Tyranny adds a New Game+ mode, but I’m not sure why

Tyranny‘s [official site] announcement of an expansion pack coming this September somewhat overshadowed the more immediate news of a DLC pack with core game tweaks released yesterday, as well as the introduction of a ‘new-game-plus’ mode in a new patch to the core game. Tales From The Tiers is a £4.50 collection of bits and bobs that makes changes throughout the game, introducing new quests, new random encounters, and generally fleshing out the already very fleshy game. But as someone who always finds ambiguously defined DLC additions bemusing, the simultaneous patching in of a new game plus (NG+) is what most intrigued me about a game I’d quite enjoyed last year.

Let me first sidetrack into those agoraphobic complaints about the nature of such DLC packs, before I get onto how Tyranny is trying to address some of its own issues. I doubt I’m alone in finding RPG DLC often very frustrating. It seems, too often, to be something that doesn’t provide a lovely new pool of game to dive into, but rather confusion as to what’s actually added, where or when it appears, and why anyone would want to load an earlier point from a game they’ve already completed to do some new side quests, before then presumably just stopping because they’ve already played the rest of the game before.

“Drargle: Plains Of Caberoth adds new DLC with The Goblet Of Susan, a whole new chain of quests set in the Flat Mountains, introducing a new companion King Rolo and fifteen new spells!” Oh, I think to myself. But I finished Drargle two months ago, and I guess sort of remember the bit in the Flat Mountains, but I’m not sure I have a save anywhere near there.

Impressively, Tyranny’s first DLC manages to be even more obscure than this. It’s not even confined to a location – they’ve just sort of scattered new bits throughout the Tiers. But even discerning this knowledge is only gained by reading between the lines of the pack’s information, all opaquely worded with phrases like, “Random encounters while traveling may lead to new quests.” “May”! It’s hard to understand how this can really be for anyone other than those who’ve never played the game before, who wouldn’t have known to miss it were it not there.

Is this DLC for people who want to play the entire 50 hour game a second time – a game that doesn’t even reach an ending? Um. That’s quite the ask.

Although, it’s something that makes more sense if you remember the deeply peculiar evolution of Tyranny as a game. During all its promotional outpourings, preview events, and so forth, it was described by developers Obsidian as an RPG created to be just a few hours long, and replayed multiple times. So great were the variations on offer, they said, that players would want to keep taking another turn to see how differently events could have played out. Siding with different factions, making more evil choices, and of course choosing different opening story options in the game’s Conquest section – a series of multiple choice options that let you define how the armies of Tyros conquered the Tiers and how much you sided with the Disfavoured or the Scarlet Chorus. What was released, however, was absolutely nothing like what had been promised, including the extremely peculiar abandoning of the (completely ineffective) countdown timer after the opening mission. For a game with such a chronic identity crisis, perhaps it’s only appropriate that its first DLC should be similarly bewildering in its implementation?

However, there does at last seem to be some sort of outward acknowledgement that the game hasn’t exactly been ideal for repeated spins. That’s revealed in the given reason for the NG+ on the DLC’s Steam page.

“A free patch adds New-Game-Plus mode and character re-spec options for an easier way to explore other plotlines.”

I wasn’t quite sure, so I booted the game up once more to see, and yes – it seems this provides the option to replay the game, but with your character specced up as they finished it the first time. Or, indeed, respecced up, letting you apply all your earned XP and skill points as you wish. It even lets you pick two of your top quality items from your old inventory to bring with you as you start all over.

As before, you get the choice of quick-starting with the Conquest results randomly rolled for you, or by playing through the Conquest once more. Here there’s a lovely detail that – forgive me – may have already been in the game, but is unlikely to have been noticed by most: as you make your choices it reminds you which ones you chose previously.

I love that. There are some, like the wonderful Richard Cobbett, who have a photographic (on video mode) memory for video games, who can remember every meticulous detail. And there are those like me who a month after finishing a game can’t even remember what the overarching storyline was about. With the binary choices presented at the start of Tyranny, I know for a fact that I’d inevitably make all the same choices again because I’d have no idea what I’d previously opted for, and feel compelled to make the picks that felt “right”. So here, with my earlier actions highlighted both graphically and with a line of text, I was able to ensure I went in a completely different direction with the opening, both philosophically and geographically.

Once you start the game, there are further advantages. A tutorial message pops up to say,

“In New Game+, you can unlock Reputation abilities earned in your previous playthrough without first meeting their requisite Reputation… The number of abilities you can unlock increases with each subsequent playthrough.”

