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Video Game / Pyre

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"READER, dare you tamper with the forbidden knowledge, so soon after your exile?"

When the stars align
The Rites shall come to bear
Illuminate the signs
The exiles shall be there.
Darren Korb, "In the Flame", reveal trailer

Pyre is a role-playing game by Supergiant Games (well known for their award-sweeping and story-driven Bastion and Transistor).

Described by some as "Oregon Trail meets NBA Jam".

You have been expelled by the Commonwealth into a harsh realm called the Downside, only rescued from certain death by the strangers Hedwyn, Jodariel and Rukey. Their only hope, and yours, of escaping the Downside lies within the mysterious Book of Rites, which only you can read. You are tasked with carrying out the Rites described inside, which involves co-ordinating your team as their Reader, following the stars to each Rite, and engaging in ritual fights against other travelling triumvirates, so that you might win back your freedom.

As you travel in the Downside, you will manage your resources, seek knowledge of your new surroundings, interact with fellow travelers and guide them towards enlightenment in the Rites.

Unlike previous entries from Supergiant Games, combat in Pyre plays more like a fantasy version of basketball game where you control a party of three to jump, pass, tackle, or fire their Auras to take out opponents with the aim of putting a Celestial Orb into the opposing party's Pyre until it is doused, and stopping your opponents from extinguishing your Pyre in turn. And more importantly, as the game's creative director Greg Kasavin encourages you to, you can continue your story even after you lose a match.

It was released on PC (through Steam and and PlayStation 4 on July 25th 2017.

The game contains examples of:

  • Aborted Arc: Since any sufficiently strong character can be permanently ascended from the Downside, if they are anointed and their side wins the Liberation Rite, regardless of where they are in story arcs or telling you their background, any number of arcs can become this.
  • Ain't No Rule:
    • Dousing the Pyre by throwing the Celestial Orb is this, based on the Voice's comments. In practice, it's one of the first things you learn.
    • Later on, the Lone Minstrel points out that there's no rule which would prevent Oralech from facing you at the Fall of Soliam, since he has already prevailed in a Liberation Rite.
  • Ambiguous Situation: There are a number of non-mutually exclusive explanations offered for the stars dying out and the Rites ending. Firstly, the Titan Stars are devouring the stars. The Book of Rites predicts that the Rites will end soon after a Rite is conducted on the Isle of Khaylmer, if that ever happens, but doesn't say why. The Voice says this is because Oralech and the True Nightwings are desecrating the Rites. In your Rousing Speech in the final act, you can offer your own interpretation of this as a sign that the Scribes are watching and the world is changing.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • If you're losing a Rite, you can freely choose to restart with no penalty.
    • In a narrative example, to finish Sandra's storyline and take her orb with you, you are generally supposed to do every character's trial with her and talk with her each time. However, usually only Hedwyn, Jodariel, and Rukey are actually able to take the test before the first ascension ritual. So if you ascend someone else during the first ritual, you won't be required to complete their Scribe Trial.
  • Anti-Villain: Some of your enemies, such as the Fate and Oralech, only oppose you because they want their freedom as badly as you do.
  • Arc Number: Eight. Each of the Eight Scribes:
    • Came from a different one of Sahr's eight races,
    • Founded one of the eight non-Nightwing Triumvirates,
    • Defeated a Greater Titan at one of the eight Celestial Landmarks,
    • Gave the name to, or possibly became one of the eight stars above said Landmarks, and
    • Wrote one of the eight chapters of the Book of Rites.
  • Arc Symbol: A star chart, in the shape of an incomplete five-pointed star with two lines branching upwards and downwards, evidently representing the Journey of Rites.
  • Arc Words:
  • Artificial Brilliance: The AI knows and will abuse the hell out of game mechanics. This includes:
    • Pretending to charge up for a jump before leaping in a completely different direction.
    • Throwing the Celestial Orb at one of your exiles so that they lose their Aura followed by a quick Aura cast.
    • Waiting for your exile to exhaust their stamina before dashing past or firing their Aura their way.
    • Hanging around right exactly at the edge of your exile's Aura-casting range.
    • Attempting to put one of its exiles near your Pyre should there be an opportunity to pass the Orb.
  • Artificial Stupidity: That said, the AI often unwittingly moves its exiles straight into your Aura, and it sometimes has problems banishing your exiles behind obstacles. It also has problems accounting for the drawbacks of cursed Talismans (e.g. repeatedly trying to pick up the Orb with someone with the Black Hoof equipped).
