In Obsidian’s Next RPG, Tyranny, The Villains Have Already Won

Update: There’s a trailer below now.

When Obsidian partnered with Paradox to release 2015’s best RPG, Pillars of Eternity, I hoped there might be further collaborations. Obsidian’s major releases, Pillars aside, have been spread between six publishers and the studio turned to Kickstarter knowing that a “day of doom” was approaching. Perhaps the relationship with Paradox and the success of Pillars has brought some stability because moments ago, Obsidian announced their next game at Paradox’s GDC press conference. It’s called Tyranny and it starts where you might expect a game over screen.

In Tyranny you play as a very bad person. Sort of. Maybe. You’ve certainly done some terrible things but depending on your choices, there might be a possibility of redemption.

The story begins where many games would end. Some time ago, an evil overlord sent his armies out into the world. Normally, in these situations, a fledgling hero steps up to the plate and grinds her way to demi-godhood by killing rats/goblins/orcs/ogres/demons until she can put a stop to the villain’s nefarious plans. This time, there was no hero. Or maybe there were many but they all died horribly.

Whatever the case, the evil overlord’s armies have conquered the world and the world is in a state of despair and disarray.

Your character is an underling in the overlord’s organisation. A very important underling but an underling nonetheless. Your task is to bring order to the defeated peoples of the world, using swords, axes, bows, magic and a silver tongue.

It’s set in an entirely new world. We’ll take a closer look and have more details for you soon.

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63 Comments

  1. Jason Moyer says:

    Glad to see them making a game without a number on the end again, although I kinda wish it weren’t more swords and sorcery stuff.

  2. Vinas_Solamnus_TUPP says:

    This sounds very promising. Chronicles of the Black Company perspective. Let’s hope it leans in that direction.

    • karnak says:

      The idea for the setting is excellent: play as the bad guys.
      Unfortunately, my greatest fear is that it could fall into the usual cliches:

      1- Main character is a misguided individual, working for an evil boss and doing evil things.

      2- Something awful happens and misguided character starts to question the world and the reasons behind his boss’s actions.

      3- Misguided character investigates and discovers that evil boss is even more evil that he/she had imagined.

      4- Misguided character realizes that enough is enough and decides to atone for his sins and fight evil boss.

      5- After much fighting and hard work, misguided character finally destroys evil boss. Misguided character is now an hero. The End

      I sure hope Obsidian manages to avoid this kind of scenario.

      • wraithgr says:

        I know, I know! The player character is a trusted underling of the big bad. Together, they hatch a plot to deal with the pesky resistance: erase player’s memory so he can infiltrate the resistance and destroy it from within. At the climactic moment, when he is about to have his new persona eliminated by his old evil self, player rips free and goes on a killing spree, ending up in some alien ruins… What do you mean “that’s the plot of Total Recall”? :-P

      • Sakkura says:

        An hero? You know what that means?

      • mattevansc3 says:

        I’ve got the same concerns as it is a bit cliché.

        Personally when I heard the name Tyranny I was hoping it was about the hero dealing with a post-war world they helped create in a subversive take on the genre.

        Throughout most RPGs you are forcing your morality on others and most decisions are enforced with violence. You were a political extremist who’s viewpoint differed from the big bad. Now that’s okay for war time but is it okay for “peace” time?

        How would your typical Hero handle a border dispute, especially after it was your war choices that created the dispute? If the losing side didn’t listen what would their natural reaction be?

        Who would be ruler? The prophecy or McGuffin might have said you’d bring peace to the land but when is the land at peace? Is it after the big bad has been defeated or is it after the civil unrest subsides? Even then is some woman’s hand in a lake giving you a sword a good justification for forming a government?

        Ultimately are those real concerns as you’ve already proved what happens to people that don’t agree with you.

      • deadlybydsgn says:

        I don’t know that we can complain about your 5 in a world where this kind of story isn’t the norm. It would be nice if they deviate from what we expect, but if it’s going to be any kind of hero’s journey at all, certain aspects are inescapable. I’m just glad they’re trying to take this from a different angle.

        Unique spins like that are fun when done well. A book I can think of with that would be Brandon Sanderson’s first Mistborn title. The idea is that the hero already lost, and the world has already been shaped and ruled by his adversary for a few hundred years. The villain in place may be oppressive, but he holds a larger evil at bay, etc.

        • asmodemus says:

          I was thinking of exactly the same novel.

