I don’t think it's any secret that I adore Obsidian’s games – Pillars of Eternity made it in to my personal top 5 games of last year, and I appreciate the types of stories they try to tell. Luckily, I scheduled some time for myself on the E3 show floor to check out Tyranny, their latest upcoming RPG built on the Pillars engine.
I had a choice of three possible demos to try out – a narrative heavy one, exploration, or combat. Because I’m already fairly confident in the writing, I opted for the combat demo. If you’ve played Pillars of Eternity, then the majority of Tyranny will be familiar to you.
The game uses an Infinity Engine styled camera angle, which gives you a tactical view of the battlefield. You’ll be swapping between different characters with their owns unique set of skills, and positioning them on the battlefield to set up flanks and defensive lines, making sure your squishy spell casters aren’t hurt.
The demo had me breaking the siege on a fortress as part of some magical curse: if I didn’t complete the quest and break the enemy’s hold on the fortress, there would be disastrous consequences for everyone involved (read: death).
While I couldn’t get a look at any of the game’s stat screens, the broad strokes of combat remain the same: you have a hotbar full of character skills, and engaging in a melee context locks that character in position – try and leave it, and you’ll invoke an attack of opportunity.
If Pillars of Eternity was all about viability with given class options, then Tyranny is all about granular customisation. The Obsidian team member giving me the demo said that players will have a huge collection of skills to choose from when loading out their player character and team-mates. One of the bigger draws of this system, however, seems to be the ability to combo certain skills together.
By selecting certain skills, and having appropriate party members nearby, you can unleash devastating abilities that not only do considerable damage, but often inflict a status ailment or condition on the enemy. In my case, I could knock down, and keep him stunned for a lengthy amount of time – useful for keeping particularly hard hitters locked down while you deal with other threats.
Armoured enemies seems to a bigger deal this time around, with their gear soaking up considerable damage. Because the universe they’ve built is so militaristic, a lot of the enemies are appropriately geared up too. This means you’ll have your melee damage dealers using armour sundering abilities to soften up their targets, before you commit to landing heavier attacks on them.
The demo ended with me breaking the siege on the fortress, and killing its leader. In keeping with nature of the world, everyone I interacted with was a total jerk – either cursing my name with their dying breath, or paying me no respect. From the limited dialogue tree I interacted with, Tyranny isn’t about choosing the “good” option, nor is it about choosing the “least bad” one – everyone here sucks. Naturally, I kept up with the roleplaying and decided to turn on my commander, and took the fortress for myself.
I’m excited about Tyranny – the core rules of Pillars of Eternity have created a nice springboard for Obsidian to create some really detailed, granular combat rules that lend themselves well to the endless tweaking and fiddling that Infinity Engine grognards adore.