The revival of the CRPG is still going strong and with each big release comes a whole host of improvements. The recent release of Divinity: Original Sin 2 has continued that trend and with a $2,000,000 Kickstarter to back them up you would certainly expect that to be the case. Immediately the most noticeable aspect of improvement are the visuals of DOS2. I played the enhanced edition of Original Sin and while I don’t remember it being bad for 2015, graphically DOS2 has definitely seen an improvement. The UI is also a lot easier to use and the level design is excellent, I mean it. Some of the best that I’ve ever encountered in any game ever. There is more of a focus this time around on spinning the camera so that you can see the map from all angles, finding hidden paths and loot that you otherwise wouldn’t have noticed and this gives a lot of added depth to the maps that almost seemed a little flat in the original.
The audio and writing has also received an improvement with most characters having voice over lines and conversation topics. This can sometimes be a sticking point in RPG’s with the sheer amount of NPC’s that can occupy a city or area of the map, but Larian have done a good job of making each character sound unique and have a unique character to them. Every time I come across a new NPC, whether that be a main character or just someone with a few lines, I feel like I owe it to them to listen to what they have to say and that’s really testament to the writing of a game when there are probably hundreds of NPC’s in the entire game.
One of the main sticking points for me in the original game was the combat mechanics and while they are largely the same there is definitely an increase in difficulty and tactical depth. It’s a lot harder to take on groups of enemies that are one or two levels above that in your party. In fact there have been battles that after trying to beat a few times I have had to give up and mark on the map for later in the game. This is far from a bad thing, I love it, it reminds me of a lot of games I played as a kid. There should absolutely be enemies and areas of the map that are unreachable unless you are very powerful or very clever, it adds a certain sense of mystery to these areas and encounters and makes them more than an encounter with ‘nameless mob’ in ‘random map area’.
Along with all of these improvements is also a sense of huge scale, in terms of the map, the story, the game world and really just the game as a whole. I shied away from calling this article a review because even at this stage having played 40 hours I can tell this game has much much more to offer and will easily end up being a 100+ hour game. To review it properly for me would just not be practical unless you want to wait a few months. That’s obviously not a dig at the game as the content they have added is top notch and I’m pretty sure I will enjoy every one of those 100+ hours. If you enjoyed the first Original Sin then this will definitely be up your street with bags of content and improvements, highly recommended so far.
Ten months after its release Tyranny has received its first DLC ‘Bastard’s Wound‘ which adds additional areas to the map and with it new NPC’s, a new quest arc, companion quests and achievements. Obsidian have also released a free patch along side the DLC that expands the content in the third and final act of Tyranny as well as including additional voice acting and a new path to the ending of the game.
The main story behind Bastard’s Wound surrounds a hidden encampment, yet untouched by the invading forces of Kyros. The settlers of this camp have been forced to pitch up in the Old Walls, a sacred place that is usually punishable for entering let alone setting up a village in. Within this small community people and beasts of various factions have decided to work together to keep themselves hidden from the armies of Kyros and so rule themselves. The only problem is that you are the Fatebinder and, well you guessed it, you happen to find out about this hidden village.
The good news is that if you liked Tyranny as much as I did then I feel you will enjoy a lot of what Bastard’s Wound has to offer. I finished the base game pretty quickly after release, so having not played for about ten months it was really easy to pick the game back up and play this DLC without feeling like I was lost in the game world or that I had forgotten every decision that I’d made. In a way that could be a good or bad thing depending on what you prefer. Bastard’s Wound can certainly be played outside the main game without affecting the central story arc too much as far as I can tell, but for those who wanted a more involved DLC this might just seem like more fluff added for completionists of the game. Don’t get me wrong this ‘fluff’ is as well scripted and polished as the main game and adds an semi-interesting story line to the game, but I just felt like it had no affect on anything outside of itself.
If Bastard’s Wound has one saving grace it’s that the newly added companion loyalty quests are pretty good. There are only three which is a shame, but none the less they help to flesh out the characters a bit more and build up their individual stories. In general though the decisions you make don’t feel like they carry as much weight, the characters you meet are not as memorable, the DLC as a whole is quite short much like the main game when compared to it’s peers. Bastard’s Wound is a nice enough addition to the main game but I feel nothing would be missing if you didn’t happen to pick it up. For those who are looking for more Tyranny, it has some decent missions and delivers exactly what you would expect from a 10-15 hour DLC.
