Gamers have been fortunate for the past few years. This year has seen the amazing Persona 5, critical darling Horizon Zero Dawn, and Breath of the Wild stake its claim as one of the greatest games of all time. In the past few years, games like Darkest Dungeon, Witcher 3, and Rocket League have hit PCs and consoles. It has been a great time to play video games.
The same cannot be said for video game studios. Konami has earned the hatred of seemingly the entire gaming community. No one appears to have said a nice thing out loud about Ubisoft for years now. Bethesda continues to release games that everyone buys while they also wonder how glitchy their new purchase will be.
Then there is Supergiant Games. The independent developer released Bastion in 2011. The game was universally praised by both critics and gamers. Supergiant’s next game was Transistor. Transistor managed to top Bastion. Smooth gameplay, an amazing soundtrack, and an engaging story make the game one of the PlayStation 4’s finest.
Pyre has a tough act to follow. After playing around three hours of Supergiant’s new game on the PS4, it is safe to say that Pyre can stand on its own two feet, even if it stumbles more than Supergiant’s previous two games.
Pyre’s story is surprisingly unoriginal. After a beautiful start screen, your character wakes up in the Downside-a dimension to which criminals are banished-for a crime that is alluded to. You quickly meet a band of travelers, comprised of an imposing figure that towers over you, a small talkative character, and a kind-hearted soul that takes mercy on you. Despite knowing little about you, the band takes you.
Once the pleasantries have been exchanged, however, Pyre becomes something entirely different. Gameplay in Pyre is set in three distinct parts. The first part are the conversations between the characters. These parts of the game are strong, but easily the weakest of the game. The conversations are text based. This is not the problem. The conversations are filled with lore. As you travel with your new companions, you learn more about them. Key words and phrases are highlighted. You are able to hover a cursor over these words and learn even more lore about the strange new land you are in.
The biggest weakness actually lay in the characters themselves. This relates to the second part of the game. As you attempt to escape your new prison, you travel around the Downside in a wagon. These scenes are possibly the most beautiful moments of gameplay that can be found on the PS4. Each region is vividly colored complete with a soundtrack that fits the personality of the area. Watching these parts play out are like watching the newest movie released by Disney. The characters are a stark contrast to this beauty. The characters are well drawn, they are just lifeless. They seem darker than the rest of the game and even larger details are difficult to see. When I came across a character that was essentially black and white, I could not help but hope that their part was a small one.
The third part of Pyre is easily the most unique part of the game. As you try to escape for the Downside, you compete against fellow prisoners in the Rites. A mix between, basketball, soccer, and a tag team wrestling match, the Rites are the most exciting part of Pyre. The rules are simple. Teams of three use the celestial orb like a basket or soccer ball to extinguish their opponents’ pyre. The catch is only the person on the team holding the orb may move. Meanwhile, every member of the defending team is free to move as they wish.
The rules are simpler to learn than they are to describe. It takes no time to be setting up offensive and defensive sets in order to take out the other team’s pyre. These parts of the game are also the most satisfying. It is hard not to smile after seeing your team’s picture and logo after a convincing victory. The Rites themselves are also very beautiful. Bright colors and beautiful music are as much a part of the game as your teammates.
The glaring issue with Pyre is the voice acting. There seemingly is none. Your travelling companions and your opponents in the Rites speak a word or two in a foreign language. Text fills the screen as they speak. At first this is not a problem. Then, the commentator for the Rites speaks. Part sports announcer-part super villain-part passive aggressive bully, the commentator is the highlight of Pyre. So much so, that the scenes with your new friends are even more disappointing.
Pyre is another strong entry from Supergiant Games, both beautiful to look at and a joy to hear. It is unique with strong gameplay. The Rites are easy to learn and fun to play. Parts of Pyre do not hold up as well as others, but it is easily a must play game.
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