really shines, and one trend I've noticed is that there's a lot of repetition and overlap - probably a lack of editing passes, which is a chronic problem in all video game scripts. You'll get some dude who talks all about Nerat's latest scheme, then you click 'CONTINUE' and he repeats 30% of what he already said as he moves on to the next topic.

    Oh, no - late game, there's I'd say one particular moment where the writing is pretty good, and one equally crucial moment where the writing is absolutely awful. Couldn't mention it in the review since it's very spoilery.

    Show Spoiler
    Ashe / Nerat's death lines are quite good - it's not particularly unexpected by that point that as they became more powerful they became vessels of their own power, and as legend spread of their deeds those legends began to control who they were and their destiny. But it's still a well delivered and written moment when they talk about that, and warn the player.

    The retarded moment is when you do whatever the fuck you want, and who knows what the hell Tunon's laws are anyway so you couldn't really keep to it if you tried, then in the climax of the game you arrive for his judgment, and (unless you totally fucked things up) he just does a total volte face from Tunon the Always Right, the highly respected, the dude second only to Kyros, the unflappable judge, to Tunon the cocksucker "OH yeah ok now you tell me about how Ashe and Nerat were stupid and all that u r totally right I bend my knee to you now PLEASE LET ME SUCK YOUR TOES MASTER". Christ. Just another example of how Tyranny throws everything down the toilet as the game goes on, since Tunon was one of the few interesting characters.
     
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  22. laclongquan Arcane

    laclongquan
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    Editing problem I can handle.

    Typo and grammatical error I can handle. Used to be my trade, so it's no problem.

    Uninterestingly pompous and/or pompously uninteresting writing I can not. It's assuredly the WRITERS's fault that I can not affect in anyway. Either I can stomach them, or I can not.

    This is the same problem I have with Fallout 3 and Morrowind. Ultimately, it's a problem of writing quality.

    This game remind me of Prince of Qin and Seal of Evil. PoQ game dev, after a pretty successfully quality game, go on to absolutely wreck themselves with Seal of Evil.

    Nitpick on a single sample if you really want to know (open)

    "That's four reports of avalanches in the mountain now. The Tiersmen can barely count past nine - they have neither the capacity nor the cause to close off the mountainpasses. Either way, that leaves the second and fourth cohort trapped outside the valley"
    This is one dialog between Ashe and voice of neerat. Do you see the problem? The second sentence is barely linked together with the first. While it infodump on the Tiersmen and Ashe's attitude toward them, it stand like a hunchback in a group of straightbacks. And therefore leave the third sentence standing lonesomely.

    To say nothing of the context: which is the commanders discuss situation of serious part of their strength stranded outside of their reach. No emotion on that part at all, no sirree. it's like they discuss international problem 3 thousand miles away.
     
    Last edited: Jan 12, 2017
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  23. Make America Great Again Nihiliste Arcane Patron

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    yeah this game is garbage
     
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  24. RK47 STHIEVE Patron

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  25. Make America Great Again Latro Arcane

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    my Tranny is better
     
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