  • Awful Truth:
    • Right before the first Liberation Rite, it's revealed that only participants can be liberated, and the Nightwings' current Reader is implied to be physically incapable of participating, so they're doomed to be stuck in the Downside. note 
    • Some time after that, it's revealed that the stars are going out. Once they all die, the Rites will stop working, and everyone will be stuck in the Downside forever.
  • Background Music Override:
    • At the point in the campaign where the Lone Minstrel and the Gate Guardian sing "Mourning Song", it continues to play even if you browse the Slugmarket.
    • Prior to the final Liberation Rite of the age, the theme of the True Nightwings plays instead of "The Old Ways", the usual theme that opens a Liberation Rite.
  • Bittersweet Ending: The best you can hope for. No matter what happens, only a small number of exiles will make it out of the Downside. Even if the Plan succeeds and the new Sahrian Union is formed bloodlessly, some number of the Nightwings will be separated forever, and if you didn't resolve everyone's personal storylines, some of them will still carry that guilt and misery with them.
    • Even at its bitterest, if you ascend none of the Nightwings, the Commonwealth is overthrown and replaced with a better society. However, it ends up being a bloody uprising with many dying, which wasn't what Volfred wanted. And all the Nightwings are still stuck in the Downside.
  • Beneath the Earth: The Downside is literally under the Commonwealth. Exiles are thrown into the River Sclorian, which cascades down into the Downside.
  • Book Burning: Referenced by the Voice, and presumably common in the Commonwealth, where literacy is illegal. The title screen depicts one, implied to be the events just before the Reader's exile.
  • Bookends: The game's main menu is flanked by burning books and surrounded by a frame with the triumvirates' sigils. The final screen after the credits is in a library, with a window surrounded by the same frame.
  • But Thou Must!:
    • You can't hide the fact that you know how to read from the first three Nightwings who save your life.
    • Similarly, you can't leave when Volfred says You Can Turn Back. Either Hedwyn will interject, or there is no dialogue option to accept.
    • Played for Laughs when you can't refuse to help Hedwyn decide what to cook.
  • Central Theme: Law that governs a society, and the relationship people has with it.
  • Character Tiers: Enforced in Versus Mode when you use the preset Masteries; the characters don't all have the same number of Masteries. invoked
  • Charged Attack: Characters can perform this when sending the Celestial Orb into the Pyre in order to increase the damage done. Of course, this takes precious time that could mean a successful counterattack or a banishment by the opposition. On the upside, scoring points through this method lets the character who scored stay in the game for the next round.
  • Competitive Multiplayer: The local-only Versus Mode, where two players pit two teams of three characters against each other.
  • Cool Car: The Nightwings' blackwagon. Sure, it looks like a hunk of junk at the beginning (Hedwyn says he had to dig it out of the ground), but over the course of the game it gets several upgrades.
    • Transforming Vehicle: The Rites lead you over the sea, and after tinkering, the blackwagon can turn into a boat for those sections.
    • If It Swims, It Flies: Oh yes! Travelling in proper Nightwing style, indeed. It turns out all the blackwagons can do this, allowing you to fly from Rite to Rite, skipping the long overland journeys you took for your first Liberation Rite.
  • Crapsack World:
    • Sure, the Downside looks pretty, but even the lushest parts of it will not support traditional crops, and as you venture further in, it's a land of blistering deserts, toxic bogs, seas blocked by eternally-raging storms, and frozen wastelands. It doesn't seem much better on top, either, what with the Commonwealth in a state of endless war, where literacy is a crime, and where people are exiled for increasingly minor offenses.
    • Special mention goes to the Sea-Dominion of the wyrms. Sir Gilman goes on at length about all the deadly obstacles in a young wyrm's path to land, leading to their general obsession with personal strength and constant competition.
  • Demoted to Extra: In a minor way. During the initial trip to the final star for the first ascension rite, Hedywn, Jodariel, and Rukey have more prominence than the rest of the crew, due to being the initial 3 in the group before they even met you. They even get a special bonus for the first ascension ritual. However, any of them can be ascended in the first ascension ritual, permanently removing them from the party. And after that when the game becomes less linear, they generally have no more importance than anyone else in the party due to the fact any of them could leave the party after that.
