Pyre, the latest game from independent studio Supergiant Games, is a unique beast. At once a roleplaying adventure, an interactive story book and a richly energetic sports game, Pyre depicts a beautiful quest across beautiful lands. It takes inspirations from the studio’s first two releases, the acclaimed Bastion and Transistor, but it also stands firmly on its own two feet. The result is by far the studio’s best and most ambitious game to date.
You are cast as the Reader, a voiceless individual who, by sheer chance, finds themselves teamed up with a cast of exiles known as the Nightwings. You’ve all been booted from your home, a land known as the Commonwealth, where literacy has been outlawed – your fate is to wander a limbo-esque land known as the Downside, where you come across, and battle, other exiled travelers. By engaging in these ritualistic encounters called Rites – the core of Pyre’s combat – you and the Nightwings edge ever closer to supposedly earning your freedom.
That combat is where Pyre sets itself apart from other games. Instead of standard battles that take basic hack-and-slash sword play and transpose it to a new setting, Pyre’s fights play out like simplistic games of Quidditch.
You have two teams, each with three characters in play. Your aim is to dunk an orb of energy into the team’s goal (the titular Pyre) on the opposite end of the pitch.
It’s frenetic and exciting, and uses a bunch of different abilities to make individual characters feel like unique tools in the field. It deepens over time, too, starting out relatively easy to understand before adding in new strategies that you can use to your advantage. It’s a combat system that makes Pyre feel entirely unique.
There’s much more going on here besides the fighting. The game world is rich and interesting enough that it’s disappointing that, by design, Pyre’s combative Rites may be the only real form of direct interaction you have with it. You’ll thirst for more opportunities to fully explore the strange and stunning locations Supergiant’s designers have so vividly realised.
But this is before you become properly engaged in the game’s story and its characters – a cast that expands as you progress, and as you make decisions that have often heartbreaking consequences.
The result is an unforgettable little adventure, and one that’s as brave in its ambition as it is beautiful in its art style.