Pyre Impressions0 Comments
Supergiant Games are masters when it comes to beautiful, melancholy worlds with innovative gameplay mechanics. Each game the team releases has that singular Supergiant feel — atmosphere that is both enthralling, charming, and just a bit eerie — while managing to create something new with each fresh release. The indie developer's next game, Pyre, promises to continue that legacy, set in a sandswept purgatory and combining elements of visual novels and real time strategy games to once again present something that no one has played before.
While still a ways off from its 2017 release, Pyre's highly polished 30-minute demo establishes the player as "The Reader," a literate person in a land of exhile where one's ability to interpret the written word is worthy of harsh punishment. The Reader is discovered by a group of fellow exiles who are drawn to your ability to read their book of rites, rare texts that can reveal the path out of purgatory. There's the austere, heavily muscled Jodariel, Rukey, a swift dog-like creature with a gentleman's mustache, and Hedwyn, a welcoming presence in a harsh landscape.
Together you must take your caravan across the land, performing rites in order to make your way out of purgatory. The caravan bounces across the gorgeous painterly landscape in charming cartoonish fashion from destination to destination. Setting up camp for the night presents a number of things to do, be it mentoring your fellow travellers in preparation for the rites, studying the texts, which improves your own personal abilities to aid your companions and hunt for fuel, or you can set out into the wilds to forage for supplies.
At times you will also have the opportunity to interact with the other characters, getting to know them better. Your interactions with your compatriots can also impact their ability to perform in the rites, depending on how you choose to navigate the game's assorted social intricacies. Telling Jodariel, for example, that she is intimidating might lower her "Hope" attribute, which might have a negative effect when it comes time to perform the rites. Greg Kasavin, creative director at Supergiant, said that this time around, they want to create a game that allows players to form close bonds with the characters, and this is reflected in both the story and the gameplay.
Pyre meshes the character heavy themes of companionship and teamwork effortlessly with the rites, the game's battle system. The Reader will guide the three other team members through the rite, competing against an opposing force of three other participants. The map is composed of one "pyre" — an arcane bonfire of sorts — for each team, and an "orb" placed at the center of the map. Each team must focus on throwing or carrying the orb into the opponent's pyre, while defending their own.
The game does a good job of easing you into the action with a brief tutorial during the first match. Each character has an aura, a field of energy that circles your person. Once you pick up the orb, that aura disappears, and you're vulnerable to your enemies. If they touch you, you vanish from the field temporarily and the orb is forfeit. The rite centers around this game of defending your own auras while going in for the goal. Successfully throwing the orb into an enemy pyre dampers the flames, and the amount of damage done depends on which character makes the goal. The fleet and petite Rukey can zoom across the map, dodging opponents, but when he scores it'll only take one point of health away from the opposing pyre. Jodariel has more bulk, moving slowly, but can do serious damage.
You'll have to find a balance with your team, rapidly switching between each of them and using their unique attributes while thinking on your feet. You can dash across the map for a brief time, although that will burn you out quickly. Instead, you'll want to make use of all three members, as characters not holding the orb can channel their auras into concentrated bursts to be flung at your enemies, which can come in handy when you're trying to assist your orb-wielding teammate across the field. The whole set-up is so unusual it seems kind of odd at first, but you'll quickly be drawn into the systems' fluid immediacy, surging across the field and devising your own personal strategies with flair. Even if you're not a big sports games fan, you'll quickly be sitting on the edge of your seat as you desperately defend your pyre.
Pyre is still very young, but it already looks promising. It embraces everything Supergiant Games does well, from the visuals with enchanting stained glass and watercolor effects, the accoustic heavy soundtrack that rings with heartache and hope, to the impeccable narrative and mechanical design. At the same time, Pyre is a departure, a game about seeking out help and working together to find salvation.