Pyre

All games are occult. We as players are not privy to the inner workings that define the rules by which we play. Unlike in a tabletop RPG, we're not even aware of the dungeon master's screen that hides the game's secrets and mechanics from us. Still, few games turn the inherent occultism of the medium into their central theme by making us acutely aware of the presence of the invisible screen, compelling us to piece together a mosaic of uncertain knowledge. And only an elect handful does so while invoking age-old traditions of magic and esoteric philosophy.

The most well-known of these is Bloodborne, a game which is notoriously obtuse and unwilling to reveal its hidden depths to the player. While deadly creatures may seem like the most obvious danger, it's ignorance that will be the biggest hurdle to the inexperienced. To glean some of the knowledge necessary for progress, intrepid hunters will either have to study the game's world closely or rely on the information collected by more experienced hunters.

The in-world representation of this striving towards understanding is the resource called "insight," inhuman knowledge gained by laying eyes on or defeating certain enemies as well as consuming items like "Madman's Knowledge" or "Great One's Wisdom". The item description of the latter tells us: "At Byrgenwerth Master Willem had an epiphany: 'We are thinking on the basest of planes. What we need, are more eyes.'"

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The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Enhanced Edition - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice Bell)

summer sale header

The old quote is wrong: neither death nor taxes are, it seems to me, as terrifyingly certain as the Steam Summer Sale. Yes, once more we can add to the heap that is our backlog by buying games for, what, five quid, on average? But there are so many to choose from that it’s easy to get flustered, so who better than the staff of RPS to hand-pick the best ones for your consideration (rhetorical question; do not answer)?

Check out the full list below for a mix of games that should suit all pockets and tastes.

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Pyre - kid_zomb
Ever since our studio started back in 2009, we've mostly relied on social media such as Twitter to stay in touch with our players and keep you posted about what we're up to. Today we'd like to let you in on a simple alternative: our mailing list, the Supergiant Blast! Sign up right here in just a few seconds.



We've made limited use of an email mailing list over the years for announcements and special offers. With the Supergiant Blast, we want to bring you an even closer look at what we're working on. Our mailing list subscribers will be the first to hear about any new games we're making, and will get access to exclusive deals on our original merchandise and inside looks at our studio.

We're kicking off the Supergiant Blast later this month! Sign up by June 25, 2018 if you want to get the first installment. We've also updated each of our games on Steam to include quick links to our sign-up page. Beyond that, we've got a lot of exciting stuff in the works here these days! We'll be looking forward to telling you all about it in the weeks and months to come.
The Walking Dead - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

podcast-dreamfall-1b

Sit down at the boiling pot, stranger. Let me tell you a tale. A sordid tale, full of fascinating lands and captivating characters. A story of wonder and flame, strangeness and warmth. Would you like to hear it? Great. Just play this rubbish cover shooter for a half hour. I ll start the introduction when you hit the first checkpoint.

Welcome to the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. This week we re discussing some great stories that come packaged with terrible games. (more…)

Dragon Age: Origins - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (RPS)

podcast-36-best-mates-b

Hello chum! Sit down and have a nice glass of water and a pack of Bombay mix. That’s how we greet our closest friends on the RPS podcast, the Electronic Wireless Show. This week, best pals John and Brendan discuss how friendship is handled in videogames, and what characters felt most like close buddies. John felt a kinship with Alistair from Dragon Age: Origins, and sees Lydia from Skyrim as Wilson the football from Castaway. Whereas Brendan felt a habitual closeness to the undead woman in Dark Souls who sold him poisonous arrows. Takes all sorts, really.

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Pyre - kid_zomb


Happy Year of the Dog! We're pleased to see Pyre featured in Steam's Lunar New Year Sale, and for good measure we wanted to let you know about a couple of exciting new items in our online store!

Pyre Dog Hoodie

First, by EXTREMELY POPULAR DEMAND, we’re pleased to present the official Pyre Dog Hoodie. This high-quality garment is embroidered with the Eight Stars of the Rites, and sports the distinctive colors of the venerable Nightwings. Available in a variety of sizes. Get it at our Pyre Dog Hoodie Store Page!

