Obsidian Entertainment have long proven themselves masters of RPG storytelling. As one of the leading studios, if not the leading studio, in crafting detailed and complex questing narratives, their games frequently offer far greater moral ambiguity than almost any other release. Tyranny was one of the greatest examples of this, setting you up as a villain but giving you every opportunity to decide what sort of person you would become. The Bastard’s Wound takes these strengths and puts a twist on them, by having you decide the fate of a small refugee settlement on the brink of civil war.
The entire DLC serves as a deconstruction of the old trope of “shattered peoples struggling together” as what at first seems to be a hopeful setting is broken down. While three of the initial major NPCs are set up as decent if flawed individuals, it takes several quests for you to realise just how massive some of those flaws are, and what you might need to do with them. However, to top this off, sometimes the morally right thing here is the worst possible option in the long run, and unless you make a few extremely careful decisions, trying to be a good man can only bring ruin to those you help.
It’s a grim and very dark premise to be sure, but the Bastard’s Wound tries to keep this balanced out with genuine moments of hope, and the opportunity to make a real difference. There are a few extremely carefully hidden methods of stacking the metaphorical deck in your favour, but it might take a few replays to find them all. While this might sound repetitive, the alterations to the story and the sheer level of companion dialogue helps to elevate possible frustrations with the game. Almost every companion has a vested interest in something or someone in the encampment, which builds towards a few interesting interactions or even hidden side quests.
Unfortunately, while the story has many strengths, there are a few innate failings. Perhaps the greatest of these on a narrative level his how certain plots seem to simply stop after a while. The initial politics and detective work gives way to a tangentially connected quest for the bulk of the game, only to resolve the first part in a couple of conversations. Each individual segment is well executed in of itself, but it’s hard not to feel as if you’re missing out on a few major twists and turns after so much set-up.
This could be forgiven quite easily, but a few bugs had the irritating habit of interfering with the questing systems. The rebel aligned path in particular suffered from several moments where NPCs would refuse to offer the right prompts, barring you from continuing certain side-quests. In others it seemed that they failed to fully respond to certain events, as I was directed to speak with one captive solider, not recognising that events elsewhere had ensured she was dead prior to my arrival. Even with a DLC where the main appeal is replaying it over and over again, this is remarkably frustrating.
Finally, and perhaps most pressingly, the DLC does resort to the same tried and true mechanics we have seen many times before. You’re yet again left hunting for keys inside the old walls and, while it offers a few welcome twists on the premise, you’d be forgiven for thinking “Oh, this again?” when it shows up. Even a few companions say just that.
The Bastard’s Wound ultimately sticks to many of the strengths and flaws of the original game, but it’s hard not to feel that this was comparatively insubstantial. What we get is certainly good, utterly stunning in fact and with the sort of moral ambiguity and direct consequences more RPGs need, but another abrupt ending and the bugs hold this back from a higher score.
If you loved the original Tyranny’s narrative and sheer replay value, definitely pick this one up, but be ready to stomach a couple of minor flaws by the end.
TYRANNY DLC – BASTARD’S WOUND / DEVELOPER: OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT / PUBLISHER: OBSIDIAN ENTERTAINMENT, OSX / PLATFORM: PC / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW