I played a game: Pyre

Pyre is a good game.

“What does freedom mean to you?”

Pyre is an absolutely outstanding game, and yet another gem from Supergiant Games.

The game is set in the Downside, where criminals are cast out from the Commonwealth. You are such a criminal. See, you’re a Reader, and reading is forbidden in the Commonwealth. So, out you went.

In the Downside, you run into a group of characters. Rukey, the sketchy businessman Cur (pretty much a humanoid dog); Jodariel, the physically imposing Demon (which is what becomes of humans left in the Downside for too long; and also Hedwin, the benevolent human nomad. Every character in the main group is very well-developed, and end up developing bonds with both you the reader, and each other, resulting in some absolytely wonderful monents of comedy, sorrow, happiness, beauty and so on. There are a lot of interesting characters in the other teams you come up against in the Rites to come, and there are even some interesting relationships in-between members of different teams.

As a Reader, you are one of a few capable people able to conduct Rites, where two teams compete in a sort of Capture the Flag, where you race to collect the orb that spawns in the middle of the map and strive to drop it into the opponents’ Pyre. This douses the Pyre, and whichever teams’ Pyre is extinguished first – loses.

This is complicated by the fact that you can only move one character a time, so you switch between characters and find opportunities to dart forward when an opportunity presents itself. Every character has ways to mess with the opponents – some can throw their aura (pretty much their spiritual power manifesting around them), jump around (some can even fly) and charge into players. Every character has something that’s special for them. It might sound a bit daunting, but it’s quite easy to pick up, and you’ll find preferred teams and ways to play out the game.

The artwork is awesome, as you can tell by any of the preview images. Every frame is absolutely gorgeous, so I probably ended up with well over one thousand screenshots. The character designs look great, as does the backgrounds, etc. It’s very easy to figure out what’s happening in battles, as the visuals are very distinct, even when it does get really chaotic.

Supergiant have been celebrated in the past for their amazing soundtracks, and they’ve done it again. I never tire of hearing the multitude of tracks they manage to come up with. Each setting, whether it’s exploring the map, being in a discussion, or hammering fools in combat, the songs fit brilliantly with the mood.

There is also a story in Pyre, which is quite brilliant in both simplicity and its subtlety. You and the group you travel with seek a way back into the Commonwealth, and you get there by competing in Rites. Supposedly, there’s a way to fight one’s way back home, but how much will it take, and will everybody be able to go back home? In the end – What does freedom mean to you, and what would you do to attain it? It’s much more emotional than I had expected when I initially picked it up, and I was more than a little misty-eyed when the end was approaching.

I was pleasantly surprised with how much we, the players, are allowed to have a voice as the Reader. You get to have your views heard in arguments, get involved with other characters and build relationships with them, and as the groups star-navigator, you are its guide and choose where to go next. It’s a really ingenious way of involving the player very directly in the story, without having us be THE HERO.

One of the most defining things that happen when I finish something truly spectacular, like a good book/film/game/etc is that I feel a little empty inside afterwards. Like I invested a little part of myself into whatever awesome media I just devoured. Such was the case with Pyre, and if it isn’t abundantly clear at this point, I wholeheartedly recommend this wonderful game. It’s a terrific journey, that leads to a very impactful ending. Pyre is Supergiant Games’s strongest game yet, even beating out the wonderful Bastion, and definitely certifies them as a developer whose games are absolutely must-play.

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