Tyrant’s Blessing First Impression Redux – Full Version Edition

Last year during one of the Steam Next Fest events I tried out the demo for an indie tactics game called Tyrant’s Blessing. I was immediately captured by the way the game takes inspiration from Into the Breach – one of my favorite all-time tactics games – and changes up the mechanics to create something new and different from the core premise. Recently I picked up the full game and I’ve spent a couple of hours completing my first run. With that experience under my belt, I want to revisit what Tyrant’s Blessing is doing with the context of the full experience and see how that has affected my impressions overall.

Tyrant’s Blessing tells the story of a world embroiled in war. The titular tyrant is a necromancer whose army of the dead is overrunning the land. You play as a band of heroes and their heroic pets who set out to defeat the tyrant and bring an end to his reign of terror. You begin the game with four heroes: the princess Lyndal, the knight Borges, the spearfighter Traegar, and the archer Leland. You also have two pets: the dog Sparky and the panda Inka. At the beginning of your first run, you’ll choose three of the four heroes – including specifying one as your leader, which gives a special bonus to the party – as well as a pet to be the units you control during your run. You can then interact with the world map to begin choosing battles and making your way towards the tyrant’s lair in the northern reaches of the kingdom.

A mission briefing. These simple breakdowns give you a good look at what you’re in for before you commit to a battle.

Each mission places you on an 8 x 8 grid populated with enemies, obstacles, and the occasional NPC that needs to be protected. You’ll be offered a number of positions to deploy your units that varies from map to map – the smallest I’ve seen is five, where your options are pretty limited, but many maps have more with a couple having as many as seven. Until you choose to start combat you are free to place your units, switch them around, and examine enemies and interactables on the battlefield to get an idea of what the match is going to be like. You can also see what your objectives are for the battle as well as the rewards for those objectives. Rewards are usually reputation (which you can exchange to a merchant for upgrade ore) but sometimes you’ll get upgrade ore immediately, or you can get energy which revives a character when they are killed. You can carry up to five revivals at once.

When a round of combat begins, your foes will position themselves and telegraph the attacks they are going to perform. You can see their effective range as well as the amount of damage that will be dealt. Your goal is to move your characters and use their abilities in order to prevent the damage to your characters and instead defeat the enemies. That may make it sound simple, but there are some tricky considerations when it comes to avoiding damage. Enemy attack ranges are highlighted by red or orange squares – red tiles are explicitly targeted while orange tiles represent an area of effect. If you move a unit out of a red tile, a piece of their soul called a “shade” is captured and held at that point. Shades take damage just like units; in other words, if all you do is move your unit out of the way, you haven’t actually done anything to protect them. The trick is to move the enemy, change the direction of their attack, neutralize their attack, or to move your unit in such a way that they do not leave a shade behind.

In this case, the shield around Borges will absorb the damage from his shade, preventing any actual harm to his person. Shields are quite useful!

Your characters can take three actions on their turn: a move, a dash, and an ability. Move allows the unit to move a number of tiles up to their movement range, as long as no obstacles or other units are blocking their movement. Dash allows the character to move to the other side of an object that provides cover or to hide in adjacent bushes or smoke – dashing prior to your movement limits your movement to 1 tile, but importantly dashes do not leave a shade behind. For this reason, positioning your team so that dashing is an option available to them is important to your strategy. Abilities are the attacks or powers unique to each unit, the most common effect of these being to deal damage to enemies and/or move them to a different tile. Defeating an enemy obviously cancels out their attack, but you can effectively neutralize them or even trick them into hitting each other by pushing them over so that a new tile is targeted by their attack. This also prevents a shade from being created, allowing your units to move safely.

The number of enemies you’ll be dealing with at any one time varies based on the map and the amount of progress you’ve made in a run; my run started with four per map and ended at five per map, but that could change based on the length of the run as well as the difficulty setting. But enemy numbers aren’t the only factor into how tough a map might be: there’s also the void energy hanging over that map to deal with. Void energy represents the power of the tyrant to bring the undead to life, and during battle at the end of a round that energy will bring back defeated enemies until there is no void energy left. So depending on how many foes you defeat each turn, you may have to target down the same enemies two or three times before they will finally stay down properly. When you have tough enemies on the field like bosses, this is particularly important to consider so that you don’t end up defeating a powerful foe only for them to come back with void energy to continue to haunt you.

Between matches, characters have conversations at base camp that tell you more about their backstories or about the setting at large.

After you win a battle you collect your rewards: gold for defeated enemies and then whatever rewards were associated with the objectives that you completed. After every fourth map, a merchant arrives at your camp and sells you things in exchange for gold and reputation. Gold buys items, which are consumables or artifacts with a certain number of charges per combat that allow your characters to take different actions. In my run, for example, I had Lyndal using a staff that could heal an ally and restore their movement, dash, and action points, and I gave Leland a knife that enabled him to perform a melee attack since all his abilities are ranged. Reputation is exchanged for ore which you can then use to upgrade your characters. Ore can be spent one-for-one on increases to HP or movement, or it can be spent in sets of two or three to level up the abilities on your characters. This generally increases their range or damage, but sometimes adds another beneficial effect, such as making Leland’s basic arrow attack heal him or enabling Lyndal to push foes adjacent to an ally that she gives another action with Queen’s Order. Upgrading characters is important as expanding how many targets they can hit or how much damage they do enables them to keep up with the steadily increasing power of the tyrant’s forces.

In terms of structure, whenever you clear a map you unlock new maps adjacent to it. By steadily moving north, you can reach the tyrant faster and end the run more quickly, but you’ll be earning less resources to spend on upgrades. However, the longer you go on the more enemies will spawn per map and the more void energy they will have to work with. In this way the difficulty slowly amps up while maintaining game balance throughout the run. It’s up to you whether you prefer to wrap up runs quickly by making a beeline for the tyrant or if you want to take your time harvesting resources. The game rewards both approaches with achievements, encouraging you to experiment with your playstyle and try different strategies and tactics to achieve victory.

Similar to Into the Breach, Tyrant’s Blessing has in-universe justification for why your heroes are trapped in an endless cycle of battling the tyrant.

Achievements in this game are not just to make you feel good about yourself. Every two achievements unlocks a character of your choice (the game says that they unlock a random character, but I have gotten to select who I wanted every single time). There are a total of twenty heroes and ten pets to collect, so since you begin the game with four heroes and two pets unlocked you’ve got a total of 24 units to collect by earning achievements in the game. That’s 48 achievements in total to unlock everyone, and since the game has 54 achievements you can get a full cast of characters without having to accomplish every single one. Trying out different combinations of heroes and pets is what adds replayability to the game – each run is different when the characters you bring have different abilities and therefore different synergy with one another.

Seeing Tyrant’s Blessing now in its full form, it has been interesting to see how some of the improvements I was hoping for after the demo did get implemented, as well as how the structure of the game has ultimately shaken out. I do wish it was a little clearer how things like the order of map unlocks worked but for the most part I’m pretty satisfied with how those elements of the game I didn’t get to see in the demo have shaken out. The character unlocks come at a good pace and I’m excited to experiment with the new heroes and pets I have selected in my next run. As I experiment with other difficulties and new combinations of characters, that will probably make up the bulk of what I cover about the game.

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