Earlier this year, after playing Pyre at PAX East, Fan Contributor Eric Fuchs wrote about the upcoming party-based RPG from Supergiant Games that plays like a cross between rugby, ultimate frisbee (or just “ultimate” if you prefer), and The Oregon Trail. I recently had a chance to play the latest build at PAX West 2016, where I spent time exploring the strategic elements of Pyre that take place between the sports-like competitions.
Eric’s preview already does a great job of explaining the gameplay during these sports segments, so I’ll just stick to the highlights. Two teams of three players face off in a small arena with two goals (called pyres, hence the name) on either end. The object is to get a magical sphere into the opposing team’s pyre to whittle the number of spirits they have in reserve down to zero. While carrying the sphere, the player-controlled character is open to attack, but can use a combination of mobility and passing to get around the opponent’s defense. On defense, you can shoot your aura at the opposing sphere carrier to try to steal it away.
The reason you are actually taking part in the Rites is all explained on your journey. The basic setup is that you have recently been exiled and found in a strange land by three masked figures, which soon reveal themselves to be a human male, a large female with horns, and a talking dog with a mustache. They soon learn that you are a “Reader” that has the ability to decipher sacred texts. Doing so uncovers the path out of exile (and sets up the main questline of the game), in which your team must defeat several other exiled teams in a series of ritual competitions called the Rites. You must journey across the land taking part in these ceremonies, with several strategic segments between each stop.
Your unique gifts as a Reader come into play quite a bit during these strategic downtime segments. You can use this ability to study sacred texts to gain experience and ultimately learn new abilities and techniques for the three characters. The skill trees seem to have offensive and defensive paths. For example, you can enhance mobility while carrying the sphere, or change the shape of your aura powers, making it easier to take out the opposing carrier. This should allow you to customize a team that caters to your preferred playstyle.
The time spent between competitions is also your chance to get to know your party and uncover more of the mysterious plot through dialogue options that help flesh out the backstory and unique world Supergiant is building here. The dialogue often uses a hyperlink-like system that explains key concepts or provides background when you click on certain words. In one fun interaction, I was asked by my talking dog companion if he should shave his mustache or not. Unfortunately, there was no option to tell him to grow it into a full handlebar ‘stache.
Pyre is shaping up to be quite a unique experience, just like Supergiant’s previous games Bastion and Transistor. The combination of the fun, exciting sports-like Rites ceremonies, gorgeous art style, light strategy and customization options, and worldbuilding all make this a title to keep an eye on when it arrives on PlayStation 4 and PC in 2017.