The Verdict – On Target
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
So here’s a question for people who like that kind of thing. What exactly is an evil man? Surely good and evil are simply decided by which side of an army or faction you are born into? Maybe it depends on which views you are brought up with or what you come to believe to be true on your own terms. Or is evil a more personal thing, something that is defined by your actions no matter where you come from or what your background is? Paradox Interactive’s new RPG Tyranny really poses this question to you from the get-go by allowing you to choose your backstory in the lead up to actually taking control of your character. The army of Kyros under which your loyalties lie, have taken over most of the known world aside from one small peninsula in the south. As one of Kyros’ leaders in the eventual occupation of these lands, you begin the game by deciding exactly how your armies go about capturing the district. I won’t spoil any of the important choices for you, as this intro literally shapes the game you play and choosing the level to which your evil or mercy extends is half the fun of the early game.
What I will say is that as with other Paradox games the writing and character development in Tyranny is of a very high standard. Rarely does it feel like you’re reading a piece of filler text but instead insightful and interesting dialogue and backstory, and taking part in decisions that literally shape the game and characters you are playing in and talking to. Just be prepared to do a LOT of reading. If reading is really not your thing, then I would seriously consider your attitude towards this game as skipping text would, in my opinion ruin the enjoyment of the overall game.
In a majority of games in this genre party interaction is something that I often find tedious and an endeavor that has no meaningful outcome. Party conversations in Tyranny however hold weight as each character that you talk to will react differently to you depending on your choices in game and the ways in which you interact with them on an individual level. You can gain fear or loyalty from them, making their own actions change according to yours. This is the same for larger factions and NPC’s in the game, who you can also gain and lose reputation with depending on your actions. This certainly makes conversation choices a lot more meaningful for me and means if you want to role play the evil guy you better be prepared to deal with the consequences. The only disappointment from the party members is that there is not a whole lot of depth to them after conversation. You may visit an area in the game that they have a connection with and they will hardly even talk. There’s also not much in the way of ‘loyalty quests’ or anything to connect them personally to these places and I feel like they lack a bit of depth in that department, which is a shame. A personal quest or two that included each of the characters you can add to your party would go a long way to solving this problem.
The voice acting is also of a high standard when it shows, but not all interactions are voiced. I’m not sure if this was due to me playing the early review release of the game which im told would be missing the odd bit here and there or if they decided that it just wouldn’t be practical to have every section of the game voice acted. Certainly the main story line arc was mostly voice acted and if I think about it long enough that’s probably enough for me.
There’s a lot to take in to account when getting into your first few proper combat situations in Tyranny, although if you have played Paradox’s other game Pillars of Eternity, you will feel semi-familiar here. Once you build up a party and level them to suit your play style things get a little easier, but initially I found it a touch hard to manage the ability overload you are faced with. There is the option to let AI manage your party members but this is best turned off if you’re thinking about tackling one of the harder difficulty levels as sometimes they can be infuriatingly slow to react, especially when switching between targets that are further apart from each other. Thankfully you can pause combat and manage each characters abilities and if things are moving to fast for you in real-time, there’s an option to toggle slow combat speeds.
Once you get into the thick of the stats, abilities and equipment management, it’s actually quite enjoyable if you like that kind of thing. The spell system allows you to essentially create your own spells and assign them to any character, with higher cost spells being restricted to characters with high lore values which are normally casters anyway. Spells are created with a ‘Core Sigil’ deciding what element or type of spell it will be, an ‘Expresion Sigil’ deciding how the spell will effect the target and an ‘accent’ which modifies anything from casting range to the strength of the spell or how long the effect of the spell will take place for. Each sigil has a lore value and this is what restricts you from just giving the strongest spells to every character. For your mage assuming you have one in your party, spell creation is something of a strong point in the game, allowing you to entirely shape the type of combat style you want later into the game once you’ve collected a lot of sigils.
On top of the spell system each character has their own skill tree with multiple options from which they can learn new abilities or improve combat traits like armour penetration or health. Certain pieces of equipment can also provide abilities but are mostly for stat improvement and aesthetic value. Overall the combat and ability system is fairly in depth and as a person who enjoys tweaking optimal stats and abilities I enjoyed the system that Obsidian have put in place here, certainly when compared to other games of the same genre which almost seem to shy away from making these things in any way complicated for whatever reason. In a game that isn’t entirely about combat it makes sense not to completely overload the player with combat based decisions and I feel this medium depth level worked well at not spoiling my enjoyment of everything else that Tyranny has to offer.
Graphically and in terms of level deign Tyranny is a really good looking game much on the same terms as Pillars of Eternity, which makes sense when you take into account that the same team developed it and it’s made with the same engine. The levels are really well designed both visually and the way in which they can be transversed and interacted with. It’s almost as if concept art has been improved upon by artists and designers leading to some stunning scenes and intelligent design. Throughout the whole game I don’t think there was a single area of the game where I thought the designers had slipped in quality.
Ultimately Tyranny is a game about making decisions and unlike some games who promise a lot it really makes these choices count. During my play I compared my choices and outcomes to that of a friend and I’m happy to say that there was no illusion of choice, your actions really do change things like the people you meet, the areas you visit and smaller sub areas that you may or may not have access to, how people react to you, what people call you, items you find in the game and probably much more than that.
