Tag Archive: Supergiant Games

Supergiant Games is starting to develop a reputation for delivering quality RPGs highlighted by quality stories and unconventional gameplay mechanics for the genre. Its third effort, Pyre, continues this trend by blending yet another compelling experience with the unexpected point of conflict boiling down to what translates as an otherworldly take on three-on-three basketball. Just like with Transistor and Bastion, however, Pyre will surprise you with how well everything comes together in an unforgettable game full of twists and turns.

Pyre begins with your character being cast into the Downside, a wasteland of sorts where all exiles are sent for breaking the law in the Commonwealth, civilization’s shining city on a hill. There, starving and injured from the perilous journey from the Commonwealth, you are found by three fellow exiles. It seems you are just the person these exiles have been looking for, as you are one known as a “Reader.” Literacy is banned in the Commonwealth, but those who break this rule are held in high regard in the Downside, as they can interpret ancient texts that can lead exiles back to the Commonwealth—and freedom—in a ceremony called The Rites. With no other choice but to join your would-be saviors, you agree to work together in order to reclaim what you’ve lost. Unfortunately, it won’t be long before you realize that freedom always comes at a price.

What’s interesting about Pyre is that while the player character’s Reader fills an integral role to the entire story, you never actually see your character, and customization ends at choosing whether to be male, female, or neither (for the sake of conversational pronouns). The entire game plays out from a first-person perspective, with your roster of exiles speaking directly to you the entire game. Over the course of these conversations, you’ll have to make integral decisions on how you and your team will progress towards your freedom, directly influencing what path you take, and which other exiles you will fight in The Rites. When combined with a world map that consists of you just telling your wagon where to go next, this gave Pyre a distinct point-and-click adventure feel when it comes to how its story actually plays out. However, it also offered welcome nuance to how I could shape my own individual tale, and made sure my adventure was unlikely to be exactly the same as anyone else’s.

Your decisions can also affect who ends up joining or leaving your party over the course of the game, growing your stable of exiles to over half-a-dozen capable beings if you so choose. I say “beings” because the world of Pyre is a rich one full of more than just humans. There are the dog-like Curs, the living tree Saps, the monstrous Demons, and more. Each race can participate in The Rites, and each one offers unique skills to be taken advantage of. For example, the Wyrms (aptly named worm-like creatures) may be small in stature, but their slime trail lets them move lightning quick on the field. Leveling up exiles after each battle—or, as the game puts it, “moving closer to enlightenment”—will open up new abilities that further enhance each race’s specific strengths.

Pyre also has an astonishing amount of lore to it. Each race has its own history, and each exile their own tale to tell if you can befriend them enough during your down time in the wagon. As the Reader, you can also look at holy books that fill in the background of the universe you find yourself in; from how The Rites were started to those who participated in them before you, it’s all at your fingertips should you allow yourself to fall down Pyre’s extremely deep rabbit hole.

Once The Rites commence, however, the real fun begins. The Reader almost takes on the role of a coach, watching from the sidelines, but in reality as the player, assuming control of your three-exile team.  As your party expands, you’ll be able to choose what three exiles will comprise your team to go against others in the Downside, as well as analyze opposing teams for weaknesses to better stack your lineup in your favor. Once teams are chosen and talisman bought from nearby shops to boost your stats assigned, a celestial orb is placed in the middle of the field. From there, players will attempt to pass, shoot, or even carry the orb into an opposing team’s burning pyre. By doing so, you’ll remove a numbers of points from the pyre (different characters can do more or less damage to the pyre), and whittling down the enemy pyre to zero before the computer does the same to yours ensures victory.

I was pleasantly surprised by how deep the strategy element of The Rites is in Pyre. Sometimes speed is the way to go, and taking small chunks away from your enemy’s pyre at a time is the key. Other times, it’s best to hang back and play defensively, using your aura—a mythical barrier that protects all players—to knock back or even remove foes from the field for a time. Balancing your team up with a variety of light and heavy characters, or leaning more heavily on a particular statistic, will be up to you and your analysis of each situation.

