4th April 2021: My Balls Are On Fire
Up next in the completion list is the 2017 game Pyre, by the same people who made Bastion and Transistor. With those first two games, I had kind-of opposite experiences. I really liked Bastion at first, but it started to drag as I got further into it. And I really struggled to get into Transistor at first, but then started to enjoy it more once I'd unlocked more skills.
This game has been a different experience yet again. Though unfortunately, the experience was one of very little enjoyment from start to finish. I guess I really should have stopped playing it soon after the half way mark, as I was getting frustrated. But the end of the game did at least earn it a little bit of redemption, so I was at least a little glad I stuck with it.
So just what is the game, and why did I not get on with it very well?
The game is mostly delivered in two very different ways. The story sections are all in a visual novel style, with no voice acting and lots of text to read, and occasional choices to make that will have an effect on your characters stats or equipment.
The meat of the gameplay comes across like a fantasy version of basketball, where two teams of 3 players fight in out in real time, and try to throw or dunk a celestial orb into the opposing team's pyre, in order to reduce its flame to nothing and win the contest.
The massive amounts of text in the game quickly became boring, especially as a lot of the world's history and lore is delivered in the form of a book, with dozens of pages that you are expected to read. Let's just say I barely touched all that shit.
The competitions themselves, which are called "Rites", were also frustrating to play. Partly this was because I was using keyboard and mouse, which I chose so I could aim my attacks better. But this choice gave me some trouble seeing as my characters only then had 8 directions of movement with WASD.
All that I could deal with for the most part, but the main problem was that the enemy players just seemed to be more responsive somehow, like they could move faster, and jump better, and their auras would return faster. That kind of thing.
The story and characters were quite interesting, even though it did feel like it took forever for it to go anywhere and to get any pay off. But this feeds into the main double-edged sword of this game. See, when participating in the Rites, occasionally you will have the opportunity to free one of your characters from the exile you have all found yourselves in. Because I quite liked many of the characters, I wanted to free as many of them as possible. Problem is, when they are free, there is no longer any way to use them when competing in the Rites. And as all the characters have different skills, once my favourites were free, I was left with a bunch of players I didn't really like using all that much, making the Rites even more frustrating.
The little bit of redemption I mentioned earlier comes at the end of the game, where you are presented with information about all of the characters in the game, both on your team and on others, and learn what happened to them after all is said and done. I imagine the information here can be quite different depending on which players go free, and what other choices you make during the game, and this was the only time I was really into reading every last little word.
Concerning the characters, my fave was easily Jodariel, and I selfishly regret freeing her so early in the game. But I also really liked several other characters, including Ti'zo, Sir Gilman and Pamitha.
With so many games to play, it's unlikely I'll play Bastion or Transistor ever again, but at least there's a chance. This one however, has no chance at all. I mean, I'm glad it's done, but oof, I could have done without it.
One game I managed to get working after a bit of tweaking was Virtua Tennis. I played it for a couple of hours, and found it was ok, but it struggled to keep my attention when so many other games are vying for it.
It wasn't bad. I just found the player movement a little bit sluggish, and it seemed inconsistent when trying to place my shots. The main problem though was that progression seemed to be locked behind training sessions. I didn't mind playing the games, because at those times it was like the other (very few) tennis games I've tried in my life, being quite playable. However, the training sessions were frustrating and boring.
Still, I'm not saying I'll never come back to this, but it's highly unlikely, and definitely won't be anytime soon.