The Let's Play Archive


by TheGreatEvilKing

Part 59: Cleopatra Jones and the End of the Game

Cleopatra Jones and the End of the Game

See if you can catch my mistake.

: [Turn to your companions] This probably amounts to a declaration of war against the Overlord. Ready?

Dammit, Eb.

: If I don't show Kyros my ability to cast the Edict is more than a one-time thing, the attacks will never stop.

: Mmm. That would be a riposte for the ages. If it were up to me, we'd debate the matter until Kyros' forces were upon us. You had better hurry.

: He nods to the resonator at the center of the Spire.

Clicking this button ends the game.

We are treated to the animation we saw earlier when the Chorus attacked - Cleo floats up and says a bunch of shiny words...

The resonator glows brightly...

The Edict is pronounced!

This is the part that makes it difficult to believe that this was all according to Kyros' evil plan to create controlled opposition - we get out of control and completely destroy the capital. Before someone brings up 1984 and the rocket attacks, those weren't really consequential. They happened, sure, but WInston was able to go about his life more or less uncaring.

The sky is bright...

...and darkens as our mighty Edict takes effect.

The red waves of Kyros are driven back as we've broken the offensive.

The clouds close over the map, concluding the game.

This is obviously not Kyros' intended result. It makes it legitimately profitable for the Archons to defect. More on that later.

Well, it wasn't just me and Cleo, the thread nearly unanimously decided Ashe and Nerat sucked.

This one is kind of weird to me. There is an authority - us! We even have Tunon and his legal system intact and Bleden Mark to politely ask idiots to shut up.

It would make more sense if people were discussing new ideas a la the end of the English Civil War, but the language used makes me think people are fighting in the streets, and that doesn't seem like something we'd allow.

The only way to save the Stonestalkers, sadly, is to leave the Edict in place. It's kind of dumb, especially if you either join the tribe or challenge Hundred-Blood for dominance. You'd think you could leave standing orders to leave the Beasts alone or have them hole up in the Spire or something. There's a lot of bizarre railroading in these endings, where the game assumes you went on the Anarchy path because you're a selfish asshole and not because all the factions sucked.

I'm not really sure what the tactical disadvantage is of having the fortress, and we also saved the country and the kid. Then again, who said detractors were reasonable?

We get railroaded into hoarding the knowledge instead of setting up a university or something.

This is my big mistake. Because I usually don't play on Anarchy - the route where you have to take the hat or piss off Mark - I usually just leave the Helm in Lethian's Crossing, because it sucks. If we had returned the hat Harichand Bronze - the Scarlet Chorus merchant - takes the city for himself.

I think the idea behind the Anarchist endings is that we don't have a solid powerbase having pissed everyone else with armies off, but we're also portrayed as having an army of tax collectors who can ravage Apex. It's really weird! We still have the Court of Fatebinders we can ask to look into this stuff.

Like this one. When you play as the rebels and recruit the Forge-Bound, they start making weapons for your army instead. When you play as an Anarchist, they all take their ball and go home. Why not.

We, uh, saved Bastard's Wound. Yay?

I guess we're supposed to just forget about all the murdering and torturing they did. Man, was that DLC terrible.

I wouldn't mourn, he never cared about you anyway.

If Tunon dies, you recreate the Court of Fatebinders to help you keep order.

Wait, hang on, we have a whole army of troops trained by Barik, why is everything falling into infighting again?

These are the high loyalty endings for all the companions.

I actually like this one.

Roll credits.

Tyranny is a flawed game, both in gameplay and story.

We've covered enough of the gameplay to know why it isn't great, and the story kind of falls apart at the ending (notice how all the ending events are bizarrely independent, when they should be entwined) and we are using the Bronze Age to critique a lot of modern political ideas.

The DLC is kind of a mess, as you can see from the completely different lead who took it over and didn't seem to get the rest of the game. Bastard's Wound is a buggy, incoherent snorefest, the random events vary greatly in quality, the new ending is a nonsensical doozy demanded by reddit, and it's just not great overall.