As you progress in the game, you’ll come to find that your band of exiles—known as the Nightwings amongst those in the Downside—are in an unusual position for a game of this nature: they’re the best team at conducting The Rites, at least historically. As the stakes continue to climb, and a leaderboard with standings unlocks to show off your position at the top, every other team of exiles in the Downside is looking to take you down. In fact, sometimes they’re even ready to bend the rules a little to try to take away whatever edge you may think you have. It’s one of several clever twists Pyre’s story will throw at you in order to help distract from what can sometimes become repetitive gameplay.

This didn’t stop me, however, from marching to a 26-0 record and the game’s best ending. There were only a few times (on normal difficulty mind you) that I felt challenged, and once I reached a certain level with my characters, even that fell by the wayside. If you should fail, however, the game merely continues pressing on, like any sports game would. Faltering in key, story-heavy match-ups could affect your ending, however, and that helps increase the pressure you might put on yourself, serving as a driving factor to keep going while staying on your toes.

Even if the gameplay starts to feel a little grind-y, one thing that Pyre takes away from its Supergiant predecessors is some slick art direction. Visually, the game’s color burst off the screen like a stained glass window, with vibrant shades used for every climate the Downside offers—from freezing snow capped peaks or blistering white hot deserts, to the turbulent seas off its coasts or lush jungles of its interior. Every climate also features a fallen Titan, a massive creature from Downside lore that sticks out of the expanse more than any crag or outcropping and provides far more character to the world.

The audio also doesn’t disappoint. While your exiles don’t really talk (they only make gibberish sounds when their words appear on screen as text), the conductor of The Rites—the one being higher than you in the Downside—speaks with a voice. His spoken word helps fill in the gaps of the narrative, while also taunting you like the most malicious of fans, hurling insults from the safety of a ballpark’s bleachers as The Rites take place. The music is simply top-notch as well, with Darren Korb again knowing exactly what strings to pluck (or chords to play) in order to add that extra bit of emotional gravitas to the game’s heavier scenes, or to get your blood pumping as the action begins to pick up.

Although the bulk of Pyre is the 10-hour or so campaign—easily the longest single-player experience Supergiant has made to date—considering the nature of its team versus team gameplay, it would’ve been surprising had the game not featured a multiplayer. Pyre does tout a local versus option that allows you and a friend to choose from any of the game’s 10 color schemes and over 20 of its most important characters, both from the Nightwings and your enemies’ sidelines. You can customize the hit points your pyres have, items you can use, and what field you can play on as well. My only knock against it is that there is no online option; it’s understandable given Supergiant’s small size as an indie developer that online multiplayer wasn’t likely doable simply from a logistics standpoint, but it would’ve been nice, and could’ve added some extra replayability.

Pyre is yet another surprise from the folks at Supergiant Games. Its story is full of twists and turns, yet still finds a way to be accommodating and customizable to every player who picks it up. It also features gameplay you would never otherwise find in an RPG or adventure game of this ilk, and uses it to create a lush, vibrant world with depth and beauty. It can get a tad repetitive at times, and replayability might be an issue if you’re like me and get the best ending right off the bat, but it’s still an adventure well worth having at least once—and shows once again how mixing up a formula can provide fantastic results.

Publisher: Supergiant Games • Developer: Supergiant Games • ESRB: E10+ – Everyone 10 and up • Release Date: 07.25.17
Pyre mashes up point-and-click adventures, RPGs, and sports games—and comes out the other end with one of the more memorable stories we’ve seen in some time. It’s a tale of freedom, sacrifice, and rising against the odds, even when they seem to be in your favor. While it can be a bit repetitive gameplay-wise, the colorful world and even more colorful characters should be more than enough to motivate you to fight for the exiles of the Downside.
The Good A larger than life cast of characters and unique gameplay that stems from an unusual mash-up of genres.
The Bad No online multiplayer.
The Ugly How much I paced in my living room while contemplating the game’s biggest decisions,
Pyre is available on PS4 and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Supergiant Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.

