Pyre, boiled down to its core, is a tactical game of basketball. Your aim is to get the ball in your enemy’s goal post, a pit of flames, aptly named a pyre. However, to boil down Pyre to the nugget of its gameplay is a massive disservice to what Supergiant games has created, with its richly layered world and masterful, strategic gameplay. Another, would be not to play it at all.
Platform Reviewed: PS4
Platforms Available: PS4, PC
Developer: Supergiant Games
Publisher: Supergiant Games
Release Date: July 25, 2017
This review is based on a review copy provided by the publisher.
The world of Pyre is one shrouded in mystery, but gradually peels away, revealing the true melancholic nature hinted from the beginning. From the get go, you are dropped in a world with little to no exposition at all. It’s up to you to put the pieces together as everything unfolds. Worry not, however, as things are revealed at a comfortable pace, so as not to overwhelm the player. With each reveal, and each new story beat, slowly the world is being built before you. Whether through dialogue between characters, journal entries, or even gameplay, Pyre masterfully weaves together its world through each element the game has to offer.
In Pyre, you are casted as someone known as the Reader, named by a group of three who find you lying in the desert. Appropriately named as well since your skill is that of being able to read, something forbidden in the world of Pyre. These three will form your team, but many will join suit as the game progresses, where you will play something known as the trials, where you and your team’s freedom is awaiting at the end. Whether all of you will reach that goal, is up to you.
Of course, any form of literature’s world would be nothing without its characters. Pyre‘s characters are big tentpoles within the world’s structure, and become ones you grow to emotionally invest in, for better or worse. Each character has their own distinct personality, from the big and brooding, to the medium and methodical. You’ll meet many along your journey in Pyre, yet none over stay their welcome. However, some must be sacrificed through decisions you make, whether because they want to leave, or because it would be better for your team overall.
These choices, obviously affect the overall story, however sometimes no choices are given and it is based on how you perform in the game itself. This is where the trials come in. It’s a game of 3v3 — where you the reader — must guide your teammates, and your goal is to extinguish the enemies pyre by plunging something known as the celestial orb, with the person holding the orb along with it. Depending on who the character is, the more points are dealt to extinguish the flame; the main factor being size. That’s not all, however, as only one person can move at a time. So you, the Reader, must strategically place teammates to ensure the opposition doesn’t get past you. Not only that, but you are also given the ability to attack the opposition with something known as your aura, either by letting the enemy touch your surrounding aura, or by launching it at your enemy.
It’s all about strategy and being one step ahead of your opponent. With each victory, your goal of freedom gets closer and closer. However, and shockingly, when you lose, there’s no game over screen or a retry option. The story goes on and you must live with your loss, hoping to redeem yourself another day. These are the heavy outcomes and decision you will come across, and ones that shape the world of Pyre.
Sadly, for those who wish to put their skills to the test against other players, you’re not in for much. There is a multiplayer mode, however it’s local only, so for those who have a hard time getting friends to come over, you’re out of luck. If you wish to play online against other people, you’ll have to hope that Supergiantgames adds an online option in the future.
Lastly, as wonderful as the contents, the art and visuals of Pyre package this game beautifully. Colors burst off of the screen, with each new locale looking vastly different from that last, yet blending together with the overworld. Backgrounds are hand drawn, and each characters looks like it came straight out of an oil painting. Pyre looks as beautiful as it plays, while it’s beauty doesn’t lose the sense of dread and melancholy that fills the world. And topping it all off is its soundtrack, that changes based on scene and character interactions. From twangy, acoustic guitars to heavy, metallic, electric guitars. Everything from the sound and visuals is able to accommodate a certain mood and tone, while also making sure to accentuate it by adding that much more oomph.
Overall, Pyre is another home run delivered by Supergiant games. It’s a game full of mystery, waiting to be uncovered and revealed, while containing a strategic sports game that has huge stakes on the line. The only other criminals, besides the characters in the game, is anybody who decides to skip out on this masterpiece.