Pay your re­spects to this be­guil­ing mash-up

PlayStation Official Magazine (UK) - - CONTENTS - @ben­tyrer

Unique’ is an over-used word, but feels apt for this in­trigu­ing con­coc­tion, half a visual novel about a quest to es­cape the pur­ga­tory you’re trapped in, half an in­vented sport that re­sem­bles gothic bas­ket­ball. While it might sound es­o­teric on pa­per, once you start rov­ing the richly coloured Down­side and com­pete to earn the right to es­cape it, there re­ally is noth­ing else like Pyre on PlayS­ta­tion. More im­por­tantly, the in­ven­tion doesn’t come at the cost of qual­ity. There’s no time wasted estab­lish­ing Pyre’s dis­tinc­tive world. Your char­ac­ter is ban­ished from their home in the Com­mon­wealth to the pe­cu­liar Down­side, where a group of three trav­ellers take pity on you and in­vite you into their wagon. Like the best visual nov­els, this puts the em­pha­sis on your re­la­tion­ships with char­ac­ters. Each per­son you in­ter­act with has a clear, en­gag­ing per­son­al­ity that it be­comes easy to care about their strug­gles.

As the cast bulges through­out your jour­ney, Su­per­giant gives you sub­tle ways of shap­ing the nar­ra­tive. Whether it’s through di­a­logue op­tions or mi­nor de­ci­sions you make through­out, there’s a nat­u­ral­ism that avoids the feel­ing you’re just choos­ing a pre­de­fined path. With such a fas­ci­nat­ing crew and thought­ful story that con­tin­u­ally branches out in in­trigu­ing di­rec­tions, the tale at the heart of Pyre does a fan­tas­tic job of cre­at­ing a rich world you want to delve into.


Of course, that’s only half the ex­pe­ri­ence. The Ri­tu­als – the sport/ac­tion bits – them­selves are an ad­dic­tive com­bi­na­tion of tac­tics and thumb twitches. I won’t bore you with too many of the specifics, but the core idea is that two teams, made up of three, have to nab a Ce­les­tial Orb in the cen­tre of the arena and get it into their op­po­nents’ pyre by any means nec­es­sary.

There are wrin­kles that make the ac­tion much more com­plex than just mind­lessly run­ning af­ter the ball, such as char­ac­ter classes and pow­ers that can stop op­po­nents in their tracks, which add lay­ers of strat­egy to the mix. You only con­trol one char­ac­ter at a time, so how do you ma­noeu­vre them across the pitch? Do you fo­cus on speed to flank op­po­nents or brute force to go through them? It’s an ad­dic­tive sys­tem that grows in com­plex­ity ev­ery time you play a round.

In an in­spired move, you can also play matches sep­a­rately from the story in Ver­sus mode. Whether it’s with a buddy on the sofa or AI, it’s a fun ex­ten­sion that lets you push this sys­tem in a thor­ough way.

What holds Pyre back from clas­sic sta­tus is its repet­i­tive struc­ture. Re­ly­ing on par­tic­u­lar pat­terns dur­ing the later stages of the ad­ven­ture – you learn a lit­tle more about your team, then take part in the rit­ual, re­peat for a few hours – sucks some of the mys­tique out of the world. It’s never bor­ing, but there’s a def­i­nite lull be­fore the fan­tas­tic end­ing. That said, you will stay for the pay-off.



An en­gag­ing fan­tasy visual novel el­e­gantly sup­ple­mented with an ad­dic­tive and unique sport, Pyre is a true orig­i­nal. As gam­ing ob­ses­sions go, it burns bright, if not long. Ben Tyrer

The vivid hand-drawn art style is some­how even more gor­geous when in mo­tion.


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