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Pyre review: Mixing sport with storytelling ambience

Pyre is set in a fantasy world in which teams face battle. The game combines role playing with sports action. (Credit: Supergiant Games)

PLOT Sports meet arcade play in this game set in a fantasy world.

RATED E 10+ for Everyone 10 and older

DETAILS $19.99; PlayStation 4, PC

BOTTOM LINE Pyre sizzles.

Supergiant’s games are characterized by immaculate world-building, lush colors, exaggerated character models and hip but poignant soundtracks. Pyre, the game maker’s latest, follows through on those style conventions, but switches gears in the gameplay department, melding party-based role playing with classic arcade sports.

You have been flung from a world of privilege and down into a land of exiles and criminals. The only path to freedom comes through a mystical ceremony called the Rites, in which designated teams of exiles compete to prove their worth. You build a team of players with different skills. Some get injured and need to sit out the next competition. Fans gather to see impressive feats from their favorite players. A manager tracks wins and losses across the league of distinct teams. As your best veteran players retire, you need to field rookies. Everything is couched within the narrative framework of the fantasy world, but the extended sports metaphor is clever and without pretense.

The Rites themselves are thrilling. Beginning with basic characters and progressing to more complex classes and abilities, the original sport is reminiscent of classic games like Ice Hockey or NBA Jam, but with plenty of twists. The learning curve is spot-on and can be further tweaked through multiple A.I. difficulty settings. Teams of three characters must seize an orb at center court, and slam or fling it into the opponent’s pyre. Defending players exude a protective aura that banishes opponents. Differing speeds, aura sizes, stamina pools and other elements give each contestant various advantages.

Pyre is also a game about consequences. Win or lose a match, and the narrative continues and reflects that outcome.

The storytelling ambience, narration, art, and music work in concert. This gives the experience a singular identity, and the mash-up of role-playing and sports gameplay cements that distinctiveness.

— Game Informer Magazine (TNS)

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