herobyclicking
"The why finds you. You will inevitably know someone, or know someone who knows someone who needs a children's hospital. You'll know many more if you talk about it - many of your closest friends likely have experiences with these places that you don't even know." @Sean Rooney
 
Why I Extra Life
It may seem odd to make "Extra Life" a verb, but the incredible Extra Life community continues to make a pledge to "Play Games, Heal Kids". Year after year, since 2008, our passionate and generous Extra Life community grows. So naturally to do "good" for this community via gaming means to "Extra Life". Our reasons for doing what we do may vary, but we are all here for the purpose of saving and helping the lives of kids in Children's Miracle Network Hospitals across the US and Canada. 
 
 
 
Here are some other "whys" from the community. Consider sharing your "why" via social media, email or on your Extra Life participant page:
 
"It started out as a selfish "Cool here is an excuse to play video games for 24 hours." kinda deal  And so the first year my roommates and I decided to do it and honestly we didn't try to do any real fundraising until the day of the event....
 
Then this past year has been two really big events. Between attending ELU and both meeting members for this community and the Champs. And the birth of my son this year who a few weeks into his birth we had to head to our children's hospital to have some extra lab work done because he had some abnormal results come back on his blood tests.  It's amazing to see how those hospitals function and the families that are in them." @heartandthesynapse
 
"I worked at Wal-Mart for 10+ years, and if anyone knows they do a lot of fundraising for the CMN, and when I lived in Arizona, I ended up taking over the responsibilities for those fundraising at the Wal-Mart I had worked at. And by doing so, I was able to visit the Children's Hospital one day, and I had a very good tour of how the money is used and how it benefits the kids. And to me, I was thinking, how can I do more? That's when Extra Life found me." @JSStudz
 
"I got recruited on the Giant Bomb forums, and lazily fundraised that first year. I then got some close friends and family to realize that my video gaming in life has contributed to something cool and they started doing marathons with me. I reached out to my hospital on my own and started seeing how that money was being used. Ever since, I've been more and more involved and am still one of the only people involved in the area working to get more and more people." @zolloz89
 
"When you're just starting out, I think "Guilt-free gaming" is a good enough reason for your first year participating. Once the first year is over, the donations are tallied and all of that, I think many people will get the warm and fuzzies and will re-commit themselves for another year.  I'm based in Sydney, Australia where CMN doesn't operate so I haven't had the same personal experiences as many other Extra Lifers but the feeling of doing something you love, the feeling of doing something good and the feeling of being connected globally all combine to create a very powerful, very compelling force." @Rue
 
How to talk about your "Why"
 
As you can see, one of the best ways to share your "why" is to speak from your experiences. Your honest telling of a story that has affected you or someone close to you is a powerful tool to help support your fundraising efforts for Extra Life and your Children's Miracle Network Hospital. 
 
Meet Jeremy Smith (@gumbystation) for a great example of how to talk about your "why"!
 
https://youtu.be/I3WqXIpK4As
 
There so many stories like this across our community! What is your "why" and how did you find it, or it you? Share in the comments below! 

Jack Gardner

 
Aliens have been conspicuously absent from Elite: Dangerous since its release in 2014. Space-faring ship commanders have been fighting with other humans out in the verse for the past few years with human technology. That's all about to change. 
 
The Elite franchise once had a species of alien known as the Thargoids, an insectoid race who served as antagonists in the very first Elite game from 1984. In Elite: Dangerous, they have passed into legend. Various bits of in-game lore have hinted at their existence, but most of the evidence that they even exist has been wiped out. It has been hundreds of years since the last Thargoid encounter... but now the humans of the Elite universe will have to adapt to the reemergence of humanity's boogeymen. 
 
 
"Expect a little bit of an arms race to be going on," said Sandro Sammarco on the revelatory livestream held earlier today to talk about the rollout of 2.4. The weapons of the Thargoids will indeed be powerful, however, they will be powerful in a way different from how power has been calculated for human vessels. Their function and abilities will be wildly different from the enemies Elite players have encountered over the past few years of combat and exploration. However, that doesn't mean humanity won't have a way of fighting the alien threat - new weapons effective against Thargoids will be releasing, too.
 
