Pyre a vast game with novel and fun mechanics
After only an hour of playing Pyre I had already fallen in love with its gripping gameplay and intricate but accessible story. Pyre is like a beautiful amalgamation of the whimsical quirks of Dr. Seuss and the horrors of H.P. Lovecraft.
You can see Pyre's Supergiant lineage in its top-down perspective and lush, animated visual style. You can hear it in the limited but memorable voice-over work by Logan Cunningham and gorgeous music from Darren Korb. Beyond these surface similarities, however, little else feels familiar. Pyre rests at a crossroads between fantasy adventure, sports game and visual novel. It feels new, in a way I can rarely say about even the best games, and that newness is the most welcome and pleasantly surprising feature that Pyre brings to the table.
In Pyre, you are one of many exiles unjustly trapped in the purgatory-like Downside for crimes committed against the Commonwealth, but exiles that manage to win enough competitions known as 'rites' have a chance for redemption. Rites are 3v3 matches that incorporate elements of football and basketball, as well as a healthy dose of fantasy RPG elements. It is a bizzare and unlikely combination but one that works incredibly well.
Your basic objective during a rite is to maintain possession of an orb while sprinting, dodging, and leaping towards your opponent's goal on the opposite end of the court. Run it in, throw it in, or jump overhead into the goal to douse the opposing team's pyre and reduce its energy. If a team's pyre is depleted, they've lost the match. You only control one character at a time, and will frequently switch control among your triumvirate to jockey for position on the field, or to take advantage of the nine classes' unique offensive and defensive maneuvers. When Pyre hits its stride, rites become fast-paced mind games that call upon your ability to turn on a dime and come up with new strategies under tense circumstances.
Pyre is worth playing for its exciting matches alone, but what makes it worthy of renown is how it leverages the tension of competition to tell a captivating story. Like Roman gladiators, the characters you bring into battle are ultimately competing for freedom. Lose these pivotal liberation rites, however, and kiss that chance goodbye.
Pyre is a vast game with novel and incredibly fun mechanics. Everything from the art direction and sound to the story is gripping, heartwrenching and exhilarating in equal measures. If you have the opportunity to play this game, I would highly recommend not passing it up.
PC / PS4