by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
A lot of role playing games take place in the same kind of world. Whether it’s high fantasy or science fiction, it is usually a world filled with mostly good people, who are fighting against an evil darkness which seeks to threaten their way of life. In Tyranny, the next game from Pillars of Eternity creators Obsidian Entertainment, the evil has won. Not only has evil won, but you were an officer in the conquering army. You are now judge, jury, and executioner, and you get to travel around, giving out your own brand of justice in a world that has been taken by an evil overlord. If you like, you can continue his ways, or you can try and redeem yourself and be good, but that might not be as easy as it sounds.
At first glance, players of Pillars of Eternity will recognise certain systems which are at play here. You control a party of adventurers, going around in real time, but when combat begins you can pause and queue up actions as you see fit. You can use special abilities and spells precisely when you want to use them, and they will go on cooldown until they are available again. It’s standard stuff, but the way Tyranny changes things is in the way you unlock new spells. Normally, you would gain access to new spells when you level up and grow in power. In Tyranny, you are actually able to create your own spells from scratch, and as long as the character has enough Lore to use them, you can stick them straight onto their action bar.
Spells are made from basic building blocks. First, you begin by choosing the core of your spell, whether it’s a fire or ice spell, or perhaps a healing spell. Next, you choose the range at which it will be cast. It might be a touch spell, or perhaps it blasts out in a cone area of effect. Then you get to add various attributes to it, such as being able to add extra duration, or increasing the range of it. Finally, name your spell whatever you like, and add it to a character. Even if you have just made a standard fireball a little more potent, it’s a cool feeling knowing the spells you are using are your own creations.
We were allowed to play a 20 minute gameplay demo at Gamescom this year, taking place in a dungeon where your party is looking for a certain artefact. Exploring dungeons is a dangerous affair, especially when there are traps everywhere, so the rogue character with her high perception was integral to survival. When she spots something, the action pauses so you can disarm the trap safely without the rest of your party blundering into it. The dungeon also had some minor environmental puzzles, such as taking blocks from one place and putting them elsewhere to open up new passages. Again, all fairly standard stuff if you have played Pillars of Eternity.
Once combat begins, and while the action is paused, you can right click on an enemy to discover its weaknesses. This is where all the various elemental types of damage come into play. The first enemy in the demo was a Bane, and these are condensed magical forces which feed off power and life-force. They show up in the walls of dungeons because there’s a lot of magic in the place. Some might be strong against fire damage, for example, while taking extra frost damage. Pausing and making sure you are using the right character, and most importantly, the right type of spells, against enemies is essential. You will of course have traditional damage dealers like fighters too, but they may also have elemental attacks you need to be aware of.
Good or evil
Whether your main character will continue to be evil, or whether they will want to make up for their previous actions is up to you. You will get to make the decision for them when Tyranny launches later this year.