Pyre Original Soundtrack Triple LP Set

Next is something that’ll be a real treat for any fan of Pyre's critically acclaimed musical score. The vinyl edition of the Pyre Original Soundtrack by Darren Korb is a triple LP set in a beautiful tri-fold jacket with original artwork by Supergiant’s art director, Jen Zee. Get it at our Pyre Soundtrack Triple LP Store Page! And stay tuned for more Pyre merch later this year.

More News and Accolades
We're honored to see Pyre continue to be recognized in a variety of year-end award features, on top of all the accolades the game received last year. Read all about them plus more about what our team's been up to lately on our web site.
Pyre - kid_zomb
Happy Year of the Dog! We're pleased to see Pyre featured in Steam's Lunar New Year Sale, and for good measure we wanted to let you know about a couple of exciting new items in our online store!

Pyre Dog Hoodie

First, by EXTREMELY POPULAR DEMAND, we’re pleased to present the official Pyre Dog Hoodie. This high-quality garment is embroidered with the Eight Stars of the Rites, and sports the distinctive colors of the venerable Nightwings. Available in a variety of sizes. Get it at our Pyre Dog Hoodie Store Page!

Pyre Original Soundtrack Triple LP Set

Next is something that’ll be a real treat for any fan of Pyre's critically acclaimed musical score. The vinyl edition of the Pyre Original Soundtrack by Darren Korb is a triple LP set in a beautiful tri-fold jacket with original artwork by Supergiant’s art director, Jen Zee. Get it at our Pyre Soundtrack Triple LP Store Page! And stay tuned for more Pyre merch later this year.

More News and Accolades
We're honored to see Pyre continue to be recognized in a variety of year-end award features, on top of all the accolades the game received last year. Read all about them plus more about what our team's been up to lately on our web site.
Pyre - kid_zomb


Pyre now features full text translations in simplified Chinese, Russian, German, French, and Spanish!

In the coming days we’ll continue making some improvements based on your feedback and continued testing, though we didn’t want to make you wait any longer before launching the first version of this update. We’re grateful to our players around the world for their patience and support on what we knew would be a much bigger and more complex translation project than we've done for our previous games. In addition to having a much larger word count than Bastion or Transistor, Pyre’s interactive narrative means there are hundreds of millions of possible content combinations in the game. Accounting for all that took a lot of time!

We hope this new update means many more of you out there will be able to fully enjoy our latest adventure. Please note that, due to the complexity and costs associated with the translation effort, we're not planning official translations into any additional languages at this time. We appreciate your understanding in this. Thank you for playing Pyre!
Rocket League®

Sports games come in many shapes and sizes. Football Manager and Rocket League have almost nothing in common, but they’re both undeniably sports games. Meanwhile Fifa has added a story driven campaign, and Pyre is a fantasy RPG that plays like a sport.

To try and help, I’ve broken this list down into four broad categories. Sports Simulations, which attempt to realistically depict a sport, Sports Management games (self explanatory), Arcade Sports, which depict a stylised version of a real sport, and Fantasy Sports, which are wholly invented.

There’s obviously a lot of crossover, since even Rocket League is loosely based on football, but hopefully this will help you tell your QWOPs from your Fifas. 

SPORTS SIMS

Fifa 2018

Developer: EA SportsRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Official site

EA's annual football series is on a high right now, with the addition of a surprisingly compelling single player story mode. Unlike PES, Fifa's strength is in a Xavi-esque short, quick passing game. If you’re looking to play online, Fifa will be your football sim of choice, as a strong and healthy online community ensures it's always easy to find a game. 

PES 2018

Developer: KonamiRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Official site   

While Fifa will draw in those interested in the single player story or online multiplayer, PES is my preference for local multiplayer, or when I want to sink into the signature Master League. The two games also play slightly differently, with PES leaning more towards long passes and lofted through balls for a faster paced, more frenetic game.

NBA 2K18

Developer: Visual ConceptsRelease Date: Sep 2017Link: Steam

Basketball is one of the few annual sports franchises not dominated by EA, and 2K's NBA series is one of the few that releases on PC. 2018's installment confused people by adding a strange MMO-esque hub called The Neighbourhood, but what really matters is that the slamming and jamming is as strong as ever. 

