Supergiant Games are probably one of the most well-known indie developers today. They hit it off pretty well with Bastion. Bastion was an isometric action game where you travel though a destroyed world while an old man narrates everything you do. It was one of my favorite games that year. Then 3 years later they released Transistor which was a game where you stopped time to queue up moves with a talking sword. It was also one of my favorite games of that year. Now Pyre is here. It’s a visual novel slash 3v3 sports game. It’s also again one of my favorite games this year. I think what I’m trying to say is Supergiant makes a great weird game every 3 years and that’s really cool.
Here’s the other thing. Their games just keep on getting better. Pyre is pretty easily my favorite of the three. In case you don’t know. Pyre puts you in the place of the Reader. Who’s been exiled from the city to the downside. Where they send all of the exiles to live for the rest of their days. You meet some other misfits and from a book you find that you can earn freedom by competing in Rites. So you go on a journey to compete in rites and pick up some new friends along the way.
Pyre jumps between two systems. One is a visual novel where they tell their story and the other is the rites. The rites are two teams of 3. You goal is to get a soul ball and get it into the opponents pyre. You can steal the ball, throw the ball, and knock enemies out for a short period. Each character has different abilities. You have the slow tank great for defense, but if you use them to score points you get more. Characters that can set traps on the board. There’s a good mix to play around with. After a while though you probably will have your go to team.
The game introduces an option for a difficulty spike. It doesn’t make players go through one but they present one for you to take. As you go on you can add modifies to matches. For example one that increases the aggressiveness of the A.Is or increase the amount of points it takes to score on them. This for me helped make the game more rewarding to play as I went on. While also keeping the game less annoying for players who just want to experience the story.
Rites maybe last 10 minutes at most. Most of the game will be spent reading. The heart of this game is the characters. You have the main story. Of trying to achieve freedom by victory. The game is also littered with other smaller more personal stories. The game gives ample screen time to each character. Giving them each an arc. The game also gives you time to choose characters you want to spend extra time with. These always lead to scenes that help you grow more attached to them. You start this game as a bunch of strangers trying to escape. It ends with you having gained a family.
One of my favorite ways of showing this is the wagon where you live. You start the game and its bare. A few items to interact with. If you hover over an item belonging to a character it tells you what they are doing. Which helps add a bit of character you don’t see. Like the moon touched girl is speaking to the scribes or Hedwyn is cleaning up after dinner. Little character moments that add to the world. But as you go on the bandwagon becomes filled. Items from characters you meet and souvenirs from landmarks across the downside. It show how far you have gone throughout the game, and creates a home that feels lived in.
Also in the wagon is the Book of Rites. This is the book you gain at the start of the game. Starts you on your quest of freedom. It’s also 179 pages long. Throughout the game it unlocks chapters for you to read. It gives you information on the world and the gods of the world. Slowly revealing the history of the rites. Also a bunch of general world building. It’s a lot. I didn’t even bother to read half it. But it deserves special mention. Because how many games give you 179 pages of world building.
I mentioned it before but the most impressive thing Pyre does is slowly create a family out of strangers. The start of this game some characters are hostile only sticking together for the common goal. Pyre creates a harsh world that slowly becomes a place filled with warmth from a bunch of misfits finding each other. Which more than anything is what I look for in video games. And Pyre delivers that in strides.