  • Developer's Foresight: There is dialogue for facing a triumvirate twice in a Liberation Rite, even though this is extremely unlikely because the losing triumvirate is knocked to the bottom of the ladder.
  • Devil, but No God: Inverted. The Eight Scribes are proven to have been alive and their influence can be still felt through the game. However, the Titans are all dead and gone, and outside of eating the stars, which only affects exiles, they can't really do anything and their corpses are proof that they are gone forever. At one point, Bertrude can give you a side-quest to destroy Udmildhe's faith by proving that the Titan she worships is dead.
  • Dialogue Tree: How you interact with your party in between the Rites will determine their statistic growth, their abilities, and how they'll react to you. The mechanical impact is slight, though.
  • Divided We Fall: The song in the reveal trailer, In the Flame, references this trope in its lyrics:
    Strands may break alone
    But twisted make a braid
  • Dwindling Party: If you win a Liberation Rite, the party member you chose permanently leaves the Nightwings.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: You want the best possible outcome? Here's what you have to do: Win every Rite so you are able to achieve a peaceful revolution. At the last Rite of the game, you must lose to the True Nightwings, letting Oralech give you the right to choose between you and him to leave the Downside, which is the only way to guarantee that, if he stays in the Downside, he won't kill himself. Even by doing all of this, at least three Nightwings will be left in the Downside, but thanks to the revolution, they will all live happier lives.
    • It helps that there are three Nightwings who arguably do better in the Downside should you win every Rite but the last: Bertrude goes into business with Rukey; Pamitha has the best chance of reconciling with her sister; and Ti'zo reunites with Oralech.
  • The Empire: There was one, then it was replaced by the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth itself fits the trope, despite the name.
  • End of an Age: Due to the stars going out, the Rites are ending, and escape from the Downside will become impossible for a very long time, possibly forever.
  • Everybody Lives: Aside from Dalbert, who dies of old age in the epilogue and Oralech who possibly dies depending on what you do, no named characters die during the course of the game. And if you ascend enough Nightwings to help with the plan, the revolution to overthrow the Commonwealth is completely blood free, meaning nobody dies there either. Averted if you fail the plan then the revolution to overthrow the Commonwealth gets bloody.
  • Fantasy Pantheon:
    • The Eight Scribes were (probably) once mortal, but their feats, which include defeating the Titans, creating the Rites which are the only known way out of the Downside, and founding the Commonwealth, lead many to regard them as divine. The Stowaway is the most devout of the Nightwings, but the rest do pray at various times and in various ways. You can seek the Scribes' favor at specific points in your travels to get temporary buffs.
    • In the present-day Commonwealth, worship of the Scribes is discouraged in favor of the belief that the Scribes themselves worshiped the stars. If Volfred's Plan succeeds, Scribe-worship makes a resurgence. The day of the revolution is called "Scribes' Return", and if Hedwyn, Jodariel, and/or Rukey are liberated, they are seen as the reincarnations of their patron Scribes.
    • On the flip side, worship of the Titans is not unknown. The current members of the Withdrawn, under Udmildhe's leadership, are all cultists of Yslach. You yourself can invoke the Titan Stars for a Self-Imposed Challenge.
  • Fictionary: All characters (except for the imps) speak a language called Sahrian; by context you can guess what certain words mean (notably "Noxalas" for "Nightwings" and "Ligaratus" for "Reader").
  • Final Boss: Regardless of the choices made during the game, including which characters leave the Downside, there will always be a final Liberation Rite between the Nightwings and Oralech.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • At the beginning of the game, the Nightwings note that you're a Reader because of the symbol on the back of your cloak. Highly astute viewers may note that Volfred has the same tattoo carved onto the top of his head.
    • Early on, when asked if he is a doctor, the Minstrel says no, he isn't, but he traveled with one for a while. That doctor is Oralech, who reappears later in the game, angry at the Nightwings for a betrayal against him they didn't personally commit.
    • At the beginning of the game, you correctly guess the Stowaway's name and can also understand Ti'zo. It foreshadows your ability to understand thoughts as a Reader, especially since the screen cuts to black with the Stowaway as it later does every time you hear someone's thoughts.
    • The sigil of the True Nightwings can be seen as you ascend Mount Alodiel.
  • Funny Animal: The Curs are the most straightforward example. They're a race of sapient dogs who otherwise behave like humans, complete with clothing, slang, and (in Rukey's case) facial hair.