All that said, I will stand by the assertion that Tyranny is the best of the Obsidian infinity-style CRPGs, at least as far as writing goes. Pillars of Eternity didn't really have a lot that stood out to me. The opening really wanted to remind you that it was like Baldur's Gate II - a mysterious evil mage fucked with your soul in a way that drives the plot - and the driving force of the game, much like the opening of Baldur's Gate, is to track down the mysterious mage and beat answers out of him. Pillars of Eternity 2 starts with a weird mystic montage where you're resurrected by false gods and the opening narration explains that you know the gods are false (as explained by attractive elf ladies) and then takes a hard turn into colonialism that you as the player have absolutely no reason to care about, because you can just get to the endgame island on your own by upgrading the ship or betraying the pirates. You don't live in the Deadfire or either of the lands attempting to colonize it, and at the end of the game you can take your ship and leave. The Rauatai-Huana dynamic is interesting, but ultimately I remember my playthough of PoE2 collapsing in "I don't care about these dumb idiots because I want to know if we're going to see any followthrough from the revelation that the gods are false and made by people." As it happened, there really wasn't. Sure, Eothas was maybe going to smash the resurrection machine, but that entire plotline was you just following him around to make one request

Now, Tyranny is not without its flaws. Act 3 is extremely short and rather rushed. I'm not convinced they effectively use their Bronze Age setting as anything more than window dressing seeing as we have modern fascism running around. The Anarchist path is especially odd, as per the ending we have no friends and are explicitly disallowed from doing effective things like building a coalition out of, say, the Bronze Brotherhood, the Stonestalkers, Chorus defectors, and Lethian's Crossing denizens and thus our career as a politician should be cut very short. The prose is bad, with constant cut-ins to describe gestures the characters make when their dialog speaks for them, and with far more words than necessary. Yet despite all of this, it manages to be - for a video game - a cogent analysis of a tyrant's rule and why it fails. A lot of videogames will excitedly proclaim that they are going to let you, the player, choose your morality, and then give you a choice between self-destructive puppy kicking and saintly altruism. Not a lot of them are going to start you with committing horrible atrocities as backstory, then forcing you into a series of choices that are bad not because your protagonist is irredeemably evil, but because the system forces your hand. Kyros is evil not because she's a Satanic figure - although this is arguable, as Milton's Satan displays many of the traits common to these petty tyrants - but because everything she does is to maintain her power and control over the system no matter the cost. It would have been easy to cast the Tiers' leadership as some kind of heroic wise government cast down by the usurper Kyros, but the game presents us with a bunch of complacent and inept leaders leaving a dissatisfied populace that Kyros takes advantage of. It's clear the Tyranny writers actually did research into tyranny, even if their examples came much later than the Bronze Age, and understood enough about the general power struggles of tyrants to put together something coherent. None of this is new or groundbreaking, to be fair. You can see the general incompetence of evil in media ranging from Volker Ulrich's biography of Hitler to the Empire Strikes Back, where Darth Vader's inept leadership ensures that all of the Imperial officers are incompetent because he keeps killing all of them and no one dares try anything new for fear of attracting his attention. It's not groundbreaking writing by any means, but it's nice to see writing that has some depth to it after crap like Numenera that shoves what it thinks is a Big Important Theme in your face and then incoherently drops diarrhea all over the floor because the authors clearly only read crappy nerd books. Hell, I'll even go out on a limb and defend Tyranny's ending a little in the postmortem.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Kyros?

1984 posted:

O'Brien left this unanswered. 'Next question,' he said.

'Does Big Brother exist?'

'Of course he exists. The Party exists. Big Brother is the embodiment of the Party.'

'Does he exist in the same way as I exist?'

'You do not exist,' said O'Brien.

Once again the sense of helplessness assailed him. He knew, or he could imagine, the arguments which proved his own nonexistence; but they were nonsense, they were only a play on words. Did not the statement, 'You do not exist', contain a logical absurdity? But what use was it to say so? His mind shrivelled as he thought of the unanswerable, mad arguments with which O'Brien would demolish him.

'I think I exist,' he said wearily. 'I am conscious of my own identity. I was born and I shall die. I have arms and legs. I occupy a particular point in space. No other solid object can occupy the same point simultaneously. In that sense, does Big Brother exist?'

'It is of no importance. He exists.'

'Will Big Brother ever die?'

'Of course not. How could he die? Next question.'

