Tyranny: Bastard's Wound Review

Last year’s Tyranny felt like a surprisingly successful video game experiment.  The game’s developer, Obsidian Entertainment, has been attempting to innovate on dialog and party interactions ever since their first release (Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II, 2004).  Over the years, they have gradually improved on these features while increasing their prevalence in their games.  It never felt like they reached their true potential though until Tyranny came along.  Although it wasn’t known for excelling in some traditional RPG areas like combat or loot, Tyranny was a landmark achievement in story, party interactions, and role-playing.  Its lore-packed world and colorful characters allowed the opportunity to interact with them in just about any style, and they reacted realistically and appropriately to every decision that you could make. It was a highly focused effort with some terrific strengths.

The DLC Tyranny: Bastard’s Wound, unfortunately, fails to leverage or build upon those strengths.  The DLC’s new area is mostly a dungeon crawl that does not offer more of what most Tyranny fans are likely looking for.  The game also offers some companion quests, but these quests may or not be available to you, depending upon where you are in the game and what you have done up to that point.  It is for that reason that Bastard’s Wound might be worth buying as part of a package if you have never played Tyranny before or intend to replay it.  If, however, you finished the game and you don’t want to restart it, then the Bastard’s Wound DLC is not worth your money.

Most of the DLC takes place in the titular Bastard’s Wound, a secret refuge in the Oldwalls that houses an unlikely cosmopolitan mixture of all of the game’s races and factions.  You receive a summons to this area once you have the DLC installed from a Sage known only as “L”, and you can venture there at any time during the game.  Or, at least, you should be able to – I had to start up the game about four or five times before this quest finally triggered, and I couldn’t access any of the new content until then.  This little glitch is indicative of a larger problem with the DLC – its half-hearted design and integration into the rest of the game.

If you finished Tyranny, then you know that there were some major story events and some major choices for you to make at the end of the game.  Disappointingly, the DLC all but throws these choices in to the trash can at the outset.  Anyone that you killed is still dead, but nobody in the entire world seems to know about it or care.  Everyone that you meet still talks to you as if it is Chapter 1 of the original game.  For many games, this problem would not be a big one, but Tyranny was largely defined by how well the world reacted to your decisions.  Taking that strength away removes much of its identity and spoils much of the experience.  This problem also manifests itself when it comes to the game’s companion quests, which might be downright broken for you for some of the characters.  The quests for Barik and Verse, in particular, for me at least, were not accessible.  Since those two characters were my favorites from the original game, that problem was a big disappointment for me.  There is no reason that at least Barik’s quest shouldn’t have been available since the character that can give you this quest was still alive in my world. I was also a big fan of Kills-in-Shadow, but I came across no side quest for her.  The only companion quest that I completed was the one for Lantry, which was somewhat of a dull scavenger hunt in the game’s dungeon. 

Other than one or two short-lived expeditions to a couple of small new areas, you will be spending most of your time in the underground village at the Bastard’s Wound, and then in the dungeon below that village.  The brief dungeon crawling sessions from the original Tyranny were some of that game’s weaker parts, which is why it is a big disappointment that the majority of the DLC is essentially a dungeon crawl.  The village above the dungeon provides you with some shopping opportunities and a few quick side quests before you delve underground and slog your way through a few large areas.  These areas are, quite frankly, horribly dull and uninteresting.  They are plagued by both enemies and scenery that are unimaginative and repetitive.  For about three or four hours, you scour the dungeon, pick up a few keys, push some buttons, gather a ton of treasure that you will never use, and slash your way through small groups of enemy fodder.  This material doesn’t provide any satisfying hack-and-slash combat, nor does it add any interesting mythology to the original game.

The difficulty of the dungeon is also laughable if you start the DLC in Chapter 3.  By that time, your party and their equipment are so overpowered for Bastard’s Wound that you can simply click on every group of enemies and then sit back and watch the carnage without so much as lifting a finger to micromanage your party.  Obsidian’s DLC for Pillars of Eternity, The White March, had an option at the outset to increase the difficulty of the DLC if you had finished the original game.  That option helped keep that DLC challenging and engaging.  Its omission in Bastard’s Wound is a glaring one, and indicative of the uninspired nature of this DLC.  Little or no consideration appears to have been given to the variety of situations in which gamers would be approaching this content.  Some people will experience it as part of a new game, but most gamers who buy the DLC will likely have played through most or all of the original game.  The White March accommodated both sets of gamers, but Bastard’s Wound does not.  The DLC also fails to provide any new NPCs, which is another big disappointment since the original game didn’t have many. The game could have really used at least one more.

Tyranny: Bastard’s Wound is a hard DLC to recommend.  The original game had its shortcomings, and its ending was somewhat abrupt.  The DLC does nothing to rectify those shortcomings, flesh out the story from the original game, or provide any refreshing new content that is as strong as what was in the original Tyranny.  It doesn’t feel like a chunk of content that could have fit into the original game but had to be cut for time or budgetary constraints.  Instead, it feels like DLC that has little or no reason to exist.  It has little value to you unless you tackle it the way that it was obviously intended – in the middle of the original game instead of near the end.  Even if you experience the DLC this way, you will find that it is arguably the weakest content in the game world.  The DLC may be worth getting when it is heavily discounted, or perhaps as a package with the original game, but it is not a “must have” for those looking to enjoy the universe of Tyranny.  Everything that is good about that universe, from its fascinating lore to its intricate politics, can be enjoyed in the original game.