MANAGEMENT GAMES

Football Manager 2018

Developer: Sports InteractiveRelease Date: Nov 2017Link: Official site

It’s hard to overrstate the enormity of Football Manager. It is consistently one of the most popular games on Steam, its scouting network rivals real life clubs and once a player received an international call up from the wrong country because of it. It's also incredibly absorbing and fun, even more so since they added the streamlined variant Football Manager Touch. Play it with care: it is all-consuming.

Out of the Park Baseball 18 

Developer: Out of the Park DevelopmentsRelease Date: Mar 2017Link: Official site 

It's strange how few other sports have a Football Manager equivalent, but understandable that the highly stat-driven baseball is one of those that does. Out of the Park Baseball doesn't seem to change that much from year to year, but the underlying game remains an engrossing way to live out your Moneyball fantasies.

Motorsport Manager

Developer: Playsport GamesRelease Date: Nov 2016Link: Official site

Another sensible sport to adapt into a management game, Motorsport Manager is half about the strategy, half about the cars. Between races you’ll spend time improving and upgrading your vehicle, then make strategic calls like what tires to use and when to make a pit stop, but all without having to bother getting your hands dirty actually steering the thing. 

ARCADE SPORTS

Sensible World of Soccer

Developer: Sensible SoftwareRelease Date: Jan 1996Link: GOG

"I don’t like football but I did enjoy Sensible Soccer" is a thing I’ve been told by more 40-year-old game journalists than I care to count. By stripping the sport down to its essentials, SWOS finds a purity in the tick tock of precision passes. GOG only stocks Sensible World of Soccer 96/97, so expect to be stuck in the days of David Seaman and Ian Wright. 

Super Arcade Football

Developer: Out of the BitRelease Date: Early AccessLink: Official site

Super Arcade Football is built on the classic top down approach of Sensible Soccer but with some more modern touches, the most impressive being a physics defying slow motion aftertouch shot. Unlike SWOS it also works online, making it much easier to get a game against a human. 

QWOP

Developer: Bennett Foddy Release Date: Nov 2008 Link: Official site

QWOP is, in many ways, the anti-sports game. Most sports games are about using easy, accessible controls to allow anyone to simulate being a peak athlete. QWOP on the other hand uses an overly complicated control scheme to make the relatively simple act of running a 110m hurdles (yes there are hurdles, most people don’t make it far enough to realise that) astonishingly difficult and hilarious. It’s the Eddie the Eagle of sports games.

Fire Pro Wrestler

Developer: Spike ChunsoftRelease Date: Early AccessLink: Steam

Is wrestling a sport? According to Vince McMahon it’s 'sports entertainment', which is close enough for this list. Unlike the awful official WWE games, Fire Pro Wrestling World leans into the fact that wrestling is a performance, subtly pushing players to put on an entertaining match, rather than just trying to win. That, coupled with its astonishing Steam Workshop-supported character creation makes it unique among wrestling games. 

OlliOlli

Developer: Roll7Release Date: Jul 2014Link: Steam

OlliOlli's great success is in taking all the fun of older skating games like Tony Hawk and distilling them down to two dimensions. The simplicity of OlliOlli's side on approach makes it easier to learn a track while constantly embellishing your performance with tricks and flourishes.

Desert Golfing

Developer: Captain GamesRelease Date: Aug 2014Link: Official site 

I was actually surprised to find viral mobile hit Desert Golfing is available on PC, but it is, via the Windows Store (remember that?). It's a strange, minimalist game that can lulls you into an almost zen mindset. Each hole achieves a lot with a simple geometric layout. Crucially, there is no going back, so every wasted stroke is there forever.

Tennes

Developer: Jan Willem NijmanRelease Date: Nov 2012Link: Official site

Originally a bonus game for people who backed the SportsFriends Kickstarter, Tennnes is a simplified tennis game with a flexible approach to rules. The game does not mind if, for example, you jump over the net and play on the other side of the court. If you liked SportsFriends, you'll like this.

