The latest game from Supergiant Games, known for Bastion and Transistor, has arrived in the form of a party-based RPG called Pyre.
We enjoyed our hands on time with the game at PAX West and are excited to follow-up with a full review of the game!
Let’s get into it!
As you start your journey, you take on the role of someone who has been exiled from their home in the Commonwealth. Now, finding yourself in the forsaken land known as the Downside, you are found and taken in by a group of exiles known as The Nightwings. Quickly after, it’s discovered that you have a rare ability- literacy.
Using your skills, you’re asked to read an odd book in the group’s wagon known as the Book of Rites, which in turn, leads you into the game’s central plot and first tutorial. Everyone that has been exiled to the Downside has a way to gain back their freedom: The Rites.
Three Shall Be As One
The Rites are a series of 3-on-3 matches which tasks each team with eliminating their opponent’s Pyre. This is done by taking the Celestial Orb that appears in the center of the field at the beginning of each round and taking it into your enemies Pyre, using it to extinguish its flames.
In simpler terms, you get the ball and get it into your enemies’ goal until the goal’s HP is reduced to zero.
However it’s not as simple as acquiring the Orb and then getting to your opponent’s Pyre. In addition to only being able to control one character at a time, each of your opponents has an aura around them that, when touched while wielding the Orb, will result in the player being banished, putting them on a respawn timer. The players on the field can also choose to unleash their aura, using it to shoot out in front of them in the hopes that it hits an opponent, banishing them for a time. Furthermore, using a character to extinguish your adversaries’ Pyre will banish them, meaning that for a time, you’ll only be able to use the other two members of your party.
As you participate in The Rites, you’ll slowly work your way towards being able to participate in the Liberation Rites, where upon victory, one of your players will earn their freedom. Lose however, and someone from the other team will be freed from exile instead. This also brings up a very interesting note about Pyre- there is no game over. Win or lose, the game will progress, leading you to its conclusion which will see the stories of the large cast of characters altered depending on your performance and choices in the Liberation Rites.
Pyre offers a wide range of characters and races, each with their own default set of actions. Some characters can make long jumps, others make short rushes, some can fly, etc. During your journey, the team’s roster will grow, offering more variety and allowing the player to assemble a team that caters to their preferred play style. With each opposing team also being unique, there could be an opportunity for players to assemble a team that better takes advantage of your adversaries’ weaknesses or combats their strengths. I, however, found myself frequently using the same three or four characters – a strategy which became trickier over time as my exiles earned their freedom and were no longer usable. I would definitely recommend trying out all of the characters, and switching up your party regularly to get a feel for how each character handles.
After each Rite, the characters will gain Enlightenment, this game’s version of experience points and, upon leveling up, will be able to select a Mastery. Unique to each character, a mastery is a trait or action that can be unlocked, further defining the unique playstyle of each character. These all vary, but range from various stats increases for a character, to increasing the starting health of your team’s Pyre.
Further customization can be carried out using Talismans. These can be acquired on your way to the various locations where the Rites are conducted, or they can be purchased from the traveling merchant who conveniently appears during your travels. Talismans offer a variety of bonuses, not entirely dissimilar from the masteries you acquire when leveling up. The difference here is that the Talismans can be equipped by any character. Special items found throughout your travels will also allow you to level up your Talisman, further enhancing your abilities. Each character can only equip one Talisman, however, they can easily be swapped out before conducting a Rite, making it easy to use your favorite Talisman with a character you feel is best suited for a certain match.
The Up Sides of the Downside
When starting out your story in the Downside, you’ll quickly notice that some of the dialogue is highlighted. Hovering over this red text will offer you a further glimpse into the lore of the world, giving you information about characters and locations. It’s a fantastic way to world build and is a definite highlight of the game. In some areas, you can also click on this red text to change your responses, allowing you to determine what your character, The Reader, says to the group.
You’ll be using the stars as your guide to travel from one Rite to the next, traveling by wagon to a variety of destinations. Along the way, you’ll be forced to make decisions as to which road to travel on, each providing different benefits such as finding items that you can sell, or finding a rare item like a Talisman. Some locations will offer you time to practice your Vocations, allowing you to search for items, boost attributes for your party, or train a character of your choice and raise their exp a bit.
Art and Music
As it was with both Bastion and Transistor, the art style and sound of Pyre is uniquely beautiful.
All of the areas The Nightwings travel to are vastly different from each other, offering their own vibe both in visuals and music. Each team in the Downside also has their own musical theme attributed to them, further adding to each team’s uniqueness.
In Pyre, the character that has spoken dialogue is (funnily enough) known as The Voice. The Voice will talk before The Rites are conducted at each location and provide commentary throughout as players are banished or extinguish their adversaries’ Pyre.
If The Voice providing commentary during matches isn’t enough, the music is also reactive in spots, impressively changing to reflect the changes occurring on screen. And without spoiling too much, the piece that plays during the game’s credits is also quite impressive with the way it reacts to how you’ve played the game.
The Journey Should Be Made
With Pyre, Supergiant Games continues to showcase their unique gameplay, art style and sound. All of these elements come together beautifully and leave a lasting impression.
For those that are left wanting after finishing the game, there’s a few options that increase replay value of Pyre. For starters, you could simply replay the game, making different choices in the paths you take and the characters you free from exile. If you want more of a challenge, you can also invoke the various constellations that appear later in the game, giving your opponents various advantages. On the other end of that is the Versus mode, which lets you play against the CPU or another player locally. The roster in Versus mode is even larger than that of the main game, allowing you to pick from all of the teams participating in The Rites.
For those that enjoyed Bastion and Transistor, Pyre should be a no-brainer. For the rest of you, Pyre is a game that should definitely be on your “to play” list.
Pyre is out now for the PlayStation 4 and PC/Steam.
~ Final Score: 9/10 ~
Review copy provided by Supergiant Games for PS4. Screenshots taken by reviewer.