          For once it would be nice to have a villain who had good reasons for exerting control and domination and heroes who are actually misguided in their assumption that everything will be fine if they can get rid of a little tyranny.

    • Ozzymandias says:

      There is some info in the site that says otherwise. It seems you can only be the bad guy, and be even badder as in usurping your lords place.

  3. GWOP says:

    I wonder how the tone will be. Comedic like Dungeon Keeper?

    • ElementalAlchemist says:

      Judging by the trailer, it looks to be the complete opposite of DK. Very gritty grimdark serious business.

    • demicanadian says:

      I’d say KOTOR2, so serious with enough comedy relief for the seriousness not to be funny.

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    JiminyJickers says:

    I’m definitely interested. While I thoroughly enjoyed Pillars of Eternity, it wasn’t as good as what I hoped. I really like the premise of this new game.

  5. malkav11 says:

    Sounds a bit like the ideas behind Spiderweb’s Avadon series, actually. Not exactly – the rule of Avadon in that series isn’t portrayed as being that of an evil overlord who’s risen to power, but rather a sort of high-minded tyranny for the good of the people it’s united. There’s corruption within the ranks, the various “united” peoples of the Pact like neither each other nor Avadon’s rule, and it’s clear that while the PC has a great deal of discretion as to how to resolve issues, the average run of Avadon agents tend to be brutal, demanding and prone to enriching themselves at the cost of the people they’re “helping”. But there’s also peace, and strength against the barbarians at the gates, and a certain rough justice. In Obsidian’s game, maybe not so much?

    • Anthile says:

      From what I gathered it’s a bit more like Dark Souls where all the big kerfuffle happened in the backstory and you play as the world’s most dangerous janitor, mopping up the whole mess.

  6. Anthile says:

    We have been “bringing order” to “defeated peoples” since the dawn of RPGs. The average player character kills an enormous amount of creatures, animals and people throughout a campaign and it’s easy to frame it so you look worse doing it without changing the gameplay much. They say history is written by the winners but clearly, it is written by the ones who carry around quest logs.
    I do wonder how Obsidian will make you feel like you play a truly evil character that is still compelling and doesn’t fall into the cartoonish-evil mold of, well, most RPGs.
    I know they can pull it off and that’s why I’m excited for this game.

    • klops says:

      Most likely you won’t be forced to playi as a true evil character since most players don’t even want to. You play as a minion of bad guy, which isn’t a very restricting start.

      My blind guess would be: morality choises between nasty options, chance to play against your master and 95% of the players choosing as “lawful” choises as possible. Nevertheless, the basis sounds interesting.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      When my co-op partner and I encountered the bit in Diablo 3: Reaper Of Souls where you have to pass through the territory of the Boggits, we found it impossible to interpret the scene as anything but a massive genocide. We decided to play the role straight, which was absolutely hilarious to us and would doubtless have been utterly horrifying to any bystander.

      Me: Leave none alive!
      Him: I found a hole. We can slay them in their homes!
      Me: Even the younglings!

    • Yglorba says:

      I do remember a moment in the first Etrian Odyssey where your characters have been delving deeper into the forest-dungeon and are getting attacked by these native forest-people who insist that that the depths of the dungeon are theirs according to ancient pacts with the surface-people.

      The town mayor gives you a quest to wipe them all out, because — and I am not making this up, this is the actual reason he gives — the dungeon is necessary for the town’s tourist industry and the forest-people are disrupting that. He asks you to literally kill all of them. To commit genocide. For his TOURIST INDUSTRY. No effort is made to justify this. (If I recall correctly, he makes it explicit that the reason they need to die is because the town is dependent on dungeon-tourism. This is not me reading anything into it, this is literally what it says.)

      It’s really weird, because the game obviously wants you to see it as a horrific action, but it also gives you absolutely no choice but to do what he says if you want to continue. And… that’s it. There’s no redemption arc, no analysis beyond this (although I you could argue that it fits in the series’ overarching theme of taking a hard look at wasteful and pointless colonialism, and foreshadows the game’s fairly downer ending.) You murder them all to protect the town’s tourist industry and continue deeper into the dungeon, the end.

  7. Aitrus says:

    Buuut is it isometric? D:

    • Anthile says:

      Yes.
      I imagine they use the same engine and tools they used for Pillars of Eternity.

      • HopeHubris says:

        Damn, I liked the concept, but old Isometric RPGs had the worst gameplay

      • The Algerian says:

        D’oh!!