Frontier Developments also showed off the first in a series of cinematic shorts designed to introduce players to the new dangers of the universe. These follow a group of commanders equipped with experimental technology as they attempt to understand the Thargoid incursion.
 
  
Not all of the features and narrative beats will be present when 2.4 initially launches. Frontier Developments envisions this release as an ongoing process, with events slowly occurring around the universe. Changes will be coming to the way bounties are placed on player killers that haven't been unveiled quite yet, but Sammarco assures players that bounties will have more consequence and be harder to avoid if one is attracted. He also hinted that engineering will be receiving an overhaul, though he couldn't comment on any specifics.
 
2.4 will go live on September 26, though the full rollout of all features and story points will go beyond that date.

herobyclicking
 
 
So you want to stream for Extra Life? Great idea! It's a fun way to participate and show everyone what you're doing for your Children's Miracle Network Hospital. Streaming is NOT a requirement for participating in Extra Life! It IS another tool to use and our community has become very well versed in streaming, often because of their interest in Extra Life. 
 

 
Take a few moments to check out this video (and other useful videos concerning streaming) from the community's own @Daddywarrbux! 
 
Pretty awesome, right? Well here is ANOTHER great video from the amazing @BuddhaCat! 
 

 
If you're still stuck on after watch these two great examples for Beginner Streamers, let us know in the comments and we'll get even more info!
 
Remember to grab all of the great stuff from our media kit!
 
Head over to our Downloads or to extra-life.org/mediakit
 
Have a favorite streaming tutorial? Share it in the comments!
 
 

Jack Gardner

 
Bruce Straley announced his intention to leave Naughty Dog last night. Straley made a name for himself handling the art on the Sega Genesis game X-Men, and has had a somewhat legendary career ever since. He had a hand in the creation of Crystal Dynamic's Gex: Enter the Gecko, joined Naughty Dog to work on Crash Team Racing, moved onto the Jak & Daxter series, became the game director of Uncharted 2, and then was made the game director of what would eventually become The Last of Us. Most recently he won awards for his work on Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. 
 
This is the guy that gave us "The Bruce" during E3 2012 when The Last of Us was announced. 
 
After 18 years, Bruce Straley departs from Naughty Dog to pursue interests outside of the game industry. "This has been the hardest decision of my career, Straley wrote in a blog post discussing his career move, "Naughty Dog is home. The Kennel is family. I’ve learned and grown so much from working with this incredible team. But after heading up three extremely demanding projects, and taking some extended time away from the office, I found my energy focusing in other directions, and I slowly realized this was the signal that it’s time to move on."
 
Straley talked about his beginnings at Naughty Dog saying, "I was employee #15. From day one, I knew I was surrounded by some of the most talented, driven, and passionate people in the industry. They were pushing themselves to do things beyond what they even thought was possible, which in turn pushed me, and I loved it! I mean, it was also extremely intimidating, but the energy and determination to make something great, something we could all be proud of, was infectious. And that’s the way it still is to this day. [...] I can't wait to see what they create in the future."
 
He ended his statement with a heartfelt expression of thankfulness for co-workers, friends, and fans:
 
 
Naughty Dog is sure to feel this departure. Straley is a talented developer - here's hoping his next workplace can help him find happiness and a bit of rest after going through the crazy process of creating numerous AAA titles. 

Jack Gardner

 
We finally have more details on the upcoming Square Enix title Project Octopath Traveler that was teased during the Nintendo Direct back in February. With Project Octopath Traveler, Square Enix seems to be angling to recapture the retro RPG fans with stylish presentation, a branching narrative, and a unique combat system.
 
Watching Octopath Traveler in action and it immediately becomes clear that you've never seen anything quite like it. Square Enix announced that the title will make use of a new aesthetic technique that they have dubbed HD-2D. This new style looks like an old-school RPG format that has been tilted into a 3D world while retaining 2D characters. It's certainly unique and eye-catching while retaining that ye olden days RPG feel. 
 