Reputation is the measure the game uses to decide how characters in the game react to you and what quests you’re given, from an idle NPC right up to the Overlord, but also a sort of secondary XP, granting abilities depending upon how you lean between Favor and Wrath. All your previous choices are remembered, unless you’ve dramatically contradicted something in the re-roll (I think), and on this second turn you can pick two of them to carry over.

So great, right? You’re all powerful, ready to blitz through the game’s most tiresome aspect – the bitty, fiddly, ultimately dull combat – and see what new juicy elements are on offer? Um, nope. Expecting to be able to just walk over early enemies – because otherwise what is the game talking about when it says the NG+ will offer “an easier way to explore”? – I was surprised when the very first enemy soldier on the very first screen put up a fight. So I did a quick comparison to a regular new game with a new character, and yes, all the enemies are scaled to match your skills. Huh.

That first soldier, in a new-new game, has his parry at 47, his endurance at 61. In the new-game-plus he’s at 102 and 111 respectively.

Which results in, well, nothingness. Sure, you’ve got a more interesting set of skills nearer the start, more ways to hit the enemy, but you’re still having essentially exactly the same fight. It’s that perennial issue of RPGs – when enemies always scale to your level, the sense of growing more powerful is never felt.

Perhaps people will throw up their arms and call me a fool, based on the argument that a traditional NG+ option should allow you to play the game again but at a higher difficulty level, or at least with higher complexity. But when the option is put in place with the express intention of speeding you up to “more easily” access the new content, surely no such thing is achieved by just giving everyone the same boost? It’s not like Tyranny’s combat was ever interesting enough to justify the ridiculous number of grunt encounters – it was always just a case of clicking and clicking until the leagues of padding were done.

Maybe I’m the only one, perhaps people hate it when they can walk over the early boring combat of a game, because everyone else is weird except for me. But I’m most perplexed by this situation. There are other favours for the player, like a new merchant in Act 1’s first camp who’ll sell you some of the items you might most covet from your last time through, but ultimately it seems to just be asking you to play again, with more spells.

Which leaves me with no inclination to wade through what was already an only-decent RPG in the hope of even noticing which bits are new, on my way to that point where it just stops, instead of ends. Storming through the early sections, not needing to bore myself silly watching the slo-mo fights tick by as I go, until I’d at least reached the midpoint where things should start to even out again, was the appeal.

So, hopefully you’ve the information to know if this is in fact exactly what you were after, and provides the impetus to return to the game for another run. Or if you’re me, warns you it’s not quite what you thought the blurb was suggesting.

Tyranny: Tales From The Tiers is out now as DLC for Windows, Mac and Linux, via Paradox and Steam for £4.50 or £5.50.

40 Comments

  1. dancingcrab says:

    NG+ is a feature of the new patch; not the new DLC.

  2. Infinitron says:

    Game updates like these are really meant to publically “relaunch” the game to attract people who haven’t played it yet. They’re not for the people who have already played it.

    See also: “Director’s Cut” Editions.

  3. BaronKreight says:

    Just so you all know. Paradox has covertly doubled the prices for all their games on steam for Russian gamers. There was no info whatsoever about this increase on steam forums. They released a short text on their official forums about it but the reason for a 100% increase for Russians is yet to be revealed.

    I can tell you this much – their games are getting downvotes on steam because of this price doubling.

    • Ham Solo says:

      Understandably.

    • darkath says:

      Yeah this was a strange move, the kind that’s decided very high up and that you can’t really reverse easily.

      The CM appeared to struggle explaining this move on the forums, had no info to share or support from the brass, and kinda took the heat for something he had nothing to do with. It’s usually the kind of big issue where i expect the CEO or Sales VP to drop a line on the forums.

      The official word as per the CM, is to make prices more in line with life standards that have evolved over the years in the affected countries, but the reality is that many of these countries are struggling economically and/or in crisis, like brazil and russia

    • pendergraft says:

      Good lord. I hope they don’t release a U.S. immersion pack next.

  4. Jekadu says:

    I talked to a producer who worked on the project around the time it was released. They explained that the goal for the project was to create something that was in line with other Paradox games, while at the same time expanding their portfolio in a new direction.

    The DLC (sort of?) makes sense if you imagine that Tyranny is an RPG designed to feel like a Paradox strategy game.

    • Wormerine says:

      Yes, they go for similar approach as Paradox’s stategy games. As Tyranny takes around 25 hours to beat, and it does offer some replayability it kinda works, but not too well I think. From what I understand the upcoming expansion, Bastard’s Wound, will expand the base game as well, and will come with a free patch reworking the 3rd act of the game. I played through Tyranny 2x by now (sadly the second playthrough finished just before new stuff was announced – should have waited) so I will wait until September before I attempt my 3rd run. While I enjoy the world and story, the combat is very repetitive.