      • Aitrus says:

        Grrr. That’s too bad. Looks like a real pretty game, but isometric is just not my thing.

      • Arathorn says:

        I hope they optimize it better this time around though. PoE required too fast hardware for the visuals it offered (just to be clear: I love how it looked, I just didn’t like the performance).

    • MadMinstrel says:

      Doesn’t seem so. As best I can tell from the screenshot with the architecture, it’s 30 degree dimetric.

  8. wu wei says:

    The Image comic Birthright plays around with a similar concept: a young boy taken away to a fantasy world to be the one true hero is corrupted instead and returns to help the evil overlord take over Earth. Great stuff.

  9. Disgruntled Goat says:

    “2015’s best RPG, Pillars of Eternity”

    An utterly absurd thing to say. The Witcher 3 came out in 2015.

    • Oasx says:

      Pillars of Eternity was a better game in my opinion.

      I liked Witcher 3 but it really surprised me how every game critic seemed to ignore any faults that it had. You hardly see any mention of the incredibly repetitive sub-quests the make up most of the game, and when they highlight the Bloody Baron story is being very good, they forget to mention that the rest of the games story is pretty sparse and generic.

      • jayfear says:

        They were probably too distracted by PoE’s fanfic characters and exposition dumps amidst a slew of retro for retro sake interfacce choices.

      • deadlybydsgn says:

        “…incredibly repetitive sub-quests the make up most of the game…”

        Honestly, I found The Witcher 3’s contracts and side quests to be the most interesting I’ve experienced in quite some time. Yes, the Witcher Sense mechanic used to solve them rarely deviated, but I felt the characters’ dialogue and other small touches were a level above the norm.

    • trashmyego says:

      Well, in all honesty, Witcher 3 isn’t that much of a role-playing game. It’s an action-adventure with mechanics that originated in RPGs. And it’s wonderful, no doubt about that, but the actual role-playing content is extremely limited. This is a differentiation that we need to start making, there are ‘RPG mechanics’ and then there’s actual role-playing. Pillars of Eternity allows for far more situations of role-playing.

      This is one reason I’m so excited for Cyberpunk 2077. They made a masterpiece in Witcher 3. And they’re doing everything they can to out-do and out-big that game, while also pushing hard on the role-playing side of the experience.

      • FriendlyFire says:

        In Witcher 3, you’re role-playing as Geralt. It’s absolutely an RPG, just not a D&D style “make your own character” one.

        I hate this trend to make genres super dogmatic, especially since the people trying to impose their dogma have no standing to do so.

        • MadMinstrel says:

          Yep. In the olden days, when I had the time, we’d often play pencil&paper RPGs with characters pre-made by the dungeon master. The fact players would play specific characters instead of making them up themselves didn’t make the gaming any less fun, and the scripts could be made richer and better tailored because of it.

        • demicanadian says:

          Meh, Witcher 3 is best Batman game, not best RPG game.

        • Velthaertirden says:

          It is an action-RPG. In the proper RPG the outcome of different events is based on the character’s statistics/attributes rather than on the player’s skill with mouse/keyboard controls.

    • carewolf says:

      I didn’t even notice that. I agree that Witcher 3 is the better game, but I understood that instinctively, as best not “action RPG” RPG of 2015. The non-action RPGs is a dying niche genre these days, but as an old timer, it is till what I think of first when thinking computer RPG.

      • Velthaertirden says:

        Indeed. It is a shame that people mean ARPG when saying RPG these days. I guess we can thank all the guys that were whining that Morrowind’s combat system sucks because your character misses even if you hit the enemy (even though your character has no idea how to use long blades properly).

  10. onodera says:

    Imagine if that was a game about you, a Waffen-SS officer, tasked to bring peace and order to occupied Poland.

    • Pharos says:

      Hence, presumably, the fantasy setting, where they can explore themes of that nature without it seeming tacky and exploitative.

      Although, the Waffen-SS idea sounds fascinating, provided it was done with care and finesse. Most games seem to prefer you being either Big Good or Big Bad (or some hard-men-making-hard-decisions edgelord renegade). I think only Papers Please really dealt with the whole Banality of Evil Punch-clock villain type, and even then it was so non-judgemental that I’m not sure you could apply that here.

      • TomxJ says:

        Fantasy Flight Games used to do a RPG called Midnight. It was basically Lord of the Rings if Sauron won. You could if the DM wished play as a party of his priesthood which was basically Fanstasy SS in an occupied land.