We now know that the octopath in Octopath Traveler references the eight potential protagonists that players can select when beginning their adventure. Each character has their own story, motivations in the world, and a unique ability that will allow them to pursue their goals. The two characters shown, Olberic and Primrose, can manipulate NPCs. Olberic can challenge almost anyone to a duel to prove his strength or move characters out of his way. Primrose, on the other hand, can seduce NPCs to help her on quests or lure enemies into traps. 
 
 
While Octopath Traveler certainly seems like a retro RPG, Square Enix has been experimenting with combat mechanics. Turn-based battles that will be immediately familiar to RPG fans are present in full force, but the major difference in Octopath Traveler is the ability to gain Boost Points with every turn that passes. These points can then be used to boost attacks, doing two, three, or four times more damage. They can also be used to heal, cast spells, or even chain combos together. 
 
A demo for Octopath Traveler is currently available on the Nintendo Switch eShop. The full game is expected to release sometime during 2018 and, while it has certainly been covered in Nintendo events, it seems like it might be coming to other systems as well. 

Jack Gardner

 
Far to the north lies a mysterious school for the magically gifted. Children go there to learn how to harness their magic and make the world a more enchanting place. Of course, as with most magic schools, Ikenfell has had its share of near disasters from various magical mishaps. Luckily for the school, one of the most popular students attending Ikenfell has always managed to save it from destruction before going home for the summer. What happens when that student disappears, leaving friends and family behind?
 
Mysteries both magical and mundane beckon in Ikenfell. Players venture there to track down the erstwhile hero of the school, but in the process, they'll make friends, rivals, and maybe even find some romance. Oh, and they'll have to fight some monsters in classic RPG fashion. 
 
While the story, retro visuals, and RPG mechanics might be some of the biggest draws in Ikenfell, it's certainly worth mentioning that the music is being handled by aivi & surasshu, a duo best known for their work crafting the songs from Steven Universe. Their heartfelt, grounded-yet magical work seems to be a perfect fit with where creator/writer/designer/artist Chevy Ray Johnston wants to take the world of Ikenfell.
 
We had the opportunity to talk with Chevy Ray Johnston and ask some burning questions to learn more about Ikenfell's delightful magic. 
 

 
Could you tell me a little about your background/history in game development?
 
Chevy Ray Johnston: I've been developing games for around 18-20 years now, starting way back on Hypercard on the Macintosh. I used to make adventure and story games using the software's built-in drawing tools, hand-drawing every single room in the games. I would distribute the games to my friends on floppy disks, hand-drawing the labels for each one.
 
I moved onto Game Maker for several years, making weird experimental games, before moving onto Flash around 2009, where I continued to make weird experimental games. Eventually I started getting work doing games, animation, advertising, and gallery exhibitions doing Flash work.
 
You can see more info about some of the games I've made on my website. This is a small selection, I think in total I've probably created ~20 or so games on my own, and worked on over 30.
 
I now know a dozen or so programming languages proficiently and am running my own game company that is working on Ikenfell. 
 
How long has Ikenfell been in development?
 
Chevy: Ikenfell has been in active development since January 2016, so just over a year and a half. I can find old mockups and prototypes that look... suspiciously similar... dating back to 2006 though.
 
Where did the initial idea for Ikenfell come from and how has it changed over the course of development? What games/movies/books/*insert media* did you look to for inspiration? I definitely get some Earthbound vibes from what little I've seen. 
 
Chevy: I've had various ideas for a witch/wizard game in my head for a long time that has seen many different prototypes. It wasn't until I read Carry On by Rainbow Rowell that I finally got a huge spark of inspiration, deciding to place the game at a magic school setting. A small location, completely doable content-wise, but a way for me to fill it chock full of detail, history, personality, and hidden secrets everywhere.
 
It started out as an open-ended action RPG actually. You could get different magic spells in any order that would help you explore the school and access different areas. That actually still sounds really fun, but it didn't fit my vision for the story and aesthetic of the game.
 
