Finished Pyre. I found many things to like and a few things not to like.
The game excels at the interaction between gameplay and narrative. The narrative mechanic of winners get out of prison, losers don’t, means that every fight has stakes. The interaction is particularly interesting at final rites, which when successful deprive you of some of your most valuable players. It works really well at creating the “I’m happy for you, but we’re still stuck and things are harder without you” vibe the game is going for. And if you lose, the game goes on, but the narrative changes.
The narrative itself is serviceable, and the choices you make at final rite definitely impact the ending, so there’s real consequence there.
The gameplay is deeper than it seems at first, and eventually I found it pretty fun. Each character has very different move options, and there are a lot of different strategies. Attrition through victory made me change play-styles repeatedly. In the beginning I favored dashers, then relied on attacking enemies, then flyers, a slow-moving defensive play.
However, some rudimentry AI on the non-controlled characters would have been nice. Controlling three is very cumbersome, and it’s nigh impossible to set up the all-out attacks the game would thrive from. Late in the game the AI has a strategy of killing your in-active characters as they stand motionless. The game also uses combined attacks against you. It’s annoying because it’s like the developers knew the system was tedious, but exploited it instead of fixing it.
Even worse, the overworld and the lore are pointless. I started skipping through the lore, just because it was pointless. Once or twice it provides context, but the game is content to ask three hundred word questions and never provide an answer. The overworld is beautifully drawn, but there’s no point in it. All supergiant games have had this weakness, but Pyre exacerbates it. Eventually the fantastically drawn world also becomes boring and skippable.
I liked Pyre a lot, but a larger portion of the game is spent watching a visual novel than playing a fun game.