    • klops says:

      Or even more: A modern day invaders doing a peaceful annexation, disarming nucular weapons or building colonies. That’d be something.

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    Risingson says:

    Yes, nice and all, but the initial setting is just a small part of a game of this kind. I’m afraid of two things: first, the “you are a saint/you are a prick” mentality of most of these games, and second, the lack of consequences of your ethical actions that makes everything end like Skyrim: you chose one thing or the other depending on the gold or the ring they give to you in the end. But again, we are discussing about something that we are only making up right now. Filler discussions for a filler post.

  12. arioch says:

    Sounds great – I enjoyed Pillars – not as much as Divinity EE but it was close!

    Will be looking forward to more news on this.

  13. person678 says:

    I really enjoyed Pillars, even though I never ended up finishing it. I found the combat far too tedious in the end, having 30 odd abilities on a single character that all felt pretty samey turned me off.

    If they shape up the combat into something more interesting I’m all aboard.

  14. anHorse says:

    Because Pillars was just too fucking happy

    I like Obsidian but any time they try and do dark settings/characters/stories it just comes off as juvenile trash

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      cpt_freakout says:

      That moment when the cute glass window with the hobbitses-like couple is being splashed with blood was bordering on the ridiculous. Really dig Obsidian, though, even when they’re being juvenile, so I’ll try not to laugh when that kind of stuff happens again (if it does, it’s just a trailer after all).

  15. Laurentius says:

    I hope they ditch real time combat for a turn based system this time. I completley dig PoE and its retro style but not the combat. I didn’t like this system in Baldur’s Gate back in the day and I don’t like it today. It looks promising but if they stick with real time combat and general abudance of turn based combat game, I will pass on it.

  16. Bladderfish says:

    I’m hoping this goes down the Mask of the Betrayer route, where being evil is a viable option and leads to some incredibly interesting scenarios. The worst thing would be for this game to enforce all the tired old clichés of bad guy seeing the error of his ways and becoming good.

    That would bore most of us, I reckon.

    • malkav11 says:

      In the NWN2 OC they let you join the big bad in the end, which is the first time I’ve -ever- seen a CRPG let you do that. So if anyone’s likely to offer that sort of thing I think it’s Obsidian.

  17. pullthewires says:

    Surely that should be “Best RPG that failed to live up to expectations while not actually being a bad game of 2015″?

  18. Palladian says:

    Does anyone else feel this is a really great premise and a totally ludicrous, terrible video?

    I’m glad Adam described the game first because I’m interested. If I had just watched the video, though, I would’ve written it off. It’s lore-for-lore’s sake, it says nothing at all about the game, all the images are beyond generic for fantasy RPGs…

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      Nauallis says:

      Terrible video. Reminds me of the Heroes of Might and Magic 2 & 3 videos.

  19. Parrilla says:

    Been playing Paradox games since the first Europa Universalis, great to see them doing so well. Despite some questionable DLC for CK2 they’re still one of the best companies in the business.

    Mixed feelings about Obsidian. The base Pillars of Eternity game had some pretty big problems, the main one for me being terrible pacing where the game just seemed to stop after Act 2 but there was still a sizeable chunk left to struggle through. And the Stronghold, which was obviously chucked in as a stretch goal without really having any meaning to it. Really enjoyed the expansion though.

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    Nauallis says:

    It’s Sanderson’s Mistborn, as a game! At least by first appearance and description.

    • anHorse says:

      Seemed more book of the new sun to me, still any setting like that is pretty unique for a videogame so it’s worth giving the benefit of the doubt

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        Nauallis says:

        I’m surprised to hear the New Sun series mentioned! What gave you that impression, the video, the description, both, or neither?

        From what I remember of Shadow & Claw and Sword & Citadel, the setting is so far future that the sun has expanded and contracted into a red dwarf, mercury is subsumed, and Nessus is the last city and it’s more of a continent-city built upon the ruins of the entirety of human history. Severian’s torturers guild origin is housed and based in the lower decks of scuttled starships. It’s not so much that there was ever any “evil wins” as “time wins” and there’s been so much history that nobody’s really sure what’s going on anywhere on Earth or the Solar System. But then Severian ends up as the ruler of Earth, so I dunno.

  21. engion3 says:

    yesssssssssss, pillars was by far my favorite game last year, I just started my second playthrough!