  • Game Over: This is averted in the traditional sense; the player will continue on after losing a Rite and experience the consequences that follow. You can lose every single Rite and still complete the game.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration:
    • The first time you face Oralech, who used to be a Nightwing years ago, the Voice says that since it is technically the same team facing itself, and therefore illegal, he wants nothing to do with the match and says he is leaving. And indeed, he is silent for the entire match.
    • In a subtle example, you learn that the song that is sung during ascension rituals is sung by Tariq and the Gate Guardian, with the former standing on the left side of the field and the latter standing on the right. And in the audio, Tariq's voice comes from the left speaker and the Gate Guardian's voice from the right speaker.
    • If you succeed in helping Bertrude with her plan to break Udmildhe's faith in Yslach, Udmildhe will permanently lose 5 Hope.
    • Due to Oralech's surprising speed and damage for a demon, and because he's at the end of his rope in life, Oralech has 1 hope in multiplayer, granting him a very long respawn time.
    • The Nightwings are created as the standard against which all other triumvirates have to measure up to. In-game, your team will have infinite Favor from the Scribes and thus always get to have a go at the Liberation Rites, regardless of how well you fare against the others.
  • Gratuitous Iambic Pentameter: The verses of the song "Never to Return", which plays during the Liberation Rites, are almost always in iambic pentameter.
    The will to overcome shall urge us on
    To brave injustice 'til the stars have gone
    The favor of the Scribes arrives at dawn
  • Harder Than Hard: True Nightwing mode, unlocked after beating the campaign at least once on a regular difficulty, is a blend of this with New Game Plus. All Talismans except the Legendary Talismans are available to buy from the start and Feats of Glory (optional objectives which give you Sol for completing them during a Rite) are available much sooner, but you must invoke a gradually-increasing minimum number of Titan Stars, more Enlightenment is needed to level up, and the Restart Rite and Load Checkpoint options are disabled to discourage Save Scumming.
  • Harping on About Harpies: The Harp race.
    • One-Gender Race: No one has ever seen a male Harp. Commonwealth hearsay holds that they eat their mates like spiders. Pamitha says that they have a Prince, but she's not sure if he actually exists.
  • Heroic Mime: Nearly every dialogue choice in the game has "Remain Silent" as an option; and actually mousing over the option will elaborate on why you're staying silent in that particular situation.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: A nonlethal example. In the final Rite, after you win, the portal to send someone up changes so anyone could be sent up, including the Reader. Whoever you anointed to ascend will attempt to give up their chance so you can go up, knowing that this means they will be stuck in the Downside for the rest of their life. You can turn it around and insist that they go, giving up your only chance to escape, or even step aside and send Oralech instead so that he receives the Liberation he has been denied for so long.
  • Humans Are Flawed: According to Ha'ub the Swallow, all of humanity once had wings like the Harps, until the men and women of the old Empire cast them off for earthly matters.
  • I Shall Taunt You: The salute mechanic is this. Some characters can learn skills that activate after they salute.
  • Interface Spoiler:
    • Invoked. All of the characters in the game are playable from the start in Versus Mode, but the game warns you that it might spoil elements of the game you haven't seen yet.
    • Played straight: An achievement spoils that there are more teams than just the ones you meet by the first Liberation Rite, because you won't have unlocked it when you think you should. There's another achievement spoiler for getting a team mate for each "mask" (race) which is debatable because early on Hedwyn tells you that is a goal, specifically.
  • Interspecies Romance:
    • Hedwyn has one with a harp named Fikani. They were on opposite sides of the war, and one of their rendezvous led to Hedwyn being exiled, due to not being at his post, which allowed an attack to go unforeseen, causing many of Hedwyn's fellow soldiers to die. Regardless of whether Hedwyn ascends or not, he eventually reunites with Fikani who either meets him on the surface or allows herself to be exiled even after the practice is banned so she can be with Hedwyn.
    • Rukey clearly has a crush on Pamitha. Pamitha for her part doesn't tip her hand either direction on how she feels about Rukey, although she does give him her helmet that apparently is of sentimental value to her if she ascends before he does. If Rukey and Pamitha both ascend, in the ending they become very close drinking buddies, though the epilogue doesn't state whether they become closer than that.
  • Irony: Most of the triumvirates are currently led by people who are the opposite of what their triumvirate is supposed to represent.
    • The Accusers were created by Gol Golathanian to be templars of justice. They are led by Lendel the Liar, a very corrupt cop.
