Pyre Review

Beneath a fateful exhibition of stars, an emblematic flame permeates the shroud of night.  Reflective ore imprisons the ambient glow of radiant runes, amidst ominous relics and perilous ruins.  A triumvirate of cloaked aspects materialize, brandishing an ancestral facade, analogous to that of their opponents’.  A lucent beam, thrust from the heavens, materializes into an orb of boundless energy.  Swiftly, the participants surge towards the orb with tenacious fervor and the circuitous dance of the wisps begins…

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Prophetic Intuition

Forsaken, teetering upon the precipice of demise, you tentatively regain consciousness to find yourself under the scrutiny of a band of ivory masked demons, draped in opulent vestments, adorned with mysterious symbols.  One of the masked figures approaches you, removing his veil to reveal a personable mortal, concerned with preserving your waning existence.  This stranger introduces himself as Hedwyn, as his two cohorts contend the value of salvaging your life.  Devoted to intuition, the compassionate mortal convinces his allies to implicate you in their journey for absolution.

Pyre puts the player in the role of “The Reader,” responsible for studying the Book of Rites, as a literate guide to freedom for the Nighthawks; one of nine original Triumvirates, created by the Eight Scribes for the Rites.  Banished to a vast purgatory known as the Downside, for cultural insurrection, you’re tasked with directing your team through a series of trials designed to exonerate the supreme victors.  Ripped from the surroundings of the Commonwealth, the overall narrative begins to unfold, as the fate of the world above and below the constellations hangs in the balance.

Stratified lore evokes an insatiable yearning to uncover the mysteries of this dark fantasy, as the player traverses the world through a storybook interface.  Transitions between extensive textual elements and combat establish an intimate dynamic between characters and evoke emotional commitment from players.  Deepening relationships between characters span the moral landscape, cultivating a sense of belonging among misfits.  The game’s choice system often forces one to choose between strategic preservation or consequential altruism.  An abundance of diverging story branches, revolving around navigation and character choices, provide ample incentive to play through the campaign multiple times.

Thoughtfully crafted backstories are delicately interwoven within the narrative, driving the core theme of enlightenment through trial and tribulation.  Each interaction between the expansive cast of characters feels fluid and natural, a testament to how comprehensively and cohesively Pyre was written.  Unfortunately, the meticulous cultivation of the world and its characters extends too far, with drawn out dialogue segments, which frequently disrupt the overall pace of gameplay.

At the core of Pyre’s unique experience are the rites: real-time, tactical sport, which pits two groups of three participants against one another, with the aim of extinguishing the opponent’s pyre by casting yourself repeatedly into the flame -orb in hand.  The rites serve as the only path to redemption for exiles, desperate to reclaim their place within the Commonwealth.

Commanding narration amplifies the intensity prior to each match, as each team looms beneath a vigorous inferno they must preserve to achieve advancement.  Treacherous chasms, runic shrines and mobile impediments, promote mechanical and visual diversity within each methodically crafted arena.  Frenetic combat is navigated through astute positioning, as the player controls one teammate at a time in a rapid-fire exchange between offensive and defensive transitions.  Simple, yet intuitive core mechanics generate symptomatic moments of competitive euphoria.  Anticipatory maneuvering and clever timing open up holes in your opponents’ defenses, in which you can make an attempt at depleting their pyre.  Proper team composition is paramount, and experimenting with each of the games’ eight characters’ varying aura sizes, abilities and mobility, produces a synergistic experience akin to most MOBAs.  Inventive gameplay, coupled with a practical leveling system, provides sufficient opportunities to implement creative strategies to stamp out your opponents in uniquely fun ways.

Versus mode pits player versus computer or player versus player, in custom matches which allow each participant to select their team composition, their desired soundtrack and stage.  I spent several hours competing against the computer in the early stages of the campaign, developing strategy and honing my proficiency with each character.  While I haven’t spent time competing in local versus mode, I assume it has the potential to ruin relationships and cultivate bitter dispositions.

Supergiant Games is well known for the illustrious visual aesthetic of their earlier titles, Transistor and Bastion.  Pyre is no exception, and in many ways transcends the aforementioned titles with the breadth of its detail.  Surreal landscapes are brought to life with vibrant saturation.  Stark contrast between light and dark elements, utilize lush warm hues and soothing indigo; while ethereal lighting illuminates colossal idols, relinquished of their former glory.

Characters are illustrated with muted brushstrokes of flat tones, blending subtlety within each environment. Animations flow seamlessly in conjunction with spell effects exchanged across the battlefield in dazzling splendor.  The sheer volume of animations occurring in the foreground highlight the vigorous pacing of Pyre’s gameplay.

Serving as a momentous backdrop for the overall atmosphere is a remarkable soundtrack composed by Darren Korb.  Robust acoustic guitar melodies, layered atop ubiquitous percussion, ebb and flow with spiraling captivation.  Haunting electronic notes transition into whimsical guitar riffs, subtle vocal harmonies and back again with compelling direction.  Korb’s ability to merge such a diverse collection of sounds (harpsichord and electric guitar included), is uncanny, and a testament to his artistry.

Verdict 

Pyre combines inventive gameplay, emotive storytelling, alluring visuals and a moving soundtrack into one masterful adventure unlike any other in recent memory.  In an industry saturated with sequels and customary experiences, Pyre oozes originality and inspires imaginative risk.   

8.3

Pros Cons
+Uniquely inspired gameplay -Frequently drawn out cutscenes interrupt the pace of gameplay
+Compelling narrative  
+Consequential choices  
+Expansive lore  

Developer/Publisher: Supergiant Games

Platforms: PS4, Microsoft Windows, Linux

Genre: Action-role playing game

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