I wanted you to be able to play a group of friends and rivals, magic students! So I decided to make it a turn-based RPG, and initially it was more inspired by Fire Emblem and Shining Force, battling in the game's regular perspective with a party of magic school friends. What I didn't like about this was that suddenly every room, all the maps, had to be designed for battles, and they hogged all the space. The rooms didn't feel like real rooms anymore, just big open spaces, weirdly laid out for battles, and it lost a lot of its potential personality.
 
Moving battles into a second screen allowed me to keep the school looking and feeling like I wanted, and I decided to spice up the battles by giving them bigger sprites and more animated graphics so they'd feel really big and exciting. I kept the strategy-RPG elements, but mixed it in with some inspiration from a few of my favorite games of all time: Chrono Trigger, Mario RPG, Paper Mario 1/2, and Final Fantasy Tactics.
 

 
You describe it on Twitter as a game about hugging and kissing, magic, monsters, and there seems to be combat, so how does that all come together mechanically? Can you hug the monsters? 
 
Chevy: At its core Ikenfell is a game about relationships. Relationships between friends, lovers, ex-lovers, rivals, students, teachers, apprentices, and yes: monsters. Unfortunately you don't get to hug the monsters (maybe my next game???), but they act as the catalyst that causes the hugging and kissing -- the thing that pushes these relationships to their breaking point, that prods at them and tests their limits.
 
Without giving too much away, what's the general story of Ikenfell?
 
Chevy: Maritte is an Ordinary, a person without magic, but she's OK with that fact. Her sister Safina, on the other hand, is a witch... and a very popular one. Safina goes to a magic school called Ikenfell, and comes home every summer to tell Maritte about her adventures. She's saved the school many times, and also put it in grave danger many times. She's made friends, enemies, and has a tenuous relationship with the headmistress of the school for all the trouble she causes...
 
But one summer, Safina doesn't come back, and no matter how much Maritte asks around, she can't find out why. So she packs her bags and travels to Ikenfell to find her sister. When she arrives, strange things start happening, and she begins to suspect that her sister is at the center of something secret, something dangerous.
 
Maritte must explore the school, find Safina's friends, allies, rivals, and the teachers of the school, to solve the mystery of what happened to her... and also what is causing even magic itself to behave so erratically.
 

 
What do you think the main draw of Ikenfell will be for your audience?
 
Chevy: It's a hard fight between the exciting story full of a big variety of colorful characters and the original turn based party-oriented battle system that seems to have people's attention. The battle system is nothing you've played before, full of strange mechanics and monsters with a lot of personality, but familiar enough to draw you in if you've played any of the games that inspired it. I get constant messages from people saying they are excited to learn more about the characters, and they often already tell me who their favorites are.
 
How long do you intend Ikenfell to be?
 
Chevy: Ha-ha-haaaa. It was originally supposed to be a 6-8 hour game. I am finishing the 4th (of 8) chapters, and the game is already about that long. Soooo it'll actually end up being around ~20 hours at this rate. No matter how long I make games for, it will forever be impossible to predict this kind of thing.
 
What are some things (story moment, character, mechanic, etc.) that you hope will stand out to your players?
 
Chevy: Each of the 6 party members you get learns 8 spells, and each spell in the entire game is unique. There is no mana or MP, each spell is designed for contextual and strategic use. I think the challenging battles and boss fights will really put these to the test, and players will get excited when they discover new strategies and combine spells that I have worked hard to facilitate.
 
Story-wise, I think people will really like the progression of the game's story. It sets a lot of different plot threads in motion, and builds a big exciting mystery over several chapters. Then, the final 3 chapters of the game are about dissecting and solving the mystery, and I'm working hard to make sure each plot thread has a satisfying and impactful payoff.
 
I might not succeed, but I'm trying the best I possibly can to make it so.
 
What message do you hope Ikenfell will convey to the people who play it? 
 
Chevy: I hope the game will help people reflect on the different relationships they have, maybe see them in a fresh light, and find a way to strengthen them.
 
But most importantly, I hope people who know someone who is in pain, or suffering, are inspired to finally step forward and help them. To sympathize with them and give them the support they need to flourish.
 
Several people I love dearly have done this for me, selflessly, and thanks to them I am no longer ill and the happiest I have ever been. If I can inspire others to do the same, hopefully others will be able to make wonderful art and tell their stories as well.
 
