Supergiant Games, the creators of Bastion and Transistor have a smash hit on their hands with Pyre. This is easily one of the best games I’ve played all year. It’s a one of a kind masterpiece I’m going be thinking about for years to come.
I loved my time with Bastion and found Transistor pretty good, but Pyre makes me want to send everyone in the Supergiant Games office gift baskets full of gold. This purgatorial fantasy sport RPG is a mix of basketball, The Oregon Trail and Dungeons and Dragons. It’s incredibly fun and charming with plenty of replayabilty that will have me coming back for months.
Pyre is set in a world where literacy has been banned and punishable by exile. Those caught are banished to a treacherous land called the Downside, cut off from the home realm of the Commonwealth. The Downside is where you find yourself upon starting the game. You’ll soon start interacting with various characters, making friends and enemies, while trying to earn your freedom in a tournament of orb-throwing and goal scoring that reminds me of NBA Jam.
This games of basketball are called “rites” and they are bloody brilliant. I myself call it Pyreball. It flips your classic RPG fighting system on it’s head. Instead of turn-based combat or button mashing found in most RPGs you must compete with just three characters. Upon entering each match you pick your team and let the battle begin.
Your objective is to weave a glowing orb around your opponents until you can dunk or throw it into their Pyre. Depending on your buffs and the size of your characters determines how many points each shot lands. Both sides typically start with 100 points, the first team to score 100 points worth of baskets on the other team wins. It’s fast, strategic and a hell of a lot of fun. Every match would end with my fist pumping the air, granted I won.
I’m going try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible. I would hate to ruin the game’s surprises.
When you’re not dunking on demons and dogmen you’re exploring the world map in a wagon, talking to your team mates, choosing your path and stopping at the local shops. This game has decisions to be made at every corner and your path can drastically change depending on your choices. You can learn about characters pasts and why they want freedom from the Downside by checking in on your wagon at pit stops. You can also level them up, check stats and view past trinkets you’ve won inside. Your team mates will also encourage you to travel certain ways for special items, in what sometimes turns out to be a trap, a dead end or hopefully quite profitable. These wagon segments are incredibly deep and detailed and reminds me of the Oregon Trail. Unfortunately none of your teammates will die from dysentery despite how hungry they might be.
When you’re not on the road you’re competing in Pyreball. Once you’re eased into the sport the stakes get much higher. Characters are freed depending on which team wins. That means if your rivals win, your friends are going be left behind. Sometimes your characters will want to stay and ask you to throw the game for them. It’s a brilliant game mechanic that really works. I love making hard choices and this game is full of them.
It’s also full of wonderful characters. 20 in total. I’ve talked with friends who’ve played the game and they’ve ended up with completely different characters and stories than I did. Pyre is a choose your own adventure and I plan on reseting the game and trying various ways.
Near end game you’ll want to see your friends head back to the commonwealth to live free but you’ll also not want to see them go. You can be selfish and keep them behind or send them off on a new journey never to be seen again.I’ve never felt so conflicted. I made the mistake of leveling up some great characters only to send them off early and be stuck with my weaker friends. I was also in a pickle when I wanted to get rid of the characters I don’t like, but I couldn’t justify sending them back to the Commonwealth. These kind of decisions keep me up at night.
The music ties in nicely to the weird world developers Supergiant have created. I’ve been listening to the playlist on Spotify and loving every minute. It’s a mix of instrumental and acoustic folk rock by Darren Korb and Ashley Barrett. It’s weird and wonderful and works well with the game.
What helps make this world unique is the beautiful hand-painted visuals. This game oozes beauty. The Downside might be a shitty place to spend eternity but it sure does look cool.
This is a game about consequences. Win or lose, the story goes on.
Players looking for a real challenge will probably be disappointed by the games difficulty. It’s not a hard game. Some matches were close, but for the most part I won every game of Pyreball.
Pyre also has a Versus mode. This allows players to challenge a CPU opponent or friend in local head-to-head showdowns. It’s a shame there’s not online multiplayer because I could see this getting the same love that Rocket League does. Games are quick and just short enough that you can hop in and out at ease.
At only $26.99 CDN I easily put more than 15 hours into this game and will be playing for at least another 15 hours in the near future. This game is full of content, witty dialogue, game changing decisions and heart. If you love RPGs, Basketball, Transistor or Bastion, than Pyre should be on your must have list.
I highly recommend checking Pyre out.
Review Disclaimer: This review was carried out using a digital copy of the game provided by the publisher on the PlayStation 4.