When asked about the timing of the announcement of Pyre in relation to PAX East, Supergiant Games’s Creative Director, Greg Kasavin, commented that they like to keep their games quiet until their ready for people to play. He certainly had confidence in that statement, and from my brief but memorable hands-on with the title I can say that it is well placed. The developer of both Bastion and Transistor is once again bringing that classic combination of a unique aesthetic and creative gameplay, yet Pyre also seems like it might be a departure in some ways for the studio.
The story of Pyre follows a protagonist banished to a fantasy wasteland. Interestingly, it seemed their sole crime was having the ability to read. Soon, she is picked up by a fellow band of exiles, who coax her into using her gifts to discover the secrets of a ritual that may restore them to the world they came from. Referred to by your companions as “Sister”, you guide them through these battles against other groups of exiles, battles that play out like a combination of a tactical RPG and a sports game.
In combat, the objective is to carry a luminescent sphere into the enemy goal while defending your own. Party members can only move while carrying the sphere, so passing and carefully positioning your team is important. Something that I also learned painfully was knowing the different capabilities of the cast. Each moves at a different speed, has a different area of attack, and when scoring a goal that party member is temporarily removed from the battle. Overall, it’s fast paced and quite fun, and it will be interesting to see how the geography of the arenas will be further manipulated to affect gameplay. Furthermore, skills such as recharge rates for removed party members can be upgraded via different activities available as the cast makes its way across the wasteland in their cozy little wagon.
The fact that players will command a party is the first big difference I noticed in Pyre, as Bastion and Transistor were fairly solitary journeys. The dialogue and accompanying voice acting was pretty engaging, and I got a good sense of the different personalities at play. It will be interesting to see how Supergiant evolves them over the course of the narrative. It should also be noted that, the traditionally beautiful color palette and character design aside, the world on display was perhaps the most engaging aspect. I took a moment to look through the group’s wagon, the game telling me about the various objects I interacted with and letting me read texts strewn about, and found that an entertaining activity in and of itself.
My time with Pyre left me wanting more, but also happy that Supergiant Games isn’t resting on its laurels and is trying something a bit different. You can be sure The Outerhaven will be following this story very closely.