We've said it before, but it deserves to be said again. There's something special about the titles that SuperGiant Games puts out. It's not just the standout aesthetics, this is a studio that never seems content to tread on previously covered ground, for better and for worse. Most of it a positive, of course. This certainly rings true with Pyre, the third game from the studio following Bastion and Transistor.
Pyre plays out on the Downside, a wretched world where exiles reside having been cast out of the Commonwealth. This is where the player comes to, having been found by a band of wanderers. Turns out you can read a special book and so help these fellow exiles perform rites with the goal of one day winning back their place in the Commonwealth.
The rites are the meat and potatoes of Pyre. Basically, they see two teams of three exiles trying to put out the pyre (goal) of the opposing team using an Orb. It's a bit like three on three basketball if you will. Each pyre typically starts with 100 points, and different exiles do different amounts of damage to it depending on their glory stat as they score. One of the key aspects here is that only character moves at a team (controlled by the reader, that's you), when you don't have the Orb you have an aura that if it touches players on the other team, banishes them from the court for a brief period. If you don't have the ball most players can shoot their aura to banish players on the team holding the ball. Each of the characters have different twists on this though, so there's a lot of variation and tactics to employ.
Thus the game revolves a lot around jockeying for an opening by banishing players on the other team to create an opening for one of your players to take the Orb to the pyre. In doing so that player is banished for the next round (so you're at a 2 on 3 disadvantage), you can also throw the Orb into the pyre, something that requires a bit of skill, but as you do more damage to the pyre the longer you charge your throw, it can pay off. Sort of like going for three pointers in order to catch up. It's fast-paced and can be utterly confusing at times, but it does work and serves as a very novel way to do away with the usual grinding trek of battles in an action-RPG.
It's pretty much like any sports season, the teams play eachother and at the end of the season you (cause your team is special and always plays the final, no matter what) face the team with the best record in a liberation rite. The winning team gets to liberate their anointed player and send him or her back to the Commonwealth.
You might think that given the arena sport nature of these rites they're largely skill-based, but that's only half the truth. The more skilled players will prevail if all things are equal, but setting up your team to counter the opposition can be half the battle. Most teams you face on the Downside contain one class of enemies, be it nomads or harps, and you can set up your team to counter this both by which characters you use and by what talismans they equip. A talisman can truly make a world of difference in a match. Paying attention to the talismans and skills of the opposing team is also key. Maybe they've got perks that make it pointless to try and banish them (as they will return very quickly or even explode and take you out if they are banished), then an offensive and quick team that's focused on scoring rather than banishing is a wise choice.
We realise we're using a lot of jargon and terms that you may not be familiar with here. It's one of those things you'll quickly grasp while playing, whereas explaining the ins and outs of the rites in writing is more difficult. These rites can be over pretty quickly, or they can last a bit longer if it turns into a more tactical affair. You can also play these versus another player locally or against the CPU honing your skills. Succeeding in rites with most or all Titans activated (basically these are perks for the other team) is a true test of skill.