    • The Chastity were created by Lu Sclorian, who valued integrity, modesty, and kinship. They are led by Manley, who flaunts his wealth and considers himself better than those around him due to said wealth.
    • The Essence were created by Triesta Tithis, who valued mercy and freedom. They are led by Tamitha, who is very vengeful towards the Commonwealth (and her bloodsister Pamitha) and is held down by her inability to let go.
    • The Fate were created by Jomuer Many-Mane who valued faith and honor. While Dalbert is an exemplary example of the Fate's values, his adoptive son Almer, who doesn't put much stock in the Scribes and is very rude towards other triumvirates, is not.
    • The Pyrehearts were created by Underking Ores who valued courage and valor. They are led by Sir Deluge, who is a gigantic coward.
    • The Withdrawn were created by Molten Milithe who defeated Yslach, one of the Greater Titans. They are led by Udmildhe, who wishes to revive Yslach.
    • The Dissidents were created by Ha'ub to be a triumvirate that would accept all who do not belong. Led by Barker, they are currently an all Cur triumvirate that acts like a gang of thugs more than anything.
    • The Tempers were created by Soliam Murr who valued both strength and mercy. Led by Ignarius, they certainly value strength but do not have much room in their hearts for mercy.
    • The Nightwings were created by the Eight Scribes to essentially represent the bad guys of the Scribes' travels.
  • It Has Been an Honor:
    • Barker, of all people, says this to his triumvirate if he ascends.
    • Just before the final Liberation Rite, your party members gather to say this to you, each in their own way.
  • Kick the Dog: If you lose to Oralech in the final rite, one of your options when he hesitates to ascend is to use your powers to mentally manipulate him into giving up his chance to leave the Downside for you to leave. If you do, the last thing you see is the shocked look on your teammate's face before you ascend. Oralech then jumps off the cliff in the epilogue.
  • Lighter and Softer: To Supergiant's previous titles Bastion and Transistor. Unlike them, the plot does not involve The End of the World as We Know It, there is more focus on heartwarming interactions between the main characters, several characters play the Comic Relief, and even the serious ones have some funny moments. Despite the Crapsack World setting, the ending is bittersweet even if everything fails. And unlike either Bastion or Transistor, which both involve calamities that killed many people, in Pyre, Everybody Lives (except for possibly Oralech). Though not everyone's ending is happy, necessarily.
  • Locked Out of the Fight:
    • If an Aura hits an opponent with a smaller Aura, they will be temporarily banished. This can be done with a tackle or by shooting out your Aura. But the latter also removes your protection from an opponent's Aura in the process.
    • If a character puts the Celestial Orb into the enemy's Pyre by jumping in, they will be unavailable in the next round. Players can bypass this by throwing the Orb into the Pyre instead.
  • Long Song, Short Scene: The game uses the trailer cut of "In the Flame" when you ask the Lone Minstrel to sing it for you on your way to the final Liberation Rite, unlike the other vocal tracks.
  • The Lost Woods: The Glade of Lu, enchanted to be hard to find. Justified, given that it's keeping a Greater Titan in check.
  • Made of Indestructium: The Book of Rites, every copy of them. They're made out of "astral hide", the remains of Yslach the Astral-Born. Because he is indestructible, coming from another dimension, the books are also indestructible.
  • Modular Epilogue: Following the final Liberation Rite of the game, you get to learn what happened to nearly all of the important characters afterwards. Given that Sandra can comment on her own epilogue under certain circumstances, it might be the Reader using their powers.
  • My Rules Are Not Your Rules:
    • In Campaign Mode, enemy triumvirates can equip multiples of the same Talisman (usually two "wingmen" of the same species will have the same Talisman).
    • Downplayed in Versus Mode. Using the preset Masteries gives some characters combinations of Masteries that would be impossible to get with player-assigned Masteries, but you can play with any of those characters.
  • Never Learned to Read: The Nightwings have a wagon full of books with the Arc Symbol on them, but are completely unable to read. You, The Reader, were banished from the Commonwealth for being one of the few people who can read, and are invaluable to their journey of enlightenment and their success in the Rites.
  • Obvious Rule Patch: Some species have restrictions on which non-legendary Talismans they can equip to prevent overpowered or awkward interactions, with no lore justification (unlike the Legendary Talismans).