  5. Premium User Badge

    N'Al says:

    RPG DLC, no kidding.

    I recently completed Dragon Age: Origins* and its DLC was utterly schizophrenic. Additional map locations that appear without explanation (bar a few lines of text in the codex), a guy standing in your camp with an exclamation mark above his head, and a bunch of ridiculously short stories that need to be accessed separately (except Awakening, which was nice and meaty).

    * Yes, I am behind the times. Completed Oblivion only shortly thereafter as well.

  6. Samudaya says:

    Does that mean the soft level cap is removed? Once my character stopped getting XP I lost interest in Tyranny. Still as a wizard lover this game was a lot more fun than PoE. Closest thing to spellcrafting for a while. More spells sound good.

  7. Michael Anson says:

    At this point, I have to wonder what you were hoping to get out of an RPG.

    Let’s take DOOM as an example. In DOOM, your character never physically improves. Instead, he is given access to a variety of tools that he uses to slay the monster hordes, each more useful in specific situations but otherwise not technically more powerful. Replaying the game seems easier, not because the avatar has changed, but because the player has gained skill.

    Ever since D&D, however, RPG players have had characters that, completely unrealistically, gain power through play. Not merely new gear or skills, but significantly more frequent and powerful spells, stronger hits, etc. If that same character goes back to the same situation early in the game, player skill becomes irrelevant.

    At that point, it’s no longer a game, but a power fantasy.

    Can’t this same power fantasy be achieved artificially through difficulty selection, like other games have had for decades? If you want to see the story, change the game to an “easy” mode and breeze through combat. If things are not challenging enough, dial up the mechanical difficulty and see how well you do.

    Unfortunately, every time someone tries to divorce the gameplay from some sense of scaling power in an RPG, everybody throws a collective fit. Never mind that you continue to gain in tools to fight with, never mind that it makes no sense for a character to be able to blow a boar to bacon by sneezing on it, if you can’t go back to those early challenges and grind them into the dirt like nothing the game simply isn’t worth playing.

    Escalating power is something that, I feel, should be given a good, hard look and alternatives found. However, for that to happen, we as players need to stop complaining whenever the illusion of ridiculous power is stripped away, and instead find a way to allow games to become better.

    • GeoX says:

      If that same character goes back to the same situation early in the game, player skill becomes irrelevant.

      At that point, it’s no longer a game, but a power fantasy.

      CONGRATULATIONS. You have successfully described the purpose of NG+ modes. Please have a lovely kewpie doll.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      You write that as if the other frequently used method for this doesn’t exist, which it obviously does, not least in MMOs.

      Many games have the player required to reach a skill level that makes defeating enemies in particular zones possible, meaning you’re unable to survive in some areas, but absolutely dominant in others, the game’s narrative guiding you along the path that keeps things fairly equal. You are offered not only the power fantasy of returning to earlier areas, but also the reverse feeling of powerlessness when venturing ahead of your skill level. This allows for a decent challenge as the story plays out, but also the sense of progression, of becoming more powerful, as the world around you stays the same. And it works very well.

      And I’d strongly argue that of all the things in a *fantasy* RPG, it’s not the most unrealistic! I imagine if I started learning judo, I’d lose fights to anyone of any standard, but as I gained my belts and rose the ranks, returning to the beginner classes wouldn’t offer a significant challenge.

      Anyway, all of this is wholly irrelevant, since I was never complaining about an RPG doing this first time through, but rather removing any point or purpose to an NG+ by scaling everything so it’s ostensibly exactly the same experience.

      • Michael Anson says:

        MMOs are exactly the example I was going to use. Because of how the power levels in MMOs work out, people rush through low-level content to reach “end game” and are generally unsatisfied if they aren’t facing some final challenge. That leaves 90% of the game largely ignored, because there is no challenge or benefit.

        As to New Game +, the benefit would be in being able to make other narrative choices, not in rolling through the game and not deriving benefit from actual play.

        It’s pretty clear that a fair chunk of the RPS commentariat do not agree with my conclusions, however.

    • tormeh says:

      The Easy mode is often too hard. Pillar’s is an extreme example. Can every RPG get a “Skip the Combat” difficulty option? Because Pillars was a lot more enjoyable in White Marsh, and I think that was because the combat was easier. It could have been that the writing was better as well, though.

      The reality is that combat is cheap and writing is expensive. Combat can be good, but it’s often just padding.

