Pyre is a party-based RPG from the creators of Bastion and Transistor. Lead your band of exiles to freedom through a series of mystical competitions in the Campaign, or challenge a friend to a fast-paced ritual showdown in the head-to-head Versus Mode.
- A New World From the Creators of Bastion and Transistor
- Action-Packed Three-on-Three Battle System
- A Branching Story with No Game-Over
- Challenge a Friend in Versus Mode
- Rich, Atmospheric Presentation
10 hours (main story) to ~25 hours (completionist)
July 25, 2017
PlayStation 4, PC
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Platforms: PS4, PC
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sports
Supergiant Games has been delivering top quality indie games since Bastion blew up Xbox’s Summer of Arcade in 2011. With a couple of well-regarded games under their belt, they set to work on Pyre, a fantastical journey that proved to leverage sports in a way that could still appeal to everyone. Thankfully, Pyre is everything fans have come to expect from the team at Supergiant and more.
Pyre is rife with spiritual content. Everyone in the Downside (where inhabitants of the Commonwealth are banished to) follows the will of a group known as “The Scribes,” a mythical band of heroes regarded as deities who are believed to have founded the Commonwealth everyone lives in today. On top of that, the Scribes initiated a series of events known as, “The Rites,” where teams of three square off in a sort of sport for a opportunity to earn their way from banishment. In doing so, they follow the stars to divine where their next matches will take place. Pyre also features fantastical creatures, including demons (which are formed when people remain in banishment for an extended period of time) and bog witches, some of which believe in the return of Yslach, an evil titan said to consume the world when he returns.
There is no blood or gore in Pyre. The extent of violence in the game comes down to participants in the rites getting “banished” for a few seconds at a time. Each character has a defensive aura and any opponent who contacts the inside of the aura is banished (removed from play) for a few seconds before they come back.
The dialog tackles some darker topics at times, and as a result, the emotions of some characters come out in coarse language. Several of your opponents will often hurl insults or snide remarks before or after each rite as well.
There is no sexual content in Pyre. The closest thing would be the toga-like dress of the Gate Guardian, Celeste, but there is still nothing revealing to be seen.
There is mention of alcoholic drinking and revelry in some of the backstory of a handful of characters. One character brings their container of alcohol onto the blackwagon with your team and you can “drink it,” which simply blurs the screen mildly for a brief second.
The game hits a lot of noble ideals, including dealing with the consequences of your actions, continually striving for your goals, and doing the right thing. There are also also discussions of overthrowing unjust governments and the ideals of giving up war for peace, striving to gain lost honor, and deep displays of camaraderie and faith in the divine.
Banished from the Commonwealth for the crime of literacy, you’re soon found by a band of three figures in robes and masks. After taking you to their blackwagon and nursing you back to health, you confirm their deepest hopes—you can indeed read. With that knowledge in tow, they ask for assistance with a tome in their possession and, as you quickly find out, as the Reader, you both grant a triumvirate access to compete in the Rites and control them during the Rite. With the promise of liberation, you set out to follow the stars, help your team conquer each rite and restore everyone to the Commonwealth. Things soon take a turn, however, and you find yourself caught up in a scheme that will ripple through the ages.
Pyre‘s strongest aspect is clearly in its narrative. As we’ve seen in both Bastion and Transistor, the team at Supergiant Games are masters of tale weaving, thanks largely to masterful world building. I believe Pyre has the strongest world building of any game in their catalog, and perhaps one of the strongest of any game in recent years. The characters feel genuine, each with their own hopes, dreams, fears, and motivations. The interplay between various characters depending on choices you make is an impressive feature as well. I really, genuinely loved everything about this tale from start to finish. The game even has its own fictitious language!
The gameplay is comprised of two primary aspects: the Rites (the sport aspect) and the adventure game sort of narrative and world building. The cadence of the gameplay tends to flow like this: you find the next star your team should travel to, you have several conversations with team members along the way, choosing between branching paths with various effects. When you reach the star, you’ll participate in the rite, choosing three team members and their equipped trinkets from your roster. The tale, with its many twists and turns, play out as this sort of game flow continues.
The game’s rites are worth examining more closely. Rites are a 3v3 affair, with only one player from each team able to move at a time. The goal of the game is to “douse” your opponents’ pyre by delivering the orb to it. You can carry it in by hand, which results in that character being removed for the next point, or shoot it like a basketball, which requires time to charge the shot. Everyone has a defensive aura that will banish an opponent who enters it, but the orb handler completely loses their aura. The result of the match can thus come down to better ball handling, maneuvering, and aura management.
As mentioned, you’ll choose three characters to form your triumvirate. Along the way you’ll pick up a variety of characters to form your team, each with their own unique skills and play style. Some characters are small and fast, others are big and slow but with large auras, while others can fly over the battlefield or utilize their auras in unique ways. Through rites and other events that occur, these characters will gain “Enlightenment,” known in this game as experience points. As they progress, they can unlock new skills to help in the rites. They can also equip a trinket that give you some edge in competition. The game is surprisingly smart about ensuring every character sees playing time. World events can happen that knock a player out of a match, forcing you to give your teammates some time on the field. Ultimately, you’ll learn to utilize everyone on your team.
Each of Supergiant’s games has had a striking visual style and phenomenal soundtrack. Pyre is no different. All of the art is beautiful. While much of the game plays out with static portraits, the environments and arenas are gorgeous and the world of Downside feels genuinely lived in and full of fantastic places and things. The animation of the wagon and the Rites in motion is slick and enthralling—barring some pretty nasty hiccups on the PlayStation 4 when you have several Titan Stars turned on. Still, there’s no denying the art and animation teams have done some beautiful work here.
Veritable rock star and composer Darren Korb is back with his third Supergiant Games’ soundtrack. Featuring the voice talents of Ashley Barrett, the soundtrack superbly sets the atmosphere and emotion around some of Pyre‘s greatest setpiece moments as well as during the rites and beyond. Fans of game soundtracks will definitely want to pick this one up. The game’s voice work is solid as well; while most of it is spoken in Sahrian, a language the development team created themselves, a character known as “The Voice” does adeptly presides over the Rites, offering encouragement or disdain accordingly. I’m saying you shouldn’t plan on playing this on mute. It’s a treat.
With the release of Pyre, Supergiant continues to build an impressive portfolio of top notch games. With beautiful visuals, an atmospheric, emotional soundtrack, top-tier world building and storytelling, and a fun, clever homegrown sport, there’s plenty here for gamers of all ages and skill levels to enjoy. It does suffer some technical hiccups on the PlayStation 4 if you turn on many of the Titan stars, but the game is otherwise top notch in every respect. If you own a PlayStation 4 or PC, Pyre deserves serious consideration. You won’t be disappointed.
+ Beautiful art
+ Fantasic soundtrack
+ Marvelous story with excellent characters and world building
- Versus mode is local only
- Story is told with static images
- Severe frame hiccups with many Titan Stars turned on.