Jump into the Pyre

Supergiant Games established a name for themselves among those who enjoy indie games with isometric action/adventure Bastion, a title that first released on Xbox 360 and PC in 2011. Its fanbase grew further when it expanded to other platforms over time, including mobile platforms. It was the right game at the right time, as it launched when indie games were starting to make it big. Instead of making a sequel to that title, the developers decided to work on another new property with Transistor; it looked similar to Bastion upon quickly glancing at the screenshots, but its encounters have to be completed through turn-based tactical gameplay activated by temporarily stopping time.

The gorgeous artwork and backgrounds from Jen Zee and others on the Supergiant team in both games was also a significant appealing factor for both. Combined with its subtly-told story, their style is unparalleled among the indie lineup.

Now, Supergiant is taking another risk with a game that’s different from both its predecessors: Pyre. This is an action/RPG that takes place in a high fantasy universe, where the player controls a party of exiles fighting for their freedom through multiple competitions in a purgatorial land. It will release tomorrow, July 25th, for PlayStation 4 and PC

The player can choose whether the game will refer to the main character as “he,” “she,” or “they,” to make sure nearly everyone’s covered. Its story is told through multiple narrative passages, where the player can discover more by using a hyperlink system and clicking through, reminiscent of many visual novels. The story and details partly show how this game’s style is drastically different from Supergiant’s previous effort, but it seriously distinguishes itself through its gameplay.

The battles in Pyre are “Rites” which take place on fields with two pyre flame columns on both sides, which explains the title. Here, two opposing teams of three launch an orb back and forth at each other, with the objective being to hit and eventually destroy the opponent’s pyre. The character that picks up the orb is vulnerable while carrying it, as shown with an aura that revolves around them. If they’re hit while carrying the orb, they’ll drop it and be removed from the arena, though some characters have skills to defend themselves while carrying it. For instance, some can dash at a faster pace compared to the opposing characters, while others can shoot projectiles to fend off opponents.

Notably, the party can only travel through the land and participate in competitions during the day, while nighttime is reserved for scavenging for resources, stocking up on supplies, spend time reading about the universe’s backstory and lore, or training with the rest of the teammates. The training will help them level up and learn new skills, so they’re more formidable in future games.

Those among the press have described its gameplay as a fusion of DOTA and Rocket League that retains the strategic elements from Transistor, though it’s not a sports game per se. It does, however, feature sports-like battles through multiplayer, as two players can go head-to-head in its Versus Mode.

Outside its developer, the biggest aspect this title has in common with its predecessors is the excellent art style. In addition to having nice portraits to accompany the in-game dialogue and certain menu selections, once again courtesy of Jen Zee, the game itself has beautiful animations. It’s a looker in the screenshots, but you have to either see the game in person or watch the trailers to see how great its characters, backgrounds, and other objects are a sight to behold in motion. Even if you don’t like the genre this game is in, or don’t like Supergiant’s games at all, it’s tough deny it looks beautiful.

Interestingly, there isn’t as much excitement around Pyre as expected, though that also has to do with the timing of its release compared to its predecessors. Bastion generated more excitement because, as mentioned above, it released around a time where indie games were really taking off, and digital marketplaces weren’t as flooded with great games. Transistor, meanwhile, benefitted from being one of the top indie games promoted alongside the early PlayStation 4 lineup in 2013 and 2014. But Pyre is mostly fending for itself. Of course, it’s also likely a high fantasy sports action/RPG isn’t quite as appealing as titles that take place in doomed worlds, but they should receive props for concocting a unique concept.

That’s not to say Pyre will do badly though. Positive reviews from critics can sometimes work as great last-minute advertising, and word from them is that the game is yet another great experience from Supergiant. You could also somewhat consider this post as last-minute promotion, since it’s my first one about the game. (I intended to make a post when it was announced in April last year, but never got around to it.) Hopefully it does well for them so they can continue making good software, and I hope everyone who picks it up enjoys it. And if the game sells below expectations out of the gate, good word of mouth could help sustain its sales.

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