Pyre is fantastical take on the kind of drama you would find in a sports movie, only with more magical creatures and epic voiceovers. Supergiant Games, the team behind indie games Bastion and Transistor, once again give players a unique world and soundtrack to become mystified with. But while Pyre features some interesting characters and great design for its grim world, it does fall short a bit with its gameplay. Combine this with a Versus multiplayer mode that can only be played locally, and you have a game that could be even better if some things were a bit more refined and expanded upon.
The gameplay of Pyre is pretty straightforward and not as intricate as its story. Much like a fantasy style version of basketball, Pyre has you controlling a team of outcasts squaring off against other teams of outcasts, where the goal is to throw a sphere into a giant flame. This whole ordeal is known as the Rites. The objective is simple enough, but the process towards achieving your goal can get a bit more complicated the more you play through Pyre’s main campaign.
Different layouts of stages (or courts for argument’s sake) and the different characters you control in a game add some depth, which is taken further with some light role-playing character growth that rewards you for completing and winning games with experience points called Enlightenment. The more you gain, the more extra abilities and skills you can unlock to help assist you in subsequent games you play. The game offers some extra options to gain more Enlightenment and bonuses to your characters, some of which comes from the main story dialogue at random points, but it only offers a small boost.
There’s a lot of characters to use in Pyre’s main story, all of which you meet and learn about while progressing through the main story matchups. Each character has a number of abilities and offers unique skills to make them have different impact on how you maneuver and score during the Rites. Sometimes, choosing a specific character or combination of characters will make some matches flow a lot easier, especially if you have extra abilities unlocked to assist you.
It does however feel like at some points of the game you’ll end up using some characters more often than others, mostly due to how long it can take to level up each character and obtain new skills. What is annoying is when you’ll randomly be forced to use characters you haven’t played with at all, which can sometimes put you at a disadvantage with the lack of skills you have unlocked.
The highlight of Pyre’s experience is the audio and visual design, both of which are handled phenomenally well. The art style is similar to Supergiant’s previous games, with a stylized painting aesthetic that makes everything stand out with a mythical cosmic vibe. The imposing voice you hear before the start of each Rite is equal parts intimidating and epic, setting up the high stakes of each match. Though the rest of the voices and music you hear throughout Pyre never quite match up to that same intensity, they do compliment the colorful yet dreary purgatory that you’re thrown into.
Pyre does have a local multiplayer mode where you can play against another player in the Rites. There are over 20 characters to use from the different teams, but you don’t have to complete the main story to unlock them for multiplayer. Multiplayer games play out exactly like the main campaign, only you have control over allowing abilities into the games or playing a basic match up, which is a nice option to have.
It’s a big shame however that multiplayer can’t be done online. The competitiveness you get in Pyre local multiplayer would have been ideal to have working in an online environment with leaderboards or leagues, but you don’t have any of that here. It’s definitely a missed opportunity that should be explored down the line if Pyre ever gets additional updates or downloadable content.
If you liked the visuals and sounds of Supergaint Games’ previous releases, then you’re going to enjoy diving into the world you’ll find in Pyre. Playing in the Rites matches are a joy and controlling many different characters is great, despite how long it can take to level any of them up. The story is intriguing and offers a lot of information about the world to those who are curious enough to read about it in the game’s menus. Local multiplayer is good, but this is definitely a game that would benefit from having its competitiveness taken online. Missed opportunity aside, Pyre is still a good game that has a lot of interesting stuff going for it that you’ll enjoy.
This review was based on a digital review code of Pyre for the PlayStation 4, provided by Supergiant Games.