I personally, have never understood the hype behind Supergiant Games, and their titles. Yes – Bastion and Transistor were pretty, and fairly unique, but in search of individuality, the developer has sacrificed a lot in terms of quality of other features. Supergiant Games’ titles sound, and look great, but lack the substance which ultimately makes them whole. And just like all the other pretty, pseudointellectual titles such as John Blow’s The Witness, they felt shallow, uninteresting, and in-turn one felt exhausted whenever exposed to them for a longer duration of time. However, it looks like Supergiant Games, for the first time ever, has hit the sweet spot in terms of balance with their most recent title, Pyre.
Pyre, from screen-shoots and promotional materials, resembles a turn based title. As all on-screen characters are surrounded by colourful circles, which resemble tiles. But in reality, Pyre has more in common with Rocket League, than it does with X-com. As at is not just a real-time action game, but one which favours tertiary goals, over primary combat.
The core of Pyre, is situated within its Rite-centric gameplay. As Pyre is all about defeating other competing groups of exiles, who just like the protagonist, have been sent to purgatory, and are forced to defeat all who stand in their way, in order to reach the gates of the ultimate salvation. But unlike all the on-screen characters, the player character is never showcased on the Rite fields, as he/she is the reader, one of the few literate creatures, capable of comprehending the world of Pyre, and the only one who can forge the hypothetical key to salvation.
Rites themselves despite concentrating on combating hostile NPCs, are not actually all about combat. Such does exist within Pyre, but the Rites, which are the so-called meat of the title, are all about stealing, and delivering an orb to opposition’s flame. And player can walk, jump, or fly into the opposition’s fire in order to extinguish it, but every time one does so, the on-field character disappears until player delivers another orb to oppositions flame. And once either of the flames is extinguished, the party to which it belonged, vanishes right with it.
From mechanical standpoint, combat of Pyre is incredible. It’s sharp, flawless, and each and every character, of which only three can be on the field at the same time, features a different skill set and abilities, allowing one to craft numerous strategies. For example, one can field a team of small, lightweight creatures, which is all about attacking, and diving over opposition’s heads; whereas another, can create a team which is all about disabling enemies, in order to clear the path, and allow for a simple, on-foot entry into the flame.
With Pyre, Supergiant Games has managed to create something spectacular, as it is above and beyond their previous titles. And in fact, it is the only title which doesn’t only feel fun to play, but one which also provides one with countless hours of entertainment through provision of numerous characters, which in turn allow for creation of multiple strategies. In addition to captivating gameplay, Pyre also posses Supergiant games’ trademarked, vibrant audio-visual façade, meaning that the fans of the developer will feel right at home. And those who are new to the studio, will find it equally pleasing, as the overall aesthetic of the title is not just in-fitting with the world, but is also masterfully crafted.
Within the entirety of Pyre, one will struggle to find any blurred textures, or extensive artifacting, as Supergiant Games has visibly invested a lot of time and money into its development. The world feels convincing, and characters who are its inhabitants fit in perfectly with the overall theme, as they are just as over the top as the rest of the title. In addition, the world of Pyre also features an astounding amount of detail, which is most visible within the insides of protagonist’s wagon. And that’s because the visual detail of all the items is incredibly impressive, and it is more than just a blank canvas, as over your journey, you’ll find it to be a hub full of interactivity, which grows with the player’s progress.
It is important for a title to feature a world which doesn’t just feel lived in, but also one which disallows the creation of dissonance between the title, and the player. And when it comes to combat, and the visual side of things, there’s a clear, uninterrupted link between the game and the player. But unfortunately, some will find the story of the title, and the way in which it is presented to be fairly disrupting, as its delivery leaves a lot to be desired.
The foundation of the story is based on the previously mentioned fact that the player character is the only literate person in the purgatory. And therefore, all other characters both hostile and non-hostile, speak in a manner that is foreign to any human. And therefore, all the character-centric speech has to be read by the player. And this wouldn’t be as bad, if every in-game word had its own unique sound. But sometimes, Pyre can serve you a wall of text, while the character will only make a single sound lasting less than a second.
The delivery of the story is rather disappointing, and therefore makes it feel inconsequential. Surely, many will find it to be as jarring, as it was within Techland’s Torment. But ultimately, Pyre’s greatest selling point are its Rites, as despite many similarities with the aforementioned Rocket League – Rite rituals feel much more intense, and in turn, increase the level of one’s involvement. And once one realises that he/she has been playing Pyre for hours, instead of minutes, he/she will come to a conclusion that Pyre is one of the best fantasy-sports games out there. And that’s because the inclusion of various characters, NPC playstyles, and varied combat arenas, leads to a creation of a dynamic, that can’t even be experienced within the critically acclaimed Rocket League.
Ultimately, Pyre can be simply described as intense. As despite its fantasy, hand drawn façade, it is a title all about violence – which is not always interpersonal – as well as mind games, and deceit. The dynamic which is created due to the multi-layered gameplay mechanics is simply stounding, and allows it to overshadow its narrative shortcomings. But without a satisfying, and fulfilling narrative, Pyre cannot be regarded as a complete title, and therefore it is still miles away from being ‘perfect’. But it doesn’t change the fact that it is Supergiant’s greatest game to date.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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