Pyre — 4/5 Stars
Pyre is a fantasy, role-playing, sports game from indie developer Supergiant Games. You play as a Reader, someone literate in a land where books and literacy have been outlawed. For the crime of reading you have been exiled to the “Downside,” a purgatory of sorts filled with societal outcasts and criminals. There is only one possible path to freedom and redemption for exiles: The Rites.
The Rites are a mystical game that is essentially basketball with magic. You have a chance to earn your freedom by leading your fellow exiles to victory in these games. Other teams of exiles vying for their own freedom compete against you, each with their own backstories and play styles.
Gameplay in Pyre consists of competition in The Rites, interspersed with storytelling and light role-playing choices. Your team of nine characters, “The Nightwings,” includes mythical creatures and magical entities alongside humans such as yourself. Guiding the stories and strengths of these characters allow for deep gameplay customization, as you tailor your team to excel in The Rites.
Pyre features a stunning art style that appears hand-drawn. The fantasy characters and sweeping landscapes of the Downside are brought to life in such detail that you feel as if you’re stepping into the game. Pyre also features a moving soundtrack that ranges from folksy adventure tunes to mystically haunting melodies, and even a pumping rock anthem. The music perfectly sets the tone for each scene.
As Pyre’s story progresses, you learn the history of your fellow exiles, as well as the history of the magical land you are in. The story is deep and complex, and I only scratched the surface. Lore buffs will find poring over the written history a real treat.
Pyre’s main theme is freedom. The game leaves you questioning who deserves to be free, and whether freedom even means what you think it does. While pondering freedom, I was reminded of the source of true freedom, as John 8:36 reminds us: “if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.”
Pyre’s few flaws lie mainly in its pacing and character development. The first half of the game is largely a linear experience with a predictable progression. The second half suddenly changes this style in a way that feels jarring and requires a bit of an adjustment. I was also disappointed that not all the characters get the same amount of screen time.
Pyre takes something as commonplace as sports and turns it into a magical story about the cost and meaning of freedom. From the beautifully rendered sights and sounds of a mystical world, to the intriguing questions you are left with, Pyre is an adventure I would recommend.
Chris Clark | Portland | Northern New England