Pyre

Game review by
David Wolinsky, Common Sense Media
Pyre Game Poster Image
Kooky sports adventure is surprisingly engaging, fun.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Sacrifice, pride in one's legacy, and supporting one another through trying times are central to interactions with other teammates.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Each character flawed in their own way, though not defined by flaws. Team of exiles band together, occasionally bicker, lock horns (sometimes literally), but always come through for each other when it matters most.

Ease of Play

Simple controls, easy to learn.

Violence

Violence referred to in dialogue only. No blood, gore. 

Sex
Language

Minor profanity ("damn," "hell") occasionally.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Alcohol, tobacco rarely shown, but sometimes referred to. There's a bottle of alcohol you can "drink" from; doing so makes the screen blurry momentarily. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Pyre is a downloadable "party-based RPG" (role-playing game). There's very mild profanity ("damn"), and slight imagery of tobacco and alcohol usage (you can sip on a bottle that makes everything go blurry). Otherwise, there's no inappropriate content to be found in the game.

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What's it about?

In PYRE, you're cast as an unseen but integral character known only as "the reader." You're a mysterious character with the ability to parse an ancient text necessary for the rites -- a sort of spiritual and ethereal version of basketball where you must use the celestial orb to extinguish your opponent's flame. After performing the rites a certain number of times, you traverse the wasteland of The Downside to the sacred grounds to select one of your own team to ascend to the Commonwealth above.

Is it any good?

On the surface, it's odd to mash up elements of Oregon Trail with an arcade-like take on basketball, but somehow this game just works seamlessly. There's something about navigating each region and seeing what interactions or character insights unfurl that makes Pyre very difficult to put down. Your time spent in these sections is intended to deepen your relationship with and attachment to each of the game's many characters, but it's also critical to earning bonuses or new items that will come in handy come "basketball" time. For example, while trudging through a particularly bleak bog, each of your characters will have their "hope" diminished, affecting how long each character will have to be "benched" after scoring a "basket" on your opponent's flaming pyre during a rite. The game isn't as mechanical as this implies; it's more like each half of the game surprisingly complements the other.

But the biggest knock against Pyre would be the way each half of the game also seems to keep you at a distance. The world map isn't really a map; instead, it's a stack of two-dimensional cards representing different regions. You're frequently told what's happening rather than being shown, which is also true during the basketball portions -- the camera is placed at a disappointing distance from the action. While intended to give you a more strategic view of the field, it can also make matches monotonous. On top of that, while there's a surprising level of strategy, you can also get away with playing the sport more like football and forcing your way across the field without tactics. While this points to the game's versatility, it's hard to shake the feeling that maybe you're playing it "wrong," even if you're winning. There's also a deeper level of conflict in play because each significant victory is also a substantial loss: Once you've leveled up one of your characters sufficiently, you can earn their freedom, which means they're no longer playable. Still, Pyre makes for a solid adventure with heart. If you're weary of RPGs that are too fixated on stats and maxing out equipment, Pyre is well worth checking out.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the portrayal of non-mainstream religions. By exaggerating existing religions or inventing completely new ones with corresponding rituals and beliefs, what do we learn about our world? What do you think we can't learn?

  • Have you ever fought with any of your friends? How did you resolve the conflict? What do you think it was really about?

  • What would you sacrifice for your friends and family? Where would you draw the line?

Game details

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