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What's also curious about the Rites, is that they're competitions and not battles. Nobody is harmed in the process, which makes losing just as viable as winning and one result is not necessarily better than the other in the end.
This is why the developers discourage replaying the Rites and you only have one autosave slot per campaign to record your progress. However, you still can cheese the system and restart an ongoing Rite. And while it may seem like it would go against the spirit of the game, this is a feature you might want to keep in mind. Every arena you play on has some gimmick and you have no way to know about it beforehand. For example, there's an arena with bottomless pits in it and if a player falls into one - they get banished. At the same time, another arena has similar looking pits that instead of banishing your player propel them forward. It may feel unfair to be losing just because you had no way of knowing all the variables, so the restart button helps with that.
The biggest downside, pardon the pun, of Pyre's “combat” system is that your mechanical skill trumps all. The character builds, the bonuses you accrue along the way, your players' levels - they're all secondary to how good you are at pressing buttons and scoring goals. Perhaps a turn-based system would have served Pyre better, I'm not sure, I just know that I would have liked my decisions to have a visible impact not only on the story, but on the Rites as well.
We've already established that Pyre looks absolutely gorgeous, but Pyre's soundtrack by Supergiant's in-house composer Darren Korb also deserves a mention. This eclectic collection of nearly two hours of music stands so good on its own that you can purchase it separately and enjoy it without having even played the game.
Another of Supregiant's staples - narration by Logan Cunningham - also makes a comeback in Pyre. And it's both good and bad. Bad, because it plays a much lesser part here than in the previous games - instead of a narrator that follows you wherever you go, here he plays The Voice, a sports commentator that introduces the teams and makes snarky remarks as the Rites proceed. And here's the good part - as the game progresses, you discover that The Voice is not an idle observer and instead has his own stake in all of this, one that goes directly against your goals. As a result you get to see a gradual descent from regal overconfidence into petty insults as you get closer to finishing the game, which, considering Logan Cunningham's talent, is quite entertaining.
The rest of the dialogue-heavy game, however, is not really voice-acted. Instead, whenever a character speaks, we get some gibberish that vaguely resembles the alien language from Knights of the Old Republic. Thankfully, in Pyre we only get a few syllables of that per sentence, as opposed to a drawn-out tirade of nonsense.
What I've also appreciated about Pyre is the way it handles its lore. You're free to learn as much or as little about it as you desire. As you perform certain actions that range from visiting particular locations, meeting certain characters, or even buying items, you unlock more and more pages in the Book of Rites that tell you the story of Pyre's world. You may strive to uncover as many of the pages as possible, or just not care about them at all.
On a more technical side - the game runs well, saves instantly, and doesn't take too long to load. It hasn't crashed on me once during my roughly 15 hour playthrough, which falls on the higher end of the average 10-15 hour estimate the developers have for the game.
I've enjoyed Pyre, although admittedly less so than Supergiant's other games, and if you go into it with an open mind and a desire to play a good game, you'll likely end up satisfied. On the other hand, if you get stuck on the eternal question of what an RPG is and whether or not Pyre qualifies, you might find yourself frustrated. Frustrated by the lack of actual gameplay and the prevalence of sections where you just talk to your companions, by Supergiant's decision to make a 180-degree turn on trying to connect narrative with gameplay, and by the fact that you're playing a strange sports game instead of fighting goblins in a dungeon like you're used to.
But if you're interested in a noteworthy experience, forget all that and just give Pyre a chance. It's a fun and emotional title with a level of depth that will, perhaps, surprise you.
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