From the developers of Bastion and Transistor, Supergiant Games brings us a wondrous tale in Pyre with unique game play and a beautifully immersive soundtrack.
Firstly, I want to say: play this game. Pyre is an incredible game and due to potential spoilers I won’t be explaining the story in detail in this review. Now that the formalities have been done, let’s begin! Pyre is the most unique title I have experienced in quite some time. It has multiple similarities to Supergiant Games’ previous titles, Bastion and Transistor, in the sense of outstanding artwork, gripping music and an engrossing story. Supergiant Games describes their creation as a party-based RPG and I would add that its combat system is like a 3-on-3 basketball game. It is squarely set right in between a immersive visual novel and a competitive sports game. I can comfortably say that it is one of my top games for the year.
Supergiant Games have stated on their website that the development of Pyre has taken roughly three years. The studio may have started in 2009 in a living room in California but since then they have development some very influential games. I mention above Bastion and Transistor, to me these games are common knowledge but for anyone who hasn’t played them you can find out more about Bastion here and Transistor here. Believe it or not there were a total of 12 people behind the development of this breath-taking game.
Pyre’s emotion-toying story sets you as the reader (someone who can derive meaning from text, which has been prohibited) for a band of misfits who seek to leave the Downside and return to the Commonwealth. As the only literate person, you help the Nightwings learn about the Rites, a secret competition where the victors may return home. With each step in the journey you’ll meet another endearing character and as the story unfolds you begin to learn that there is much more to the Rites then you were originally lead to believe. It’s difficult to explain the story without giving away some delicious plot points but I can assure you that it is Supergiant Games’ most compelling story to-date.
The combat is a gorgeous mix between a tabletop game and a hectic 3-on-3 basketball death match. After deciding which of your fellow exiles will compete in the match, an orb drops itself into the center of the field. The general idea is to slam that orb into the opponents Pyre while trying to protect your own. The pyre (usually) has 100 points that you must attempt to diminish to zero. Depending on the character used to attack the Pyre you will do differing amounts of damage and effects. You will find yourself shouting at the screen and jumping out of your seat just as you would with any of the AAA sports titles. Pyre also dons a Final Fantasy Tactics-like job system. Characters jobs cannot be changed but each character performs in a different way and on their way to enlightenment can learn unique skills that will affect how you will approach each match. Finding a trio that you will like to use won’t take long, and using the same three each match will leave you wondering “what am I missing out on by not using the other characters?” Combining the range of exiles in a successful triplet is a challenge in its own but it’s also heavily dependent on how you will play the game as well. For example, if you want to play aggressively there are certain characters that are fast and evasive allowing you to constantly pressure your opponents Pyre. On the other side, there are characters that will allow you to control the board and keep your opponents characters banished for the entire match while you just walk the orb slowly into the Pyre. There are numerous combinations that you can do but each player will find their play style and what works for them.
Pyre is a magnificently crafted game. Its captivating story and charming characters will weigh on your mind hours after you’ve made a potentially game-altering decision. Combined with beautiful artwork and music that creates an amazingly magical atmosphere, Pyre will leave its mark on your gaming portfolio.