I also hope they have a whole lot of raw fun playing it!
 

 
If you're hoping to get your hands on Ikenfell soon, you'll have to be a bit patient. After a little over a year and a half of concentrated development, the title has a tentative release window for summer 2018 for PC and Mac.

herobyclicking
Wha t is Extra Life? 
 
Extra Life, a fundraising program of Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals®, leverages the passion of the gaming community to rally support for our 170 member hospitals. Participants fundraise year-round and pledge to game for 24 hours with one goal: to save and improve the lives of sick and injured kids.
 
Since 2008, Extra Life has raised more than $30 million for member hospitals.
 
 
https://youtu.be/D7kfCS0ruhc
How to participate
Sign up: Pledge to play games from your home or online. Play during the 24-hour marathon (Nov 4th) or on any day that works for you! Fundraise & Recruit: Ask your family and friends to donate to your fundraising. Create a team and recruit others to join you! Play games, heal kids: Raise funds, have fun, and help heal kids at your local Children’s Miracle Network Hospital!  
Why support Extra Life and CMN Hospitals?

 
More than 10 million kids enter Children's Miracle Network Hospital across North America every year. To provide the best care for kids, children’s hospitals rely on donations and community support, as Medicaid and insurance programs do not fully cover the cost of care. Since 1983, Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals has helped fill those funding gaps by raising more than $5 billion, most of it $1 at a time through Miracle Balloon icon campaigns. Extra Life is among various programs that support the nonprofit’s mission to save and improve the lives of as many children as possible.
 
Getting Started
 
•Customize your participant page   •Utilize the team captain tools in the Extra Life Dashboard   •Use the Extra Life Mobile Fundraising Apps   •Make a plan for Game Day   •Send a dedicated e-blast   •Share (and share often) on your social media channels   •Write a blog post   Have a question? Join the discussion here or on our Discord!

Jack Gardner

 
Today Kaz Hirai announced the end of an era. Not the real Kaz Hirai, of course, the president and CEO of Sony probably has more pressing things on his plate than a Twitter account. No, the legendary CEO Kaz Hirai parody account released a statement to let the world know that 2018 would be the final year it would be active. 
 
In a rare moment of seriousness, the fake Kaz Hirai explained why the account would be coming to an end:
 
 
 
So, we have a few more months of jovial jabs at the game industry from the best fake CEO around, but after that? The game industry's social media landscape will be a slightly colder place. Here's to you, Fake Kaz Hirai!

Jack Gardner

 
Sometimes people pick up games and never feel inclined to pay for the season pass. For people who never opted to buy the season pass or DLC for Star Wars Battlefront, EA has a sweet deal: A free season pass. The only hitch? You'll need to own Star Wars Battlefront on PC and the free season pass will only be available through EA's Origin service.
 
The pass usually retails for $20, so it's a no-brainer to go download it if you have Battlefront on Origin. The free release comes as part of EA's ongoing On The House program that periodically releases free games and/or DLC to its Origin users. Heck, even if you don't own Star Wars Battlefront, you can still log into Origin and claim the season pass - you just won't be able to play it.
 
The season pass includes the Death Star, Bespin, the Outer Rim, and Rogue One: Scarif. These four bundles add sixteen maps, eight hero/villain characters, and four game modes.
 
The On The House program is a pretty sweet deal, but it never announces when its offers will end. If a season pass for Star Wars Battlefront sounds enticing, you'd better download it sooner rather than later. 
 
The sequel, Star Wars Battlefront II releases on November 17, so this On The House offer is probably meant to drum up some additional excitement for the impending release.
 
 

herobyclicking
Hey Extra Lifers,
We are at the halfway mark end of an exciting new campaign called Cheer For Kids on Twitch! In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, our great friends at Twitch are donating $2 for every 1,000 bits cheered when you use the #charity hashtag to Extra Life and Children's Miracle Network Hospitals. 
 
We are currently over $62,000 $82,000 $100,000 raised! That's a lot of bits! There is still time to raise even more though, so add #charity to your cheers in chat. 
 
