Tyranny Previews and Gameplay Footage

Some kind of embargo must have been lifted, because a number of hands-on previews and gameplay footage video about Tyranny, Obsidian Entertainment’s upcoming CRPG based on the Pillars of Eternity tech and mechanics, has been published today. There’s a decent amount of detail if you’re willing to delve into them, though I’d argue the gameplay footage is more interesting than the write-ups, so I’m going to embed that first.

Polygon has 100 minutes of footage:

While PC Gamer has a more modest 5 minutes of character creation:

PC Gamer also has a write-up on the game:

It’s clear that the bickering between these two military siblings will be one of Tyranny’s central themes, and Conquest does a good job of demonstrating the personality of these factions with your choices rather than with passive exposition. After I conquered a location called Lethian’s Crossing, I had to pick which faction would leave a portion of its forces behind to occupy it. When I chose the Scarlet, Tyranny told me of the consequence: “The Scarlet Chorus flooded Lethian’s Crossing with overeager and undisciplined recruits. In the first few days of occupation, settlers suffered under rampant theft, murder, rape, and arson,” the description read. This wasn’t a ‘bad’ choice, Obsidian reassured me, just another one with consequences I’d see later on. The Conquest text hinted that as a result, the Scarlet Chorus controlled the shipments of iron and weapons exported from that city, and that shipments were often light or absent.

‘Choice’ remains a big buzzword in RPGs and games as a whole, but Tyranny’s approach, even outside its be-the-bad-guy premise, is original and effective. There is a risk that front-loading so many big choices—nuking whole cities with magic, and whatnot—might dampen the impact of others later. But after a few hours with Tyranny I’m happy to see it has some big, structural changes in store for me: this isn’t simply Pillars of Eternity played from the perspective of Sauron.

PC Games N:

The other thing I really enjoy about Tyranny’s Conquest mode is how firmly it establishes my character in the story. A common trope in RPGs is to position the protagonist on the outside so that, like the player, they too have to learn about the world they’re exploring. Tyranny does the opposite and plucks you right into the thick of things. When I first started playing, it felt like being appointed vice president of a country I’d never been to. Backstory has always been an important part of building a character in RPGs, but it’s often crammed into a few brief decisions. In Mass Effect, for example, it means choices like whether you’re a survivor of a horrific event or a decorated veteran.

A few hours into Tyranny, however, and I felt like my Fatebinder had a lot more going for her than a one dimensional backstory. Characters constantly referenced my exploits during Conquest mode, either to praise my decisions or express anger at them. I immediately felt invested in the story because even in the first hour I already had a large impact on it. The opening chapter is set in the very kingdom I just conquered, so my accomplishments during conquest mode always hung in the background for better or for worse.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun:

The ragtag rebellion should be an easy fight, but the Disfavored and the Scarlet Chorus can’t agree on tactics. As a result, the Overlord’s massive armies sit stagnant while the opposition grows stronger. You’re sent down to the Tiers to — *ahem* —convince the two armies to work together.

Your weapon? An Edict. Basically a magical contract infused with the Overlord’s power. This one’s addressed to the leaders of the Disfavored and Scarlet Chorus, and says “Stop wasting time fighting each other. Take over this city within eight days or everyone in the entire valley will die.”

Yes, it’s an actual time limit a la Fallout. Once you’ve read this edict, a counter pops up at the top of the screen informing you how many days are left until all life is extinguished. Time passes whenever you leave to go to a new area (a.k.a. when traveling), and if you don’t accomplish your goal before the eight days is up?

“The game ends,” said Heins. “If you are really good and know where to go you absolutely can do everything in that eight days, though it starts getting tight.”

“We wanted the replayability and playing different paths though, and having a time limit creates a sense of urgency that maybe you don’t want to do everything. And with Kyros and the Edicts,” he continued, “we wanted to add some visual presence. The time limit felt like a good way to show this is actually urgent.”


The choices of Tyranny are layered and intricate, striking the balance between adhering to one character or group’s motivations while also having distinct ups and downs for each. When allied soldiers are discovered among the enemy troops, one side argues to execute the deserters, while the other insists they’re friendly spies planted in enemy camps to get information. With the decision squarely in your hands, you’ll have to figure the fate of these characters and eventually live with the consequences.


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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