When I reviewed Tyranny last year, I didn’t expect to receive much more in the way of content for the game due to the smaller scale of the project. Obsidian Entertainment has been busy, sandwiching Tyranny between the Pillars of Eternity series and the Pathfinder Adventures phone game, which have reached a wider audience for the independent studio. Tyranny, for all its faults, was a hidden gem that RPG aficionados will find enjoyment from, thanks to its strong mechanics and interesting, evil slanted hook.
Fast forward a year and Tyranny gets a full-blown DLC release, offering a small, compacted experience to a relatively small game. Titled Bastard’s Wound, like Tyranny it is a somewhat quiet experience that offers a bit of hidden depth to it but is mired by its own length and narrative shortcomings that hold it back from being a standout piece of extra content.
Bastard’s Wound continues the story of the Fatebinder by providing a new world to slowly unlock, a decaying oldwalls ruin now inhabited by many survivors from the overlord Kyros’ armies. The Wound itself is decaying and deceptively hostile, and the interpersonal politics of the survivor camp have come to a head as the two primary leaders jockey for position and control of the settlement, often by any means necessary.
In a sense, Bastard’s Wound is a microcosm of the strength and weakness of Tyranny as a game experience: the ambiguously amoral circumstances the player finds themselves stuck in coupled with characters that seem to have depth but ultimately are too one-dimensional to defend. We see some desperate acts of survival juxtaposed to more moustache-twirling stupidity masquerading as the same moral ambiguity, and it leaves about half of the dozen or so questlines added from the DLC to fall flat in terms of any narrative impact.
Two sidequests really hit this home, one well executed and playing to the strengths of Tyranny and one poorly implemented. The first has you investigating a mini murder and crooked gambling ring within the Wound, where you can confront several characters, some of which show remorse for their actions regarding their involvement in the questline. It puts the player in a tight position because they can justify their actions or uphold them by the letter of the law, both of which have unique consequences based on the situation in the Wound itself.
The second example shows the weakness of the writing by having the two leaders in the Wound secretly trying to poison their food and water supply to make the situation in the settlement direr for leverage. The problem is the move makes no sense, to the point where even the player can point out the fallacy of logic behind these schemes, and after uncovering things, nothing is done with it until the climax of the DLC, leaving it as a sidequest that has no impact or payoff save for another line of dialogue to click at the end.
This is the fine line Tyranny always walked, and we see a lot of examples of both good and poor writing in Bastard’s Wound. Sadly, the former questline involving the murderer and gambling ring is more of the exception when it comes to the main quests of the DLC, as many of the actions found in Bastard’s Wound present a simple and somewhat predictable outcome. The two primary faction leaders in the settlement are clearly established, and by the end of the new questlines found in the DLC, the choices presented are based on what information, as Fatebinder, you uncover regarding their schemes. Do you side with one side or the other, take power for yourself, or wipe out the settlement completely?
Obsidian is good at giving many choices to the player regarding the fate of the settlement, but most of the consequences remain the same, depending on how events play out. It also attempts to present more mysteries about the old walls and the environment of the Wound itself, but it is a mystery in name only as the context clues given to the player throughout spell out what to expect in terms of twist and turns. The new endings attached to Bastard’s Wound for the base game are much more sophisticated and offer long-reaching consequences, provided you can uncover them in the first place to experience it all.
It is the extra content outside of the claustrophobic halls of Bastard’s Wound that are much more interesting. The first are several small vignettes that happen while traveling the in-game map. These can see the Fatebinder being rewarded with goods or money, gain loyalty and disfavor with factions, or can be avoided all together, offering written questlines that play out like old school text adventure games. What is interesting is that this content comes from another small "Event Pack" DLC, titled Tales from the Tiers, which can be packaged in with Bastard's Wound.
The second big addition, however, is much needed companion questlines. You only receive three of them for the characters Barik, Verse, and Lantry, but they are long and detailed quest lines that lead to great character development between your companions and out of all the choices made in Bastard’s Wound. These questlines feel like they offer the most impact, along with providing the best written content in the DLC.
The catch, unfortunately, is another quirk in the design of Bastard’s Wound: all the companion questlines can only be accessed in the second act of the game. In fact, much of the content in Bastard’s Wound is tailor-made for the game's second act, giving the entire DLC the sense of being a burgeoning middle chapter in your quest to unite, or pacify, the lands around you. For some, this may not be a problem, especially for those looking to try Tyranny for the first time (or pick up the whole bundle with the Bastard’s Wound added to it). Others though .... the loss of access to some of the best content in the DLC by what act you play the game in is a major inconvenience.
Bastard’s Wound in the end is a quiet expansion that doesn’t really expand upon anything in Tyranny. It offers the same style of gameplay, and at its strongest it gives the player enough morally ambiguous choices to satisfy a morally ambiguous dilemma. At its worst, it is an extra five hours on top of an already short experience; five hours that doesn’t extend nor expand upon the world in ways that are fully sufficient enough for the experience given. Bastard’s Wound is really for Tyranny purists, a minor DLC to help extend an evil empire a little further than you expected.
Bastard's Wound was reviewed PC with a copy provided by the developers.
Bastard’s Wound is really for Tyranny purists, a minor DLC to help extend an evil empire a little further than you expected.
- Great companion sidequests...
- New questlines and area unlock...
- New endings!
- ...specific requirements to access them.
- ...mediocre to poor narratives in most questlines.
- The Wound not as mysterious as it makes it out to be.
- Not really much new, in the end.