Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Tyrant’s Blessing by Mercury Game Studio and Freedom Games is the perfect example of taking several well known styles and brilliantly making it their own. Combining the challenging worlds of grid based tactics, turn-based strategies and Roguelikes, one or two wrong moves is all it will take to send you back to the beginning as you guide your small squad to victory, or defeat, against the Necromancer known as the Tyrant.
Not quite sure how everything would play out as I started up the first of my adventures, which is always a thrill when dealing with turn-based tactics and roguelikes, Tyrant’s Blessing was a breath of… fresh air? Not sure that entirely applies to fighting hordes of the undead while trying to get to their boss and all, but here we are, no air fresheners required! In all seriousness though, the love that Mercury Game Studio has put into this was clear to see.
Starting off with a short tutorial to teach you the ropes, you’ll soon be on your way toward the Tyrant with a small squad that while low in number? More than make up for it on the field of battle. Generally set on a grid no larger than 8×8, you’ll have the choice of placing 3 humanoid characters and 1 animal for a squad of 4. This setup is all you will ever have and while limited in the beginning to those that kick off the adventure, it won’t take that long before you start to be able to unlock other characters, humanoid or animal, to find what works best for you.
Unlike a lot of other turn-based experiences, Tyrant’s Blessing flips the order around making it a “their turn” then “your turn”. The normal approach is that, if you can defeat everyone before they can act, great! If you can’t, just make sure that you’re ready for the counter-attacks. In this case though, the enemy moves first and from there, you’ll have a few decisions to make. Offering several difficulties, the toughness of your foes will dictate the decisions to be taken, but generally, you’ll want to “get out of the way” if you cannot take an enemy out, which is easier said than done.
After the enemy has moved across the field, you’ll see who they are attacking and how wide the spread of the attack is. Direct attacks will cause more damage, splash attacks will have wider ranges, and if an attack has knockback? You can take damage both on the hit and on the rebound. To avoid this, you’ll either need to do enough damage to the enemy to take them out, or “get out of the way” which again by this point, why the quotation you ask? The quotations are because even if you were to move out of the way, in about 90% of the cases, you’ll still be taking damage as the undead can hit your shade.
This feature alone ups the difficulty and the stakes. Not only will you need to worry about enemy placements, you need to make sure that your own forces are close enough to support one another while also not all being hit at the same time. So it’s great that in this case a lot of the characters that can be unlocked have abilities to help out in a variety of situations. Some can basically blast the undead back to where they came from.
Others? Others will have knockback attacks, the ability to pull characters or enemies backwards, the ability to teleport, or finally, the ability to put up a protective shield. While seemingly simple in the beginning, as the adventure moves forward the enemies are tougher and there’s plenty on the field that can end your adventure just as fast as they can. Oh, and icing on the cake? Enemies on every map have a number of times that they can be resurrected which also has to be taken into account.
So here is another point that I really enjoyed with Tyrant’s Blessing, the number game. Never really high, most characters and enemies in the beginning will be starting off with 2-3 hit points. This number can increase for your characters by upgrading them with a specific material that you can pick up, but, if you do that, you may not have enough to upgrade their damage for when the enemy’s health increases. Balance here is key between the character types that you pick, the amount of health you want to distribute, and the amount of damage that you want to output.
Getting these upgrade materials is simple enough in theory, but you’ll need to work on your approach. Every stage has objectives, and within these objectives you can receive stars, occasional upgrade runes or gold. Upgrade runes in hand are great, but they come rarely so you’ll want to make sure that you are indeed going out of your way for the stars which, like gold, can be used at a merchant whenever they show up. Three stars is one upgrade rune, health normally costs one of these, but attack upgrades? These each cost 2-3 at a time so you’ll definitely want to save up.
Gold on the other hand can be used for buying items to give you a bit of an edge in combat. High attack output, hexing an enemy as to not damage you on the next turn, protective barriers, knockbacks, pulling them in, healing, you name it, they’ve got it for a high price. That said, these items can be the first difference between life and death, as if you never lose all of your hit points, you don’t die. If a character does lose all of their hit points though, Tyrant’s Blessing has another feature to give you just a bit more time, Guardians.
Guardians, in which you have four stacked at a time, will take that life ending hit for you. Sometimes there’s just no way to avoid it with the moves that you’ve made, maybe that turn, maybe the turn before. You can, depending on the difficulty, take a turn back and try something different, but sometimes, those are the cards that are dealt and you’ll want those on hand. Once that happens, normally, you would lose that character. Core Fire Emblem? They would be permanently dead. Less hardcore, they would come back on the next adventure. Here? Game Over. Capital G. Capital O. Game Over. This, right here, is the biggest WHAT that I experienced as it’s either everyone makes it through, or no one does.
This is basically where the Roguelike steps in. Once any character has been reduced to 0 hit points, the Tyrant will send a messenger with some commentary basically telling you that he’ll spare everyone, as long as you give up on everything that you’ve done. The ground gained by fighting, the items, the runes, everything. This is what starts a brand new run and fires up your characters to do better, fires you up to do better. It makes things pretty interesting.
In another odd twist that I wish more people would get onboard with, as it’s rarely seen, is Tyrant’s Blessing makes in-game achievements worth it. For every objective completed, finishing the adventure, finishing the adventure under twenty in-game days, finishing the adventure by having done every single stage node on the map, taking out mid-bosses with no damage, etc, will earn you a gold star. Gold stars, unlike the others, can be used at any time in order to unlock new characters, humanoid or animal, to add to your roster. Each having their own classes and quirks, some achievements are dependent on them such as finishing and adventure with three assassin types for example.
It’s a fun way to add more replayability and give you a reason to actually go for the challenges instead of just going through the adventure once or twice and calling it a day. Not going to lie, after two defeats on Normal, I selected the Easy difficulty to get a better idea of what to expect in the later areas in terms of troops, traps and attack patterns. Finally getting my first victory, here too was another nice addition of your characters mentioning that they could do it all over again to save more people, so why wouldn’t they even if there was a high risk? Completing another adventure on Normal with different characters, the heat was on as they all cheered that they had the Tyrant’s number and they were good to go again!
Overall, if you are a fan of turn-based tactics or roguelikes? I can’t recommend Mercury Game Studio and Freedom Games Tyrant’s Blessing enough. With plenty of replayability, achievements that make sense to unlock more replayablity, and just an overall fun experience? Tyrant’s Blessing fits any lifestyle whether it’s five minutes for one quick stage or several hours to go through the adventure once or twice, win or lose.Score: 8.5 / 10