Thoughts: Tyranny

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I feel like Tyranny suffers from a slight marketing problem. Let’s take a quick look at the blurb on the Steam store:

In Tyranny, the grand war between good and evil is over – and the forces of evil, led by Kyros the Overlord, have won. The Overlord’s merciless armies dominate the face of the world, and its denizens must find their new roles within the war-torn realm… even as discord begins to rumble among the ranks of Kyros’ most powerful Archons.

Sounds interesting, right? Tyranny is actively sold as an RPG where you are — or at least, are working for — the bad guy. Having played all the way through Tyranny now, though, I’d say that maybe one third of that summary is accurate; discord is indeed rumbling among the ranks of Kyros’ Archons, to the point where the first act feels more like you’re wrangling a bunch of preschoolers squabbling over who gets to play with the pony next than it does dealing with the immensely powerful leaders of Kyros’ armies. As far as the rest of it goes I have some bad news for Kyros, as the dictionary definition of “dominate” is “to have a commanding position over”, and since Kyros’ forces are afraid to venture outside of their camps in nearly all of the territories that you visit during the course of the game I would say that he’s1 dominating the world in the same way that the USA dominated Vietnam back in the ‘70s. It’s that first sentence I really take issue with, though. There is plenty of scope for an RPG in which you’re on the side of evil for once — genuine evil, not the mwa-ha-ha-ing stereotypes found in Bioware titles. Psychopath playthrough of Alpha Protocol aside, I’ve not seen the genre come up with anything significantly new here since I told Zaalbar to kill Mission back in Knights Of The Old Republic and I was looking forward to an exploration of what being evil would mean and how it would change things both for your character and for the wider game world.

Unfortunately, Tyranny is not that game.

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  1. Or she; one of the nice things about Tyranny is that very little is actually known about Kyros and nobody knows what gender they are, or even if they’re a single person or a group of people.
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Thoughts: Dishonored 2

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I’m a big enough man to admit that my review of the original Dishonored was a little on the harsh side. Indeed, it was deliberately so, since I felt at the time that the universal praise it was receiving from all practically all quarters of the internet was a little bit over the top and wanted to provide some balance. And so I went to town on Dishonored’s structural problems and gave it a thorough kicking, and in the process glossed over far too much of what it did that actually worked, and worked well. Much of that has only really become apparent to me in hindsight as I’ve played other games that have tried similar things only to stuff them up quite badly, but that’s just made me quite excited for the Dishonored 2: the first one was a good game with some serious flaws, but what are sequels for if not fixing what you couldn’t get quite right the first time around?

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Thoughts: Titanfall 2

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Unlike most people I didn’t think the original Titanfall not having a single-player campaign was a particular problem. It tied into the general malaise the game had of not providing anywhere near enough content for players to get their teeth into – the central multiplayer experience, while very finely polished and a lot of fun, was also rather limited — but I don’t feel like Titanfall was crying out for a thrilling narrative-driven tale of conflict between the two generic sides involved in its eternal robot war. What it was crying out for were more game modes, more Titans and more maps, and when these were not forthcoming the game swiftly died out as its playerbase deserted it.  I’m fine with games focusing solely on multiplayer as long as they’re up front about it, especially since the requirements of crafting a single-player campaign are often quite at odds with the requirements of a highly-tuned multiplayer game, not to mention being incredibly resource-intensive, and trying to focus on both often means you end up doing neither particularly well1.

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  1. It’s so difficult to work on both, in fact, that it’s been common practice for some years now to hand either the single-player or the multiplayer off to a completely different developer to be worked on as its own separate thing, which usually ends just about as well as you’d expect.
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Thoughts: Mafia 3

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It would be fair to say that Mafia 3 has received a bit of a mob beating from the gaming press in the weeks since it was released. Not providing review code ahead of the the release date is a bit of a red rag to a bull where reviewers are concerned, and when combined with the raft of bugs and technical issues present in the game Mafia 3’s critical drubbing was something of a foregone conclusion. Much of the criticism is more than justified; it’s certainly very difficult to peer past those rough edges to get a look at the game within, and even if you manage it it doesn’t appear all that impressive at first glance. However, I’m going to put myself somewhat at odds with the critical consensus by suggesting that there’s enough good bits inside Mafia 3 that it might be worth a second one.

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Thoughts: Civilization VI

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God help me, but I was actually looking forward to Civilization VI. After experiencing both Civilization V and Beyond Earth at launch I really shouldn’t have been; both were eventually patched into a decent state and after two expansions Civ V even went on to surpass its predecessors, but at launch they were flawed, buggy messes with plenty of basic functionality missing. Given Firaxis’s previous track record here it seems foolish to have expected great things from Civilization VI on launch, but after peeking at the development videos I just couldn’t help myself. The lead designer is the guy who pulled Civ V out of the muck. As a headline idea I can’t exactly call unpacking city management onto the world map inspired since Endless Legend got there first, but it’s potentially completely game-changing and Civ VI looked like it was going to explore the concept in far more depth. And in a departure from previous Civs they weren’t going to leave trade, espionage and religion for the expansion packs and instead integrated them into Civ VI as core features, essentially making it a Greatest Hits version of Civ V post-expansions. How could this possibly go wrong?

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Thoughts: World of Warcraft – Legion

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Little spotty on here recently due to me playing fewer games, also I went on holiday. Things should pick up at the end of the month since there’s something like ten interesting games coming out in the space of about three weeks.

I’ve resisted talking about World of Warcraft on here so far, except in passing. It’s twelve years old now, and my assumption is that by this point you’ve either played it already, or you are absolutely uninterested in hearing anything about it. Everyone’s going to have formed an opinion on it one way or the other and there’s little that’s useful that I can add to that conversation, especially since WoW’s pace of change has historically been somewhat glacial. New mechanics are added in so gradually that you barely notice how the game changes over time; even though a decade of cumulative additions means it’s a completely different game to what it was on launch, there has historically been very little new to be said about the it. This is precisely why I’m making an exception for the recently-released expansion Legion, though, since it goes against the grain of everything I just said by making changes to the endgame that are downright revolutionary when considered in the context of WoW. I can’t remember another expansion that changed the tenor of the game quite to the extent that Legion does — and certainly not in such a positive fashion.

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