We've used 1984 a lot as a guide for Tyranny, because Kyros' setup owes quite a bit to Big Brother and the cults of personality that inspired him. There are a few things missing - there's no good example of the Two Minutes Hate, but the omnipresent feelings of being watched and continually judged (as favor and wrath rise and fall), the cult of Kyros, and the constant lying about how the Leader is going to fix everything and make things good are straight from the pages of 1984. Bleden Mark even acts as our O'Brien in pointing out that power is the only thing that matters when we ask about justice. Of course, problems arise because this is a fantasy RPG and the game wants to use magic both as an allegory for political power (in the case of the Archons) AND the sort of industrialized weaponry being used by the twentieth-century dictators.

More pragmatically, I'm not sure if the original draft of the game was ever supposed to reveal Kyros. Part of me wants to say we would never meet her because there's no way she can live up to the height as a 400 year old conquerer, and part of me says they'd have to make her pathetic as part of the broader theme about how everything Kyros touches turns to failure and shit. Both Tunon and Bleden Mark refer to Kyros as a woman when they talk about her seriously, but to be honest it doesn't matter. The gender thing isn't because she's queer or whatever, it's because officially Kyros is above such mundane concerns as "gender" or "appearance" because she transcends humanity as a god. Unofficially, the game's climax proves she's fallible by us proving as much to Tunon.

Kyros and Controlled Opposition

There's a lot of debate in the Tyranny community about whether or not Kyros secretly planned the player character's rise to power to create opposition she could use to hold the empire together and keep her power relatively intact. Going back to 1984, it's the reveal that O'Brien actually wrote the Goldstein book about how IngSoc secretly works and that the "resistance" was just a trap designed to catch people like Winston and Julia. The game actually addresses this, so it's not like the Kyros' plan theorists are pulling things completely out of their asses.

The idea that we've been doing everything Kyros' way the entire game honestly doesn't hold water for me for a few reasons. The first is that the optimal outcome for Kyros is that everyone dies when the Edict of Execution goes off - Ashe dies, Nerat dies, the rebellious Tiersmen all surrender instantly, Cleopatra dies removing the threat of a highly trained Fatebinder who actually survived two Edicts and training by Bleden Mark. My interpretation is that Kyros is improvising after that - the end goal is to get rid of Ashe and Nerat, destroying their potentially dangerous and hard-to-control armies using the Fatebinder as a tool to destroy one or the other, and then relying on Tunon to find the Fatebinder guilty of violating one of Kyros' many laws if the Fatebinder survives. It's honestly not a terrible plan and Kyros isn't stupid. The problem I have with the "Kyros planned your actions all along, and the Tiers rebelling is part of their plan" is that you aren't controlled opposition, and you're perfectly willing to turn and fight Kyros if pressed enough. In 1984 the Resistance is never a serious threat to the party, as it's controlled entirely by O'Brien and the Thought Police. In Tyranny the player ends the game by bringing "ruin and devastation" on the Northern Empire. Kyros isn't some infallible mastermind, the entire game is about the many ways Kyros IS fallible. That's the point. No tyrant can ever single-handedly fix everything, because they're one person who can never admit they're wrong or trust others enough to truly rely on their expertise. It's not even clear that this is a war Kyros can win, because people in the Northern Empire are realizing the Overlord is fallible (why didn't she protect us from the Edict?), we have subverted the legal system and the secret police, all the Archons who are sick of Kyros' shit can now demand more loot or they go over to Cleopatra at a time when the coffers don't have more war loot coming in, and the Empire is on the brink of collapse. The legitimacy of the system is intricately bound up with Kyros as ruler, so she can't even fall back on nationalism or something to motivate the troops in the face of our challenges. I honestly don't see Kyros' empire making it out of this without either empowering the Archons at the expense of Kyros as they're needed to put down the rebellion. Even if Kyros wins this war, they have to deal with whichever general commanded the victorious forces as said general can actually push back and demand more privileges, and then they have to deal with any Archons who decided that they weren't going to deal with Kyro's shit and broke away to form their own little fiefdoms. It's just a mess all around. The way to run a controlled opposition or using the opposition is to ensure that the opposition can't actually topple you. The Iranian mullahs like to whine about America a lot, but they know that if they go too far and provoke a war America shoves their shit in and that's the end of the looting.

Again, this stuff is open to interpretation, so if you have an argument I haven't seen before, go for it.

We still need to pick a route and a gimmick for our second to last playthough. I am thinking our second Fatebinder is a cruel asshole who gets all the party members killed and pisses off Tunon, but I'm open to suggestions!