Don’t expect daily updates of Pyre as I play through it, because I honestly can’t bring myself to play through much of this thing in my free time. The way other critics are drooling over it is mystifying to me; so far this has basically been a stripped-down rendition of Oregon Trail with a lame e-sport tacked on that’ll ensure that the game ages much more poorly than previous Supergiant games Bastion and Transistor. I mean, the music and art is good, but I’m really not seeing what else it succeeds at. Transistor’s gameplay was awesome. Even Bastion’s was serviceable. These e-sport “rites” (because this is one of those games devoted to cramming in a ton of unnecessary terms for no obvious reason), though, are something I’ve only gotten far enough to do a small handful of times, and yet I’m already bored with them.
I like the characters, mostly
Right now I have four characters (apart from the self-insert character who you can’t use in the e-sport sections) and I like two of them, hate one of them, and am on the fence about the last one. The one I hate is Ed Sheeran above, and while I can’t really explain why that is, I suspect that it has something to do with how impossibly forgiving and understanding he is. It doesn’t quite mesh with the other characters who have been hardened by their exile. See, the story as far as I can figure at this point is that there’s this awesome place where everyone lives, but people can get kicked out and stranded in a less-awesome place by committing certain acts. This less-awesome place is apparently not very nice, so Ed Sheeran needs to secretly be some kind of serial killer to justify acting so weirdly serene. Granted, he’s not the only nice character, but the others have an edge to them where you can start to see the effect of their exile. One of them seems a bit shifty and crafty. Another tries to exude brutishness. The last one seems a little off in the head (she reminds me of Ed from Cowboy Bebop). Ed Sheeran doesn’t have any obvious defect, which means he’s either deceiving everyone or just a pointlessly simple character.
Either way, I hate his guts.
I also hate e-sports
You know what I love? Single-player games. When people talk about gaming and the image they paint is of a bunch of ADD-addled teenagers screaming racial epithets over voice chat while taking some multiplayer e-sport too seriously, I die a little inside thinking of all the Arcanums and Planescapes that are lumped into that same braindead category despite being a world apart from such noise. Pyre’s gameplay feels like a concession to that very group of ADD-addled children, though, a blatant pander toward the kind of simplicity they can wrap their heads—and attention spans—around. Basically, the actual gameplay here consists of a fantasy soccer/basketball match where you’re trying to drive a ball into your opponent’s goal enough times that its hit points go all the way down. You and your opponent each have 3-person teams, and all characters have an aura that manifests as a circle around them. Characters touched by an opponent’s aura disappear temporarily, as do those who take the ball into the goal themselves rather than throwing it.
So far this has been stupidly easy
Only one character can move at a time, so opponents need to be able to adapt to your brilliant strategies. Like, for example, running around them and into their goal. They don’t. At least, not yet. In fact, the only real difficulty I’ve faced thus far has been the control scheme; outside of the e-sport trash, I need to use keyboard and mouse because using a controller has this ugly cursor show up that you have to move around like a mouse anyway. It ruins screenshots and drives me crazy. For the e-sport sections, though, I find the keyboard and mouse controls wildly inadequate and prefer the controller setup, which means I’m constantly switching back and forth between the two. Not annoying at all! Even the controller feels a bit awkward to use, as run is mapped to the right trigger, which is weird as hell, and jump is the X button. Since A is the button my brain is wired to automatically assume causes my character to jump, I keep accidentally passing the ball when I mean to jump. It’s worth mentioning that I could rebind all of these since the game is generous about rebinding for both control schemes, but I kind of want to get used to the default controls and try to figure out what they were thinking.
Assuming I keep playing, at least. Meh.
Why do they all look alike?
Putting aside my admittedly subjective and arguably self-inflicted annoyances, the game suffers from a pretty glaring flaw. During the e-sport sections, all characters on your team are wearing the same colors in addition to masks. Of the four characters I have, I can only immediately recognize one of them because of her size compared to the others, and this could be a problem since you can equip certain characters with talismans that improve their skills. It seems like it’ll be hard to build and utilize a well-rounded team if I can’t tell which unit is specialized for what without wasting time looking down to see whose portrait is highlighted, and it seems half the time characters score a goal and the announcer (sigh) mentions their name, I realize that it was someone other than who I thought I was controlling.