  8. Premium User Badge

    Haywardan says:

    I really liked the combat in Tyranny, especially the magic system. It was better than Pillars, I thought, though IIRC, John wasn’t overly keen on the combat there either.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Genuine question: are you talking about the experience of using the skills and executing the complex fights when engaged with a named enemy, in the plot-driven battles? Because if so, me too, those were great. But I’m talking about – in both games – the tedium of having to do such fiddly, repetitive fighting every other footstep against mobs of randomly placed grunts.

      • Premium User Badge

        Haywardan says:

        I suppose I didn’t feel that the amount of “grunt” fights were excessive, and that the combat system was varied enough that you could experiment even there.

  9. skyst says:

    The gaming community seems to underestimate the consequences of your choices in Tyranny. I played through it twice, making radically different decisions in the second, and was genuinely surprised at how the game world changed between the two playthroughs. The most impressive was a town that was shattered by some geographical upheaval during my first game was in perfect shape in the second, I really wasn’t expecting that. That aside, there are many quests, zones, dungeons, items, etc that are entirely reliant and certain choices being made – I would wager that 80% or so of the game is seen in a standard “full” playthrough, not counting the more subtle reactions such as the presence of a particular NPC from one game to another.

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Which is only further reason it’s such a giant shame they weren’t able to deliver the game they promised. The 5-10 hour RPG where each time you play again you find this stuff. But for the vast majority of people, having even 50 spare hours to play through once is unrealistic. Meaning all this amazing writing and choice is meaningless to 98% of the people who buy the game.

      • Lacero says:

        I’ve played it through two and a bit times and steam says 41 hours played.

        Granted steam counts wrong sometimes but it didn’t feel very long to me.

        I wasn’t mucking around either. I think I did almost everything optional in both playthoughs, disfavoured path and anarchy path.

        Really not sure how you made it last 50 fora single run. Maybe journalism screenshotting takes time!?

  10. Premium User Badge

    Tkrens says:

    John you’re wrong, I love(d) Tyranny. Please stop saying anything negative about it, thanks :(

    • Premium User Badge

      John Walker says:

      Tkrens, you’re wrong. Please stop saying different opinions to mine.

      • FreshHands says:

        Gentlemen.

        Obviously you are both wrong. It is a nice game and I hated it.

        But at least the very first combat encounter felt like filler material – so that’s great!

  11. Someoldguy says:

    I have to share your frustration with this (and other) RPG DLC/patching that seems to throw out a whole mish mash of tweaks and snippets and describe it as if it’s compelling enough to get people who tired of the game before to play it again. I particularly shudder at the thought of the NG+ mode where you take a character that you thought you had defined by the choices they made, then shove them through the game again to see if they want to change their mind about anything. Would Planescape: Torment be a better game if, after the definitive ending, you got to restart the Nameless One back in the mortuary equipped with all his new powers? My answer is a resounding “Hell, no!”. If you want to explore a different path, what’s wrong with starting a new character as we’ve done since RPGs first emerged from the primordial swamp of bits and bytes?

    Perhaps even more baffling to me is that this unavoidable patch has chosen, for its own obscure reasons, to make “Story Mode” combat harder. Because people choose story mode to have decent fights, right? Oh wait, no. They choose Story Mode because they don’t like lots of tedious drawn out fights. Yet here we are:

    “Enemies on Story Mode, Normal, and Hard now use abilities more frequently.
    Health of enemies increased on Story Mode Difficulty.”

    This I just find baffling. I’m not even sure you should be making normal mode combat harder. There are two higher tiers of difficulty for people who want to sweat over their combat victories rather than the moral choices they are being asked to make.

    • Ghostwise says:

      For those of us who buy games much later as a heavily discounted GotY package, such DLCs and improvements are nice.

      • Someoldguy says:

        I’d happily buy DLC that furthers the story, like the White March 1&2 for Pillars. I’m not anti-DLC at all. I just want it to have a scope and purpose so that if you are replaying or fire up an old save you can find it. Similarly patches. I applaud them for spending their time making fixes for broken mechanics or improving the interface. No problem. But you surely can’t tell me you wait for the GotY edition because you’re worried story mode might be too easy?

  12. Yglorba says:

    I think that many of these DLCs are not aimed at existing players; rather, they’re aimed at getting the game back into the news to attract new ones and eventually allowing the developers to release a full-price “complete edition”.

    Also, I think that one approach many devs and publishers have taken to monetizing old games is to treat it a bit like shareware – put the game on a steep sale, in a bundle, or, in some cases, even give it away for free, and offer DLCs or upgrade packs in the hope that people with disposable income will blow money on those after their attention is drawn by the sale or giveaway or whatever.

