Pyre: Supergiant’s Hidden Gem That Will Set Your Soul Ablaze

Shining the Spotlight on Supergiant’s Pyre

During the pandemic, I played and replayed Hades until it felt like there was nothing left for me to do, but still, I wanted more. Soon enough, I found that Supergiant, the studio that made Hades, had made other video games before. If you’re excited by the release of the Hades II early access like me but not quite ready to jump in until the full release, or you’re just hungry for a story like only Supergiant can provide, then I have the game for you.

Cover art for Pyre

The Triumvirate

Pyre is a game about a group of exiles banished to a mystical wasteland called the Downside. They compete against other teams in mysterious rites for the chance to escape their exile and return. In Pyre, your team is the beating heart of the game. Through a gameplay loop of completing rites, with gameplay reminiscent of real-life sports, followed by sections of interacting with your team, you’ll grow attached to every member and become invested in their story. 

The RPG elements of Pyre are most on display with your team as you’ll have to choose how to respond to them, who to favor, which three to play as (called a triumvirate), and ultimately who to leave behind. The sections of the game where you interact with your team play out like a visual novel. You learn more about the characters through dialogue and make choices that will change the story, in ways both big and small. 

During these sections, you’ll become invested in your team and learn more about them, discovering why characters are in exile and why they want to go free. Each choice to free a character becomes a compelling decision as some characters have bonds with each other and react to being split up from their friends. Sometimes, characters ask you to set them free next in order to join someone you’ve already liberated… or characters may even plead with you to lose a match to allow someone else to go free.

Pyre Gameplay

Pyre is not a roguelike like Hades. It plays like a sports game during the rites, with the main objective to score on another team’s goal (their Pyre) and keep them from scoring on yours. While I’m not normally a fan of sports games, each team member has different abilities and ways to maneuver and score, making each teammate feel unique and special and keeping gameplay fun. 

Each rite is win or lose, with no option to repeat it. While initially, the stakes are low, with your teammates getting experience for losing or winning, the stakes escalate as the plot advances. Pyre lets you feel the characters’ desperation as time runs out while you try desperately to free your friends from the Downside.

Each rite in Pyre feels personal, but no moments feel more critical than the liberation rites. While most matches are lower stakes games that generally determine who you’ll be facing in the liberation rite, liberation rites are matches that allow someone to go free and critically alter the game’s story. 

If you win a liberation rite, you’ll free one of your favorite characters but be unable to play them again. If you lose you’ll have to watch as someone else goes free instead and watch your team literally lose hope afterward. As the game goes on, getting more members to freedom and choosing the right members to liberate becomes more important. The game became a gripping masterpiece that I stayed up until 5 AM finishing to see how it ended.

Cover for Pyre's soundtrack which also the in-game item the Book of Rites

Pyre: Your Own Story

Included in Pyre is a story about telling stories, recording its own heroic past, and giving you the chance to have your own story written in the stars. Your foremost vessel of information about the world is an in-game book. Players slowly unlock more sections to reveal the lore of the world and your team’s place within it. 

The Book of Rites has over 100 pages and details information about everything from why there are dead mythical monsters in each stage of the map, to the secrets of the eight scribes who wrote the book and built the nation you’re from, to your character’s role within the game. Somehow, the Book of Rites manages to be one of the best parts of the game! I’ve spent hours just reading this book, cheering when I beat a rite and coming back to the caravan to discover there was more to read.

Pyre is one of the best games I’ve ever played. It tells a story that now lives rent-free in my head, causing me to listen to its songs on repeat, think about its story, and replay it more than once. In Pyre, you get to write your own story in the stars, culminating in a truly profound experience you’ll only understand if you play for yourself. If you’re looking to give Supergiant another shot while waiting for the full release of Hades II, I highly recommend Pyre.

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