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Review

Tyranny: Bastard’s Wound Review

Back to the Tiers.

When I reviewed Tyranny last year, I was hugely impressed by its writing, world building and satisfyingly original take on the dynamics and banality of evil. Despite the overly fiddly and repetitive combat system, I still find myself thinking back on the ways in which Obsidian’s RPG broke new ground. With these fond memories of my time spent navigating the world of The Tiers, I was looking forward to checking out the Bastard’s Wound DLC. Taking place alongside the events of the original game, the expansion introduces a new area outside of the main narrative, rather than fleshing out the disappointing final act.

Intended to be explored at any stage from the beginning of Act II, Bastard’s Wound contains more of the mature writing and complex moral choices that characterised the main game, but stands apart from the central conflict between the Disfavoured and the Scarlet Chorus. This shift in emphasis is understandable – the writers have stated that they were keen to make the content accessible to players regardless of the choices they made and alliances they may have formed – but does lend the whole affair a somewhat tangential feel.

One of the best aspects of Tyranny was the way in which decisions and actions all felt connected to the aftermath of the war, so adding in a story on the side does run the risk of diluting things. Bastard’s Wound gets around this by instead focusing on the ways a dissolute band of refugees attempt to escape the rule of Kyros. The end result is an episode that acts as a microcosm for the main game, retaining the sharp and morally ambiguous writing while cutting back on the excessive mob combat.

Clocking in at around six hours, this DLC is far more substantial than the earlier Tales from the Tiers, an update that felt more like a glorified patch. It’s narrative is coherent and self-contained, borrowing from the wider lore established through Obsidian’s awesome world-building but using those details to tell a smaller-scale story. Whilst less important in a global sense, the conflicts and disagreements between the refugees make for an intriguing background, and one that continues Tyranny’s reluctance to offer up easy definitions of right and wrong.

Little has changed with the main gameplay, and therefore my original issues with the combat system remain. That being said, I played through this expansion with my end-game party and found the fights easier as a result. I was pleasantly surprised by how few forced battles there were and enjoyed talking my way through encounters on the whole. As with the main game, however, there is scope for alternative paths and an amusing achievement exists for wiping out every resident of the Wound. Similarly, achievements are available for the full range of final decisions about the fate of the refugee’s camp, although this largely revolves around a relatively small section of dialogue, as evidenced by my being able to reload a save and work through all the options one by one.

The most impressive part of the game remains its gritty writing, again containing some appropriately earthy language. Considering that even the title of the DLC would be censored through Steam’s discussion board settings, this should come as no surprise. The depiction of various character’s world-weariness at the horrors of the outside world is well realised and makes for a welcome change from the largely war-mongering attitudes of the central figures. Narratively, I felt that this shift in emphasis worked more successfully as post-game content than it would have at the recommended mid-point. If I had been playing from scratch, I would be disappointed not to have the party changed in some substantial fashion by the events of Bastard’s Wound.

The plight of a refugee community trying to cope with the legacy of warfare whilst negotiating their own petty differences is a depressingly topical one and makes for an original setting. There is real skill demonstrated in the way that Obsidian depict racial and political ideologies without resorting either to swift judgements or trite centrism. Whilst your own political and moral approach will influence the choices you make concerning the refugees in Bastard’s Wound the various sides are well rounded and their justifications convincing.

Perhaps the only negative aspect of my playthrough of the DLC was the presence of some annoying bugs in the pre-release build of the expansion. Occasionally areas failed to load, necessitating a restart – a minor version of the issue that blighted my attempts to play Obsidian’s earlier Pillars of Eternity – but more disruptive was a progression bug or glitch that made an NPC non-interactive. It wasn’t game breaking as I was able to carry on and didn’t even realise that she should have been until late in my initial play through.

Restarting the episode from my original Tyranny save seemed to fix the issue, and getting in touch with Obsidian, they were unable to reproduce it on newer builds. Again, we should emphasise that this was prior to release, and these issues should be fixed for today’s release.

On the whole, therefore, my experience with The Bastard’s Wound DLC for Tyranny was a positive one. In building on the fantastic world built through the main game, this extra episode provides a powerful insight into the personal costs of the political and military concerns of the game’s larger narrative arc. The additional subquest for Lantry (the sage character) is particularly relevant here, focusing as it does on the responsibilities and power held by historians and chroniclers as they attempt to document ongoing conflicts.

Whether you have played Tyranny and want to delve back in, or have yet to experience the game, The Bastard’s Wound is a very successful addition. If only they could do something about the abrupt ending of the main game, but perhaps we’ll have to wait for a sequel for that.

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