Looking to avoid a sophomore slump, the guys over at Supergiant Games, creators of the smash hit Bastion, have a cyperpunk dream come true ready to deliver early in 2014 on PS4 (and potentially other systems). We had a chance to catch up with the studio’s creative director, Greg Kasavin, for a few minutes to get a more in-depth look at what makes Transistor tick.

EGM: What was some of the inspirations for Transistor’s cyberpunk theme?

Greg Kasavin: It’s always tough pinning down our inspirations, as we take sort of a melting-pot approach on our team, drawing from many different sources and media across all different aspects of the game. Where it started was, we really enjoyed creating the fantasy-themed world for our first game Bastion, and wanted to see what we could come up with in the science fiction genre this time around. While we were initially drawn to the cyberpunk aesthetic, we systematically rejected just about all the conventions, from the flowing trench coats to the pouring rain to the fat magnum pistols and so on. It’s not that we dislike these things — rather, we think they’ve been done really well elsewhere already, and it’s very important to us to find our own identity with our games. So we ended up with this romanticized, anachronistic-feeling city with some vintage qualities and some futuristic qualities as well. Jen Zee our art director took influence from the Art Nouveau movement of the early 20th century for aspects of the visual style, and we also looked to aspects of the late ’60s and ’70s when thinking about the game’s world. But that’s just one example. It takes us a while to distill all our ideas into something concrete, and the result contains influences from many different games and all sorts of different media from different eras.

EGM: I know there is a huge focus on Red’s voice being missing. Can you tell us a bit more about that?

GK: We were interested in the idea of a silent protagonist who was silent for reasons tied to the story, and having her paired up with another character with the opposite problem — his body is gone and all that’s left of him is his voice. We thought it would be interesting to explore this type of relationship through a game and let players get close to that relationship through their actions. I don’t want to say too much more about it since the story is very much about these characters and how they got into this situation, and what they’re going to do about it now. In Red’s case, we reveal early on that she was an up-and-coming star in this world, so the loss of her voice might be even worse for her than it would be for most people.

EGM: Tell us more about the unique combo system. Not only does Red have special attacks assigned to the face buttons, but she can stop time. Can you explain to us how it all works together?

GK: Red is having a very bad evening at the start of the game though the one consolation is that she discovers this extraordinary weapon called the Transistor. It turns out to have a variety of powerful functions, and one of them essentially lets her stop the entire world around her, plan her next set of actions, then execute them in a supercharged fashion. This is a core aspect of play, as we wanted to create a strategic and thoughtful feel to the action despite the simple-to-use controls. So, at almost any time you can use this ability to turn the tables, get out of a tight spot, overwhelm a particular opponent, and so on. We liked how open-ended it felt and wanted to create a deep-feeling system that provided a lot of natural drama. The exciting thing about planning is that plans sometimes don’t go over exactly as expected, and then you need to quickly re-evaluate the situation and make the best of it.

EGM: How hard is it to balance the combat between real-time and preventing players from just spamming the time stop ability?

GK: We were really interested in capturing the sensation of strategic and tactical games in the context of an action RPG, so finding the right balance between the real-time action and the ability to stop and plan was one of the central design challenges while we were prototyping. The strategic planning mode is very powerful though you quickly find it’s not to be used recklessly, since it leaves you vulnerable for several seconds after you use it. In this way there’s a natural incentive to use it wisely, to make sure you’re out of harm’s way at the end point of your plan. Likewise, some abilities or encounters may be easier or quicker if you duke it out in real time. We don’t want to force the planning mode onto players, we want them to discover it for themselves and decide when and how best to use it. On Bastion we were tweaking and tuning that game down to the very end of development, and I expect we’ll do the same with Transistor, though we’re happy with where that balance stands at the moment!