Let's make a final run and #CheerforKids! MOAR BITS!
 

 
The campaign only lasts until September 19th so head on over to your favorite Twitch partner or affiliate's channel and #CheerForKids today!
 

Jack Gardner

 
From humble beginnings as a Flash game back in 2008, Super Meat Boy sprang forth from the minds of Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes after a brutal development process that placed everything on the line for the duo of Team Meat. The plucky platformer stole the hearts, minds, and wallets of gamers when it helped to ease mainstream gamers into the indie scene back in 2010. 
 
Can Super Meat Boy's pinpoint platforming and blistering difficulty propel it to the pinnacle of gaming? Is Super Meat Boy one of the best games period?
 
You can play the original Flash game for free if you have only experienced the refined commercial release.
 
Each week we will be tackling a video game, old or new, that at least one of us believes deserves to stand as one of the greatest games of all time. We'll dive into its history, development, and gameplay, while trying to argue for or against the game of the week. Sometimes we will be in harmonious agreement, other times we might be fighting a bitter battle to the very end. However each episode shakes out, we hope that everyone who listens will find the show entertaining and informative.
 

 
Outro: Super Meat Boy 'Spoiled R0TT3N' by Ben Briggs (http://ocremix.org/remix/OCR02158)
 
You can download or listen to the podcast over on Soundcloud, our hosting site, and iTunes. A YouTube version is (sometimes) available as well, so you can watch what we are talking about while we talk about it! 
 
If you want to have your opinion heard on air, share your opinion in the comments, follow the show on Twitter, and participate in the weekly polls: @BestGamesPeriod 
 
New episodes of The Best Games Period will be released every Monday

Jack Gardner

Review: Pyre

By Jack Gardner, in Features,


 
Supergiant Games never makes the same thing twice. Bastion tackled a fantasy post-apocalypse, melding it with a grizzled narration, some western twang, and hooked players with engrossing isometric action and light RPG elements. Transistor told what can best be described as a Shakespearean techo-revenge tale that leaned more heavily into turn-based RPG elements. Pyre goes for something completely different: A story following a ragtag group of misfits who play a religious sports tournament to earn their freedom from exile. If NBA Jam had a visual novel component, gorgeous visuals, and endearing characters, it would be called Pyre.
 
In the world of Pyre, the Commonwealth stands as the last powerful empire. Those who run afoul of its laws or make the wrong enemies are exiled from its safety into another world, the Downside, a harsh purgatory where only the strong survive. In this environment, criminals and ne’er-do-wells fall prey to their vices or, in rare cases, find redemption and new purpose.
 

 
Pyre thrusts players into the role of an unnamed character known only as “the Reader,” an individual who broke one of the most sacred laws of the Commonwealth by learning how to read. Near death, the Reader is found by a trio of Downside wanderers who invite them to read a set of texts that detail an ancient set of rituals, known as the Rites, which can set one free from exile to begin a new life in the Commonwealth. These Rites are only known to a few and represent the one and only chance for an exile to rejoin society.
 
The trio reveal themselves to be a new incarnation of the Nightwings, a familiar name among those who pursue the Rites. The Nightwings have reformed to seek their freedom, overturn the order of the Commonwealth, and bring an end to Downside exile forever. To that end, the player travels the Downside to participate in the Rites, clashing with other teams who participate in the religious tournament.
 

 
These competitions represent the meat of Pyre’s gameplay. To win the Rite, players must douse the flames of the opposing team’s pyre with a stellar orb that falls from the sky. Each side controls three different characters, but can only move one at any given time. Every character controls differently and possesses different powers that must be used strategically in order to emerge victorious. Each character can jump, sprint, pass or throw the orb, and cast their aura, a mystic energy field that banishes any opposing character that comes into contact with it. Banished character return to the match after a set period of time, but that might be just enough time to get the orb into the pyre. A few small glitches occasionally rear their heads with some head-scratching hit detection, but for the most part, the quick, smooth gameplay experience feels great (the game even includes a local multiplayer mode).
 
