Most of the time, buying a game based solely on who’s developing it is good way to set oneself up for disappointment. Heck, in this modern world of video game advertising it can be a bad idea to buy based off a demo (I’m looking at you vanilla Destiny). There is still a short list of game-makers who can be trusted to consistently put out a good product though. In the AAA space we have Rockstar and Naughty Dog, and indie space there is Supergiant Games. To be completely honest though, Supergiant Games is probably the only developer whose games I’ll still buy site-unseen.
Unlike most of the studios whom I used to closely follow, Supergiant Games (henceforth referred to as “Supergiant”) has managed to retain its identity over the last several years. They haven’t put out anything half-baked. They haven’t put out anything that feels empty or devoid of passion, and they certainly haven’t released a game that incorporates micro-transactions. Of course, it helps that they’re still a relatively young studio who’ve only released two games so far; those games being 2011’s Bastion and 2014’s Transistor. They’re currently poised to release their third game, Pyre, in the coming days, and everything I’ve seen of it thus far says it’s going to be every bit as unique and breathtaking as its predecessors.
(Video from YouTube channel: Supergiant Games)
My first glimpse of a Supergiant game was at 2011’s PAX East. At the time, Supergiant was showing off it’s then unreleased game: Bastion. Not to go on too long here, but everything about the display was different. It was laid out like a chill gaming space. Just a few screens with Bastion running on them surrounded with many colorful bean bag chairs to lounge in while you dug into the game. And what a game it was. For those who haven’t yet had the pleasure of playing it, Bastion is an isometric adventure game whose story is delivered almost entirely through an active narrator. I absolutely mean “active” too. Everything the player does as “The Kid” is described by the narrator. Normal story beats, falls, “deaths”, how enemies are defeated and even silly things like going AFK or running around swinging weapons for no reason. Combine that with a gorgeous art style and fun combat system and you’ve got an instant-classic on your hands. This was to be followed up three years later with their second game Transistor.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t fully on board with Transistor at first. I remember expecting something closer to Bastion when I first picked up the game, and being disappointed when that wasn’t the case. Nevertheless, it was still a Supergiant game, and it quickly grew on me to the point of becoming one of my all-time favorites. Transistor’s unique qualities are a bit more difficult to nail down compared to Bastion, but if I had to pick a couple I’d have to say they would be the game’s combat system and the titular Transistor itself. The combat system is, in a word, unusual. Players can fight either in real-time or pause combat at any time and queue up attacks and then watch that sequence play out. Health is determined not by any set HP stat, but by how many different attacks one currently has installed. Loss of a health bar means the loss of your most powerful attack. Lose a second healthbar, lose your next most powerful attack. Repeat until you literally cannot fight anymore. This combined with an incredibly deep level of customization means that there are any number of combat styles to choose from. I should know, I’ve played through the game at least 5 times, and I’ve been able to use a different basic style each time so far. As for the Transistor, he sort of takes the place of the narrator but not really. He knows as much about what’s happening as the player does, and spends his time talking to the player character. It’s mostly commentary on their surroundings, reminiscing about what their world used to be like, or offering hypothesis as to what’s happening. In a sense, the Transistor exists more as a world-building character than anything else, and I think that’s for the best. Transistor also boasts the beautiful artwork and music like Bastion before it, and I think both really came into their own in this game. It’s only flaw is that it takes time to really understand the combat system and power combinations, but I don’t think it’s anything that a bit of practice and experimentation can’t solve. But anyway, three years have passed once again and Supergiant is finally ready to release their third game: Pyre.
I don’t actually know all that much about Pyre. I know that it takes place in some sort of afterlife/purgatory setting, and your character(s) are fighting/competing for their chance to move on from it. I know that it’ll be a bit of a departure from Transistor and Bastion in that it’s “combat” system seems to be based around some sort of team sport rather than solo fighting. I also know that Pyre will be the first Supergiant game with a multiplayer component. However, the art and sound are still there. The rich storytelling still appears to be there too. Most importantly for me though, this still looks every bit like a Supergiant game, and that’s more than enough for me.
Are there any developers you still actively support? Are there any games you’ll buy based solely on who made them?
Lede image from official Pyre site.