To sum things up Tyranny is a well designed and enjoyable RPG that makes decisions count, has enjoyable combat, interesting characters and well written dialogue. It places itself in a fairly unique setting and certainly makes being evil a lot of fun. Above all of that I think the thing I like most about Tyranny is that it’s not very often in a game that I get to actually make the decision I want. In most other games I may be provided with options but certain game world rules mean that none of them suit exactly what I want to do in that situation. In Tyranny however I can happily kill off an NPC, slap someone in the face, throw them off a building, show mercy, save their life, take a bribe, or basically anything I want if I deem it necessary as I am literally the law bringer and in the end this is what makes it most enjoyable for me.
The Verdict – Red Mist
Platforms Available – PC
Platform Reviewed – PC
Please see this post for more on our scoring policy. Steam review code supplied by PR.
Torment: Tides of Numenera is an upcoming CRPG developed by inXile Entertainment and is currently in Early Access on Steam. It’s the spiritual successor of Planescape: Torment, the cult hit from 1999, but unlike it’s predecessor will also release on consoles rather than just PC. In this article I aim to go over some of the major points of the early game and the stage at which the game is at in the development process.
First of all I should address the fact that Planescape: Torment was known for it’s well written dialogue and I’m happy to say that the writing in Tides of Numenera is excellent for the most part. Even the non-conversation, narrator style parts of the writing shine and quite often they feel like reading a sci-fi/fantasy book. The characters seem well developed even in this early stage. In my time with the game there were a few party members who jumped in and out during different quests and they all had unique personalities that fitted in well with the overall story arc. The city area I visited was well populated and each character seemed to have their own piece of unique written speech and a few side-quests here and there. There is the odd section where speech options or characters words were missing but this could be to protect the main story line or anything the developers don’t want to get out just yet and nothing that I would consider to be out of the ordinary.
The character creation event at the start of the game is a welcome break from the standard “choose your hero and modify every aspect of it” that is usually presented in an RPG like this. Instead you make your way through a scripted event which has choices at certain points. These choices decide where the stat points go into your character and so define your class, be that spell caster, melee or a mixture. As welcome as this change is it could do with being a little more in depth in its explanation. This will of course be your character for presumably tens, possibly even hundreds of hours worth of gameplay so you want to make sure that stats, abilities, classes, choices are explained in full detail. As far as I could tell there was no visual customization options at all and instead you can only choose male or female. After the scripted event you can adjust your character some more to suit your play style.
During my time with Tides of Numenera progression through areas seemed slow at first but I am the kind of person that likes to take a new map area and dissect it, talking to as many people as possible, exploring every area of the map and finding as many quests and secrets as possible. While progress for me continued to be slow when I encountered a new area, this proved to be more a credit to how well the developers have done at populating the maps with interesting people, engaging stories, quests and secrets rather than anything else.
So you’ve heard a lot of the good, now for some of the not so good. There were some bugs were present for me early on. One occasion of a game freeze before combat, not being able to read tooltips, missing text, pretty much what is to be expected for the early stages of an early access game. None of these aside from the game freeze actually disrupted my gameplay much and even that was fixed with a simple reload of a previous autosave.
Tides of Numenera seems nice graphically although not stunning considering it’s been built on the same engine as Pillars of Eternity which i feel looked a nit nicer. The game still looks good though and the levels are well designed but the UI and menus seem a bit clunky and are not great to look at. They’re probably going to need some work before the final release as in my opinion that could be something that really pulls a game like this down. Inventory management, map and quest checking and general menu navigation are main parts of the game and having an inadequate or ugly UI can sometimes put me off spending more hours with a game.
Combat is a very early stage as so doesn’t feel great yet. I have only come across once instance of combat and replayed it a few times just so I could see all the different options available to me. InXile have made it clear they are at an early stage of balancing the combat and that is clear to me. Skills are not explained well enough yet and some stats/spells have no tooltips or not enough info to explain how they affect a target or yourself.
Only odd snippets of voice acting have been added already and so there’s not much to be said about that just yet.
To summarize, Torment: Tides of Numenera certainly looks to be a very interesting game that is hopefully going to continue the incredible revival of CRPG’s in the past few years. The developers are doing a good job with the writing, characters and level design so far but still have a lot of work to do. While taking all that into account if you’re looking for a finished game to sink you’re teeth into, you’ll want to wait for the final release. There are still a lot of changes going on behind the scenes and the final game is probably still a good while off yet. On the other hand if you’re interested in the game and want to poke about to see what the developers have been doing so far, there is plenty of stuff to keep you satisfied, just be prepared for a few bugs, unfinished dialogue and the odd crash.