This all works very well, capturing the arcade feel of an SNES sports title in modern form. However, the gameplay only represents half of the overall experience. Between matches, players travel from location to location, often making decisions that affect how the Rites will proceed. Perhaps you spend time tutoring a member of the Nightwings, digging for buried treasure, or sabotaging the opposing team. Maybe you have time for a heart-to-heart conversation with one of your teammates where you could learn more about what sent them into exile and what they hope to accomplish when they return home.
 

 
In the text and characterization of the Reader’s companions we find the beating heart of Pyre. You see, the more you use a character in the Rites, the more powerful they become. However, the more useful the character, the more you learn about what drives them and the more worthy of freedom they seem. The dirty secret of the Rites is that only one person may go free with each season of the ritual games. Often the best character on your team might be the one you select to go free and live out their days in the Commonwealth. By structuring character growth in this way, Supergiant Games creates a natural and emotional roller coaster for each character.
 
And by each character, I really do mean each character. Every character encountered in Pyre has their own arc and can achieve liberation through the Rites. The option is always left open to lose a Rite, to allow an adversary to ascend back to the Commonwealth instead of an ally. In clashing time and time again, players learn about the cast of antagonists, some of whom might be deserving of their liberation, too. That’s the whole tragedy of the Downside – everyone can be redeemed, but not everyone is. It stands as the defining power Pyre gives over to players; deciding who possesses qualities worthy of salvation within a corrupt system.  
 
A larger story functions merely as a vehicle for players to interact with these characters and experience the thrill of the Rites. The overarching narrative deals with revolution and the role stories play in wider societal change. In many ways, Pyre is about how the games we play, the stories we create can change the world, for better or worse.
 

 
There are three levels of drama to Pyre’s adventure through the wastes. One the most immediate level, the second-to-second excitement of the Rites. It’s visceral, tangible. Then you have the intermediate drama, the relationship with the characters that extends beyond the Rites. Players learning who characters are by interacting with them directly or by witnessing them interacting with one another. This deepens the drama on the base level because Supergiant manages to make players care about the individual characters who all have stakes in the Rites. Finally, the overarching narrative adds a more abstract scenario that limits how often players can interact with the other Nightwings, how many people can go free, which places a final, excruciating weight to the player’s decisions up until that point. 
 
I'd be remiss at this point if I didn't give Pyre praise for its incredible art direction. Jen Zee has to be one of the most striking artists working in games right now. Her style remains instantly recognizable and captivating. Her hand-drawn approach to visually designing the ethereal world of Downside gives rise to haunting visions of giants, lively, expressive characters, and a hostile beauty.
 
Darren Korb returns to Supergiant with a full, rambunctious musical score in which one can hear hints of the old Bastion country twang. Korb's musical style works hand-in-hand with the visuals to allow the player's imagination to run wild, filling in the gaps created by the constraints of Pyre's visual novel approach to storytelling. In this case, Korb has a literal stand-in character in the form of The Lone Minstrel, Tariq, a celestial being with a haunting voice - one of only two intelligible speakers in Pyre. 
 
 
Conclusion:
 
Supergiant Games stands as one of the most fascinating developers working today. Their games possess vision and take bold risks. Bastion and Transistor hammered home their overall narratives with great skill. Pyre relegates the overall narrative to the background while highlighting the characters. It’s bold; it’s different; and it doesn’t quite work as well as its predecessors.
 
The reason for this seems to be the focus on characters above all else. The narrative ostensibly deals with a revolution in the Commonwealth, but the game itself stays far removed from those events. This keeps the focus squarely on the cast, but it puts them and the player in a reactionary role, rather than a proactive one. Players merely react to changing circumstances rather than having any direct agency in changing events. That lack of agency could very well tie in with the theme Pyre goes for, but it doesn’t manifest as clearly as the themes in previous Supergiant titles.  
 
All of that said, Pyre stands as a great game. The weakest Supergiant title still holds its own as one of the most original and interesting games in the industry. What other studio could successfully meld NBA Jam with a gladiatorial revolution while retaining a cute, gorgeous charm? Pyre’s one of the most unique games available today and certainly worth experiencing, especially if you are looking for something different.
 
 
Pyre is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC.