Platforms: PC (Reviewed), PS4
Supergiant Games has been a favorite developer of mine ever since I picked up Bastion during a Steam sale. Bastion immerses you in a new world, and keeps you there using masterful music and narrative elements.
I loved Bastion, so it was a given that I’d be excited about Supergiant’s newest game, Pyre.
You can pick it up now on Steam for $20.
I’ve struggled to find a way to describe the combat in Pyre other than 3v3 basketball, but that analogy is the only one I’ve found that accurately articulates what it's like. During each of the “Rites,” you deploy and control three party members in an attempt to dunk a celestial orb into a burning pyre.
As far as that goes, it’s pretty unique, and also quite enjoyable. Each of the party members you’re given have unique abilities and aspects that will change how you play during each of these Rites, and there are a lot of Rites to go through.
It shouldn’t be difficult to find a group of three that fit your playstyle. Some are quick, some are slow, and some are well balanced. And as with any other game that has multiple classes, each have their own strengths and weaknesses based on their particular skillset, and whom they are facing.
In games like this it’s easy to play with only a few characters, leaving the rest to languish behind in XP drought. Pyre requires you to use all the characters, but it has mechanisms to make bringing characters you don’t like playing up to proper levels. It’s a great solution to a problem that has long plagued RPGs.
The combat does get repetitive after a while, but it also gets more difficult, and you have the ability to increase the difficulty through various challenges. If you want a real trial you can activate multiple challenge modes. This feature helps create replay value in the form of escalating difficulties.
Visual storytelling at its finest
Storytelling is where Pyre really shines. At some points the game plays out more like a visual novel, and this approach really works from a narrative perspective. The environments are enthralling; it’s impossible to get bored while you fly around the Underside.
Pyre is also riddled with lore, but thankfully it’s not shoved down your throat. Throughout the campaign you unlock pages of history and exposition, depending on where you are in the game. Each entry gives you more insight into the world and helps you connect with it. The best part is that this is all optional. If you don’t want to read it, or only want to read specific entries, you have that ability from the very start.
Character interactions between the Rites are crucial to connecting with the characters, though many are not required for you to progress. Many of the side quests will give you more insight into their pasts, their failures, and even their dreams. It was through these conversations that I became attached to these characters, making it all the more difficult when they were liberated from the Underside.
These narrative expanding side quests where we learn more about the characters also provide Pyre with some decent replay value. WIth most side quests you’re given two options, meaning you’ll have to play through the game again to find out what happened down the other path. Sometimes these decisions can result in temporary stat boosts or decreases for the next Rite.
A derisive narrator
If Supergiant Games are known for anything it’s for their narrators. They have continued this tradition in Pyre; however this voice is significantly less friendly.
For the most part, you are forced to sit through the narrator’s scathing, sarcastic, condescending, mocking, and even pitying remarks during the Rites. He occasionally utters a few words of praise, but those are rare and short lived.
The negativity is never enough to discourage one from continuing to play. In fact, the narrator-provided commentary can help liven up the battles when they become too repetitive. Without the snarky narrator, I would have grown bored with the combat much more quickly.
I like Pyre, but it certainly isn’t the finest game to come from Supergiant. What it lacks in gameplay it more than makes up for in visuals, but it still left me wanting more. Plus, the fact that my favorite characters were liberated first, and therefore unplayable, made me change my playstyle entirely in an attempt to keep a party I liked playing with until the end.
I’ll be looking forward to my second play-through of Pyre, as well as to what Supergiant Games comes out with next. In the meantime, I’ll be loading up the amazing soundtrack to my phone and listening to that a couple dozen times.