The first time I played Supergiant Games’ Pyre was earlier this year at E3. I was walked through the early stages of the game’s story mode, which follows a group of four wanderers who engage in sports-like battles called Rites in an effort to cleanse their souls and return home from purgatory. While all of these things were compelling to me, I found myself even more enamoured by its strategic, genre-blending combat system. The Rites players take part in are a 3-on-3 battles in which the objective is to not just take out the opposing side, but to launch an orb into the opposing side’s pyre—essentially the game’s equivalent to a soccer goal. It felt like such a departure from the studio’s past outings Transistor and Bastion because despite RPG elements and party managing, the core of Pyre straight up felt like a competitive sports game.
Despite my interest in the game’s beautiful art and story, what stuck out most to me was the competitive potential of Pyre’s systems. When I finished playing through the single player portion of the game, my first question for Supergiant was whether the team intended to implement a multiplayer mode into Pyre before the launch. At the time, I was told Supergiant wanted to focus on the single player first, but competitive multiplayer wasn’t out of the question. Well, at PlayStation Experience Supergiant confirmed it was making Pyre into the game I had always hoped it could be, and I was able to take this multiplayer mode for a few test drives.
To break it down for you, Pyre’s three-person teams consist of a small, medium, and large character each with their own set of skills and weaknesses. A small character is agile, but perhaps less powerful than their teammates, while a larger character will be slower but more powerful. Players take control of one character at a time as they attempt to deliver the orb into the opponents’ pyre, but a character holding the orb becomes vulnerable to enemy attacks. Setting up your team’s position to quickly pass the orb to confuse the opponent and create openings in their defenses is key to getting the upper hand. Executing these elaborate tricks and plays may be fun enough when playing against a computer, but there’s nothing like the gratification of planning out and pulling off a perfect strategy with a friend next to you and hearing their defeated groans.
As great as Pyre’s magical sport is, to me it would have felt somewhat wasted if it had been only used in a single player story with no opportunities to harness the competitive possibilities of such a cleverly crafted battle system. Supergiant hasn’t decided whether it will include an online multiplayer mode for Pyre just yet, but should the game take off I’d love to see this implemented and see just how big a Pyre competitive scene could become.