If you want more information about Transistor from Greg and the gang at Supergiant Games, be sure to pick up issue #260 of EGM available on newsstands now!

Turn up the radio

After their smash hit Bastion back in 2011, many of us wondered whether or not Supergiant Games would be able to replicate their success with such a small team. Then, last week, they released the first trailer announcing their new game, Transistor. And I know many people looked at that trailer and said “Hmmm… This looks like a cyberpunk Bastion.”

Well, I was fortunate enough to go hands-on with it at PAX East 2013 for 15 minutes, where it was playable on the show floor. And instead of just sharing my initial thoughts, I wanted to share with you the text message I sent to the rest of the EGM Crew upon my completion of the demo:


Surely not my most professional moment, that’s for sure. But after reveling in the jealousy I’d kicked up among my coworkers, I took a minute to compose my thoughts about what I’d just seen, played, and—most impressively—heard.

Indeed, from the very first moments the demo started, an amazing song serenaded my ears as the opening text popped up onscreen. Not only was the song beautiful to hear, but its lyrics and melody also helped set the stage for the game. It immediately established a tone for Transistor and opened the door for a much easier opportunity to get immersed into this new world. If there’s anything that Supergiant seems to be keying in on as their forte when it comes to game development, it appears to be masterfully crafting an atmosphere right from the get-go—especially with sound—to help drive home the points of the game’s inventive script. 

Logan Cunningham, who played Rucks/The Narrator from Bastion, returns once more as your guide. We immediately learn the massive sword that protagonist Red wields is, in actuality, the Transistor. And the Transistor talks! (With a voice provided by Cunningham.). The sword also has some sort of history with Red—who interestingly enough (and continuing with the audio theme), cannot talk.

Shortly after the first tutorial battle, Red stumbles upon someone who was clearly less fortunate than she in regards to finding a giant talking sword. The Transistor then says that even though the person is deceased, it can talk to them. So, after talking briefly with the person’s digital soul, Red learns a new move that can be used in combat, as the soul becomes sucked into the blade.

Not only is this a phenomenal twist, it also sets up many questions about the origins of the Transistor, serving as a driving force to continue the story. Was the voice inside the Transistor related to Red in some way? Did this person use the Transistor to save their consciousness? Has the Transistor always been used like this? Whether or not the voice is a brother, lover, or complete stranger to Red, how the Transistor got that voice is another interesting subplot that formed in just my 15-minute demo. Mind you, the main plot of a futuristic world being subjugated by robots isn’t something to scoff at, either.

As story-driven as Transistor clearly is, it could be easy to look past the unique combat system it sports. Red can perform a variety of moves repeatedly in real time—a bit like a button-masher—that can wield destructive results against the forces who clearly wish to stop her. Whether it’s up-close stabs or long-range explosive blasts, the Transistor makes sure Red can hold her own.

What makes this unique, however, is that she can also activate a special power given to her by the Transistor that allows her to stop time. In this suspension of reality, Red can run around the battlefield and perform attacks—or avoid ones thrown her way in order to overcome what seems like insurmountable odds.

Red can only do so much in suspension before being forced to step back into real time, but once she does, everything she planned out in suspended reality will happen at lighting-fast speed, dealing extra damage or allowing her to escape unharmed. The disadvantage—which quickly becomes evident—is that Red then becomes very vulnerable for a short time. She must wait for a special meter at the top of the screen to refill before she can even attack in real time again—never mind slipping back into suspended reality.

This risk-reward dynamic, plus the badassery of being able to play with time, definitely gave Transistor a special feeling. Couple that with another enthralling story full of mystery and intrigue, and you can consider me hooked for sure. Now, it’s just a matter of finding out what systems Transistor will be available for—and counting the days to when it launches sometime in early 2014.