From Mad Max to The Walking Dead, we live in a world teeming with apocalyptic fiction. Typically, they’re stories which posit that humans will turn to their darkest impulses and screw over anyone and everyone for their own survival, or even out of pure selfishness. A new video game called Pyre is about the exact opposite of that.
Image: Supergiant Games
The fantasy roleplaying game from Supergiant Games — which made the fantastical Bastion and the thrilling cyberpunk love story Transistor — opens with the player character abandoned and alone, on the brink of death.
You’ve been exiled from your home (a city-state called the Commonwealth) for the crime of reading and find yourself in a hellish wasteland called the Downside, a barren region where the Commonwealth dumps its criminals to fight and die among themselves. Just as you’re about to expire, a caravan stops nearby, and three masked figures — the characters you see in the header image above — come out and take a look at you.
The conversation quickly turns to your survivability and the masked characters’ estimations are grim. At first, you’re led to assume they have decided to put you out of your misery, as two of the trio return to the caravan and leave the masked man to do the deed… except the masked man doesn’t draw a weapon. He offers you food and water, removes his mask and introduces himself, offering you a place on the caravan with open arms.
There’s an initial ulterior motive to the masked group welcoming you in. They realise that as one of the rare people who knows how to read, you can help them on their quest to liberate themselves from the Downside by consulting a mysterious book that details a spiritual, astrological trial your group can participate in called the Rites (the main gameplay aspect of Pyre that is is basically, putting it in the most reductive manner possible, 3-on-3 wizard basketball).
But despite that motive, it’s very quickly established that they helped you out of…