FANTASY SPORTS

Rocket League

Developer: PsyonixRelease Date: Jul 2015Link: Official site

I've had Rocket League installed on my PC for nearly two years now, and I still find myself jumping in for a quick 15 minute game every couple of weeks. The premise is simple: it’s football with rocket powered cars. What makes it work is the strange physics: the ball seems to be moving almost in slow motion, resulting in great slapstick comedy and much rage on the part of PC Gamer editor Sam Roberts. 

SportsFriends

Developer: De Gute FabrikRelease Date: Dec 2014Link: Official site

SportsFriends is a bundle of local multiplayer indie games loosely themed around sports. Hokra is a very fast, minimalist ice hockey game, BariBariBall is a blend of Super Smash Bros and volleyball, Super Pole Riders is a strange pole vaulter jousting game and Johan Sebastian Joust is a kind of full contact musical chairs played with motion controllers. What they have in common is that they’re all a amazing fun with a group of friends.

Bloodbowl 2

Developer: Cyanide ReleaseDate: Sep 2015Link: Official site

The Blood Bowl board game is as old as I am, which is testament to its enduring appeal. It is simultaneously one of the most frustrating and entertaining games I've ever played. Dice rolls are required for everything, meaning sometimes players fall over and die because they ran too fast. The digital port is solid enough, but the real charm lies in the time tested rules.

Frozen Cortex

Developer: Mode7Release Date: Feb 2015Link: Official site

Frozen Synapse's trademark interpretation of turn-based combat, where both sides plan their moves and execute them simultaneously, turns out to translate really well into sports. A paired down version of American Football featuring big stompy robots on a small pitch, Frozen Cortex excels at replicating the execution of a single play, but lacks the back and forth of larger, more fluid sports. 

Pyre

Developer: Supergiant GamesRelease Date: Jul 2017Link: Official site

Pyre is essentially an RPG with a sport instead of random battles. The story and atmosphere are the kind of strong stuff you'd expect from SuperGiant (who also made Bastion and Transistor). The sport itself can end up a little one dimensional, as attacking players can’t move without the ball, there's little point in the passing game. Still, the way in which the fiction and the sport combine is a unique delight. 

Bastion

(Note: This article contains spoilers for Pyre, Transistor, and Bastion.) 

2017 is a year that has made me want to escape, preferably to a part of the wilderness where no one would show me a newspaper or a tweet ever again. Since I get cold easily and I’m not as great at hunting live animals as Far Cry would have me believe, I opted for another source of escapism: videogames. In these often scary times, Supergiant's games Pyre, Transistor, and Bastion helped me stay sane.

Pyre drew me in with its candy-colored visuals and mustachioed dog, but just like Supergiant's previous games, it explores the very questions I was trying to ignore—how to bridge the differences in opinion that threaten our peaceful lives together, where the desire for drastic change comes from, and how to act in a time when the threat of war gets casually thrown around every other day.

Freedom and faith 

Mechanically, Pyre is a sports game. In its world of exiles trapped in limbo, you direct a lovable and diverse team of misfits through 'rites', which are athletic competitions in which you fling an orb into the opposing team’s pyre. Winning rites eventually means one of your team is freed from exile. If you lose, one of your opponents goes free instead. Either outcome is valid, which releases you from the pressure of competition entirely if you let it. I could just throw a mystic basketball around a court for a few blissful hours.

The most frightening antagonists are the ones we can relate to in some way

Greg Kasavin

Once invested in the world and its inhabitants, I got to know an imperfect society both from the perspective of those who still lived in it and those who do not. Exile in Pyre is their one-stop solution for a variety of crimes, and the reason for this harsh punishment lies in a divine prophecy that might be all based on a misunderstanding. Questioning what your characters previously took for granted can end in your team being instrumental in nothing short of a revolution. How you finish the game, even whether or not you win, is not as important to its makers as giving you something to think about.  

Supergiant writer and designer Greg Kasavin sums it up: "Pyre’s story is an exploration of the relationship between freedom and faith, and what freedom and faith mean and entail," adding that the role these forces play in the lives of many people applies in the real world across countries and cultural boundaries.

