Pyre is an RPG sports game developed and published by Supergiant Games. In the game, you play as The Reader, who assists a team called The Nightwings with conducting Rites, which lead to their liberation from the Downside, a purgatory of sorts.
Visual and audio wise, Supergiant Games have outdone themselves with this one, which isn’t something I thought I’d say. This might just be the best art design I’ve ever seen in a game. The music, whilst not being my thing was also very well done and fitting.
It’s just a shame about the gameplay.
During the Rites, you pick a team of three characters. Each character has different abilities, movement speeds etc. The objective is to get the orb (ball) into the other team’s pyre (goal). Each pyre has 100 health, and once that health reaches zero that respective team loses. Each character also has an aura which if an enemy comes into contact with, they will be removed from the field for a certain amount of time.
My biggest issue I found was balancing difficulty. At first, I found the Normal difficulty to be too easy, but then when I went to the Hard difficulty the game got too hard. I then decided to switch back to normal, where I won my first game without ever having my pyre touched by the orb. On top of this, the player can activate Titan Stars (much like Bastion’s temple) which honestly just complicated things as some teams are harder to play against than others. Towards the halfway point I just gave up on trying to balance the game for myself.
There can also be a lot to contend with at times. Switching to the right character under pressure can be awkward as you have to aim yourself at the character you want to play as. Different characters also have different abilities. For example, Ti’zo the Imp has this ability where he can sacrifice himself to create a large blast, whereas most other characters cast a beam of sorts that you aim at enemies. Early on, under pressure I found myself getting confused when I had to rapidly switch characters to defend my pyre. It doesn’t help you can’t stop the casting of these abilities once you start. Combining all this with the fact the AI doesn’t really have these issues with thought process means things can happen very fast before you can know what’s going on.
Another issue is this game starts to feel very repetitive. Although it’s Supergiant’s longest game, you spend that time either playing against the same teams over and over again or constantly reading long strings of dialog. On top of that, you pretty much visit every location in the game very early on. This removes a sense of discovery which honestly was one of the best aspects of this game.
Finally, there is a lot of reading and downtime between rites. Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind world building but at times this could be really tiring. If I’m being honest I think this game might have been better without the rites and had just been a straight visual novel about leading a group of exiles through some sort of purgatory.
As for the story itself, it’s okay. The world building was interesting, but most of the characters are fairly basic. To be fair they are not only very creatively designed, but likable. I also appreciated that there is reason to have some sympathy towards some of the teams you play against.
The main plot really ends up feeling like a Hunger Games type deal where the poor must rise up against the elite. On top of that, you don’t get a real sense of the effect you have on the Commonwealth during the game. Unlike both Bastion and Transistor, I just found myself feeling disconnected with what was going on.
Overall I feel Pyre is an ambitious game, it just falls short of being great. I’ll be fair I don’t think this is a bad game, it’s visually amazing and on that merit alone is worth seeking out. It’s just a shame the gameplay lets it down.