This week I finished playing through Pyre, the latest game from developer Supergiant. I’ve only ever enjoyed their games, and Pyre was certainly no exception. The usual lush art style, this time a more Ghibli/stained-glass/arts-and-crafts version, is on full display, and Darren Korb provides another wonderful soundtrack with help from singer Ashley Barrett. But there are several small and not-so-small changes that made it their best so far.
By separating the game out into an over-world and short arena battles, the setting and world-building are given a lot more room to play in. Because over-world traversal is point and click based on nodes, the layout doesn’t have to make sense to walk around manually, paths can be hidden, not everything needs to be exactly to scale, etc. and so the artwork gets the flexibility to show off this amazing world. The strange fantasy landscape, filled with massive bones of ancient gods and demons, is wonderfully evocative.
Bastion established most if not all of the general gameplay systems that have been present also in Transitor and now Pyre: choosing your preferred playstyle (weapons, functions, team members), upgrading them, completing challenges with them for bonuses, accepting specific harder difficulty mods to get larger rewards, and so on. But while Transistor moved away from the action-RPG roots of Bastion by introducing the pause-and-plan gameplay, Pyre moves to a team-based fantasy sports competition instead, and it works incredibly well. The moment-to-moment gameplay while in a match is quite fun, and experimenting with, leveling up, and equipping the different characters, all of whom have very different playstyles, provides a great overlay.
The major change, though, and the best one, is that Pyre stars a full, diverse, and wonderful cast of characters, in contrast to the single protagonists of Bastion and Transistor. The characters develop over the course of the game, friendships form, and of course, there’s always the bittersweet element that the characters you the player most love are also the ones you most want to have return to freedom and leave your party. Especially Transistor, despite my love of the concept, style, and gameplay, struggled sometimes to pull me forward through the story, and Pyre has no such issue; you always want to get to know and interact with these characters more.
Verdict: highly recommended.