    I don’t think it’s such a bad strategy, all things considered. But the key point is that not all DLC is necessarily aimed at getting people who have already completed the game to play it again (although some might.)

    Also, of course, a lot of DLC grows out of completing and re-adding content that was redlined before it was done and / or cut before release – in those cases, they don’t have so much choice about how to fit it in (and there’s still an incentive to go back and make the cut content into DLC, since they can profit off it in the ways I mentioned above even if it’s not necessarily enough to appeal to someone who already beat the game.)

    Not to mention that some of it grows out of the human urge of people saying “this part of the game isn’t as good or as fleshed-out as we wanted, let’s polish it up, add some stuff, and release that as DLC.”

  13. Sly-Lupin says:

    “Please buy our new DLC!”
    “What’s in it?”
    “Not gonna tell~”

    ….

    Also, can we get rid of this stupid notion that NG+ means increased difficulty? That’s something Dark Souls did, and yeah, it works for Dark Souls, but it’s also completely ruined the whole concept of New Game Plus for so many subsequent games. NG+ is supposed to be about making the game easier, faster and more convenient. We’ve already invested the time to play the game once, properly: we ought to be able to blaze through all the boring bits during NG+.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      It isn’t even true for Dark Souls; until you reach Anor Londo, an NG+ in DS is significantly easier than an NG. Yes, there are some areas and some boss fights afterwards that are noticeably more challenging in NG+ (the Four Kings, for example), but a typical endgame character can blaze through the first half of the game on NG+ without breaking a sweat.

      • Yukiomo says:

        With Dark Souls specifically, NG+ is often easy because of player gained skill, not because of a relative difference in combat numbers. In my experience, doing a NG+ run is of comparable difficulty to just starting a new character. In either case, the skill you picked up beating the game the first time translates to a much easier second go around.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          I don’t really think so. I played through NG twice with two different characters before attempting NG+, and I honestly think the first half of NG+ was the easiest of these three runs.

          Though you’re of course right DS is more about player skill than raw numbers.

  14. xyzzy frobozz says:

    This is why you should never, ever buy an RPG game at release.

    Why pay full price for an incomplete experience?

    Which goes to the wider question of whether the proliferation of DLC has trained gamers to wait months/years after a game has been released before purchasing. I know my own Steam wishlist essentially serves as a I-intend-on-buying-when-the-price-comes-down shopping list.

    • Nicodemus says:

      I disagree, buying an RPG at release allows you to explore the world you have been given. Once completed if you have enjoyed it and want more, DLC and expansions will improve your experience. If you completed it and have no more interest in the game, then you won’t want to add to it. For some it’s the tick in the box, completed it, next. For others, DLC scratches that itch to go back and have another go. I’ve been meaning to go back and have another play through to choose a different path and the vanilla game does give that to you. Now with the NG+ and DLC my interest to do it again and see the new bits has bumped up Tyranny over new games that I have started and struggled to engage with.

      • Isengrim says:

        There are too many games out there to replay all but the best of them… and since today’s trend is to release unfinished games and add bits later on, there’s no point in buying outright. I’m still waiting to try many of last years’ interesting games like Deus Ex, Mafia III or Dishonored 2 because they still have non-standalone DLC announced and unreleased, and am waiting for an all-in-one edition of Fallout 4 to finally get into it. It sucks that I’m somewhat out of the picture in regards to recent releases, but I’m not going to support these DLC tactics. I want the full game now + (somewhat) standalone expansions later style back, at least for singleplayer games…

      • GeoX says:

        Once completed if you have enjoyed it and want more, DLC and expansions will improve your experience. If you completed it and have no more interest in the game, then you won’t want to add to it.

        Yeah, I don’t agree with this at all. Just because I don’t want to play a long game through multiple times doesn’t mean I don’t want the most complete experience the one time I DO play it.

        • xyzzy frobozz says:

          Yeah, I’m with you.

          To be honest, I find RPGs to be the least replayable of genres. By the time I get to the end of them I’m usually starting to find the combat to be a bit of a slog.

          But I accept people differ in what they enjoy.

          To me, I’d rather play the most complete version of the game, finish it and move on to something else. That’s why I buy very few new releases these days, and have all but stopped buying any “early access” games.

  15. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    A bit strange, that new game+ of making you more powerful but then powering up everybody else as well. So.. what’s the point, then? I mean, the regular difficulty settings still exist so unless you only want the hardest setting _and_ new game+ (I assume it’s optional) in which case, well, fair enough.