In Pyre, your role in events is passive. You can't send yourself home. Instead you play for others, and have the inexplicably strong feeling of cheering someone on from the sidelines. It’s an empathy that seems to largely be missing in those marching the streets with tiki torches, demanding solutions that benefit themselves first and others never. The crisis of faith at the centre of Pyre is also a very modern concern. Changing a belief you have held onto for a long time, religious or not, can be difficult. 

The society in Pyre seemingly works, for the most part. Many of the game’s exiles want to return to it, but that doesn’t mean it is always fair and wouldn’t benefit from diversity. Exile makes everyone outcasts, and it’s from this new position of equality that they can attempt to overhaul the system if they keep working together, challenging previously established conventions.

It's important to Kasavin to not create black-and-white stories with clearly defined villains. "I think characters are far more interesting and believable if there's something about them that you can understand or relate to," he says. "At the least, you should be able to understand why they've made the choices that they've made, even if they've made poor choices. The most frightening antagonists are the ones we can relate to in some way, and see that whatever unconscionable choices they've made may have been well-intentioned somewhere down the line."

The Process

Supergiant’s 2014 game Transistor shows this best. The virtual metropolis of Cloudbank where it's set is being slowly eaten away by a virus called the Process, and it’s implied the Process was previously used to repair and alter parts of the city by its creators and civil servants—a tool made with good intentions taken too far.

I think it's important for the story to invite the player to be introspective about it

Greg Kasavin

A group of such people called the Camerata feel their well-intentioned solutions going unappreciated, which leads them to drastic actions that pose a threat to the city's inhabitants. Even though they are established as antagonists, like all the characters you meet the Camerata share a strong identification with their home. It's only fear that separates you.

Transistor’s playable character, Red, is a popular singer and a muse to many. I believe the choice of occupation is deliberate. In our own "post-facts" era, faced with the fear of losing a national identity to globalization, many have started looking to public figures and national icons to help us form our opinions. But at the very beginning of Transistor, Red is silenced. She's the only one listening in a world where everybody seems to be talking.

Unlike Pyre’s team of magic basketball players, Red ultimately chooses not to try and save her home, overwhelmed by the losses she has endured. Some players have criticized this finale, but as unaccustomed to sad endings as we still are in videogames, I think this shows it‘s important to be realistic about what a sole person can accomplish and how much power we give an individual. While in Pyre you are part of a larger circle working to achieve change that includes everyone, Red is one person with the responsibility for many. Her position is not unlike that of the Camerata, who chose to destroy Cloudbank in the first place. 

Build that wall

The predicament of the Kid, the protagonist of Supergiant’s first game Bastion, is similar again. In Bastion you get to be a kind of cowboy, saddled (sorry) with the responsibility of rebuilding his world after a catastrophe wipes it out. Just like Red, the Kid has to question whether his world is worth saving. He begins this task before he knows the catastrophic event, called the Calamity, was caused by his own country and meant to end a war over territory with their neighbors.

When I ask Kasavin why despite this you don't spend most of Bastion fighting real people, he tells me it’s always important not to trivialize violence. "It's not an accident that death is not a subject taken lightly in any of our games," he explains. "It's not something I'm comfortable making light of, and if one of our games is going to have a lot of killing in it, as in Bastion, then I think it's important for the story to invite the player to be introspective about it."

How do you act when you know it was your own country that did unspeakable things to win a conflict? Bastion explores the motivations of the people caught up in this and even suggest the monsters you fight as you try to restore order may be trying to stop you to ensure past mistakes aren't repeated. In the final moments of Bastion, you can choose to turn back time or to learn from those mistakes. Both decisions will affect those around you.

Supergiant’s three games all helped me consider the role of the individual and our relationships with each other in different ways. They made me see how hard it can be to challenge your own perceptions and how this can only work if we try to stay open-minded. They made me see how the wrong decision can seem like the right thing to do and how easy running from consequences rather than accepting them can look. 

Most of all, in Supergiant's games every decision has its origin and reason. If we try to listen more, even if it’s to a story a videogame tells us rather than the next newspaper horror story, that can motivate us to try to find ways we as individuals can deal with what’s happening around us. In a time where "be nice to each other" sounds like terrible advice, this team of game makers keep unflinchingly repeating just that. 

And if that’s too heavy for you, it’s also fine just to throw a mystic basketball around a court for a while.

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