Review: Tyranny – Tales from the Tiers (Steam)

Took me long enough, but I’m finally going to address the Tales from the Tiers DLC for Tyranny. It is the first non-cosmetic downloadable content pack for this RPG that I reviewed almost one year ago. I gave it a perfect rating and I stand by my decision, since Tyranny’s unique story, locations and characters have revived my interest in isometric role playing games, in the vein of the genre classics I grew up with. If I could compare it to the base game’s second (and so far latest) narrative DLC, Bastard’s Wound, I’d say that Tales from the Tiers offers less in terms of both complexity and sheer volume of content. Naturally, Obsidian Entertainment has developed all material related to the Tyranny series.

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Right from the start, I will assume that you’ve played the base game at least enough to know its narrative basics. If not, feel free to read my review focusing solely on Tyranny’s campaign. So what exactly does this DLC contribute to the larger picture? If you are interested in the series’ comprehensive lore (and you should be), then Tales from the Tiers adds text-based random encounters which the game refers to as “vignettes”. They do resemble small illustrations clearly defined by borders, but you can interact within them and the outcome is never that obvious. They wouldn’t be called “random encounters” if they triggered at predetermined locations or timestamps, so it’s harder to quantify them in real conditions through a normal playthrough. In other words, the DLC advertises that there are 40 new vignettes added to the base game’s existent pool, yet in all honestly I cannot claim that I’ve met nearly half as many so far.

Best way to test this is by constantly travelling between the marked locations on Tyranny’s map. They’re all filled with activities which take time and should not be rushed though. If you’d play Tyranny for 100 hours or rush from location to location, without actual purpose perhaps, you’ll encounter all possible vignettes combinations. Just keep that in mind. So what do they contain? Specific encounters might focus on a quick fight between Tyranny’s factions or they may just feature a new resource that will add temporary buffs to your party. As random as that. I won’t deny though, that it adds the much needed flavor to the otherwise boring treks from Tyranny’s A to B.

Those trips can take in-game days at a time, so having something to witness while waiting for the party to reach their waypoint, is certainly welcome. Do not mistake them for extra quests, since these random events are solved as fast as they appear. They rely on the selected skillset (either Athletics, Subterfuge or Lore) and that feature cannot be regarded as replay value, unless you intend to start a new campaign anytime soon. At least they don’t seem to repeat themselves since in over 40 hours of my Tyranny adventure, I haven’t noticed a single vignette triggering twice. They may be dependent on the region you’ll visit or not. Since the civil war between the Overlord’s generals takes place across the Tiers in their entirety, we’ll never know for certain.

As for the “countless new ways” of gaining loyalty and fear with party members and factions, the DLC is referring to the Favor and Wrath meters. These replace a more conventional morality scale and enhance the main character’s combat prowess through Combo Abilities. Don’t expect any companion to pack his stuff and abandon the party or become disloyal to the point of attacking you. Jade Empire, Knights of the Old Republic or the Dragon Age series, did allow this RPG freedom of sorts. Tyranny’s characters seem far more tolerant by comparison. Yet I still recommend a diplomatic approach to most quests and encounters.

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Afterall, you’re role playing as a Fatebinder of Tunon’s Court. A travelling judge/jury/executioner cannot throw caution and finesse out through the window. A quote attributed to Niccolò Machiavelli states that “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”Just try to be both and never allow yourself to be outwitted. In a game that really has no true heroes and portrays a “darker shade” of gray morality than the aforementioned Dragon Age titles can ever hope for, you may have to choose between a grim resolution and another reprobate option. No middle ground more often than not. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

Same graphics engine as the base game. Unity Engine is finally powering even titles that shall be regarded as my favorites for many years to come. In this case, an RPG rendered from an isometric perspective, with quality 2D static backgrounds and 3D characters, NPCs and more dynamic assets which warrant the integrated zoom levels. A profoundly stable experience which never strains your hardware and allows the creation of equally beautiful screenshots through the option of hiding the HUD whenever you wish.

If there are expanded conversation options with companions, there must have been new lines of recorded dialogues as well. You’ll still have to read the majority of time, but the party members are always skillfully voiced when they finally decide to “talk”. The soundtrack remains unchanged and I still consider it adequate for the title and its themes. It’s not like I expected anything other than quality from Obsidian’s audio assets in their projects.

Tales from the Tiers also boasts the inclusion of more equipment which may assist the party in its arduous journey ahead. Even at a superficial glance, I can tell you that any extra weapons or armor pieces the DLC can offer, won’t really matter once you get access to both Artifacts (weapons & wearable accessories) and a Forge that can upgrade them further on. So from a middle and late game perspective, any extra equipment just gets sold for as many iron rings (Tyranny’s currency is revolving around iron, as being the most valuable metal) as it takes to fully develop your conquered Spires and provide the upkeep for the underlings operating within them. You can thus, rest assured that nothing goes to waste. New items are still useful even if they’ll never see combat in your companions’ able hands.

If you decide to purchase Tales from the Tiers to experience Tyranny at its full potential, you can rejoice on the fact that you aren’t forced to start a new game in order to gain access to the new content. Same as with Bastard’s Wound, your old save games can integrate the added features in a seamless manner. The very definition of a DLC, is that it’s not crucial towards the completion of a title, but it adds enough stuff that it may enhance the overall experience. Tales from the Tiers does that, but it remains debatable if it couldn’t have been offered as a patch/update or “FreeLC”. If you like what you’ve been seeing and doing in Tyranny so far, then shedding more light on its lore and character interactions, won’t hurt in the long run. Even if there won’t be more future DLC packs for this title, I really wish that a sequel might surface in the years to come. Kyros has a lot to answer for and the Fatebinder never leaves loose ends.

All the screenshots you see above, have been taken by me in-game through the Steam Overlay.


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