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Zigzagged:
    • Several of the opposite teams can find happiness after the games, even if they never won any Liberation Rite. Barker will turn the Rites into a sport in the Downside, for example. There are, however, those who will end up badly, especially if left in the Downside. Lendel will spend his entire life futilely looking for a way out, Manley will bankrupt his family attempting to leave, and Udmildhe will disappear.
    • Among the Nightwings, independent of whether they leave the Downside or not, most will be somewhat happy with their state. There's also a good chance that the Reader will be left in the Downside forever at the end, if they decide to let the anointed Nightwing or Oralech leave.
  • Opposites Attract: Almer is a rather combative young man who is generally rude to anyone outside his group and is the one character who either doesn't believe in the Scribes or just puts no stock in them. The Moon Touched Girl is easily the most kind hearted character in the game, who tries to make friends with everyone she meets and is the most religious character in the game as well. They will get together in the ending if you see their arc to the end and they end up in the same realm.
  • Our Demons Are Different: Jodariel is a demon with fair blonde hair, a piercing gaze, a large stature, and larger horns.
    • Any human who stays in the Downside for too long grows horns and becomes a demon.
  • Pacifism: Enforced — while casting of auras can be seen as an act of aggression, it is the furthest extent of aggression permitted in the Rites; any Exile who spills life-blood before, during or after a Rite is punished with permanent expulsion. Thankfully, regardless of any hatred exhibited by the other triumvirates, this particular rule is never seen broken.
  • Painting the Medium: A few of the "click to continue" prompts change depending on the circumstances, often reflecting the mood. After the first cycle, nearly all of them are different.
  • Perfect Play A.I.: On higher difficulties, invoking Yslach's Titan Starnote  makes the AI this. Among other things, it will protect its exiles from your Aura casts by swapping to them and jumping in place at exactly the right moment, and it will check any attempt to jump into its Pyre as long as it is physically possible (whereas a human would have much more trouble finding the correct angle in time).
  • Perpetual Storm: The Deathless Tempest, which only the wyrm-exiles know how to navigate.
  • Plant People: The Sap, a race of tree people.
  • Player-Exclusive Mechanic: The AI can pick up Moon Drops, but doesn't interact with other "drop" effects generated by some exiles' Masteries (e.g. Imp portals, Nomad resurrection flags).
  • Portal Pool: The Shimmer-Pool, how exiles get back into the Commonwealth from the Downside. It takes the form of an upward-flowing waterfall.
  • Proud Warrior Race Guy: The wyrms are definitely this. The curs used to be this, with old songs praising their battle-prowess, but being part of the Commonwealth has stripped this part of their culture from them.
  • Punch a Wall: Gentle Hedwyn, of all people, does this in a moment of frustrated despair during a conversation about the Reader's inability to escape the Downside. It's as surprising as it is touching.
  • Rage Against the Heavens:
    • Sandra was imprisoned in the Beyonder Crystal for a grievous attack on Soliam Murr, and the Scribes by extension. Her possible statuses when you examine the crystal include "Cursing the Scribes", "Blaspheming", and "Blaspheming more than usual".
    • If Manley Tinderstauf is stranded in the Downside, he releases a torrent of blasphemy unbecoming of his position.
    • Volfred has a more subdued example: when talking about how Erisa murdered Oralech and died herself while trying to ascend in his place, he says he resists the urge to blame the way the Rites pit people against each other. But upon confirming his suspicions that you will face Oralech in the final Liberation Rite, he gives in and curses the Rites for this match-up.
    • At one point the Lone Minstrel says pre-emptively that he would not accept the will of the Scribes if the Rites coming to an end meant that he and the Gate Guardian would be separated for eternity. The Gate Guardian chides him for this.
    • Oralech regularly expresses a low opinion of the Scribes and the Rites. If you prevail against Oralech and don't liberate him, he gazes at the night sky and curses the Scribes one by one before committing suicide.
  • Repeated Cue, Tardy Response: Played for Drama near the end of the game. The Voice is supposed to announce "And thus, the Scribes have chosen... the exile appointed by the [winning triumvirate] shall be free" at the end of each Liberation Rite, when the Shimmer-Pool engulfs the anointed and carries them to the Commonwealth. However, in the final Liberation Rite, the Shimmer-Pool seemingly fails to open and he is left to repeat himself in growing panic.
  • The Reveal: All of the Commonwealth's elite, including the Voice that oversees the Rites and narrates your matches, were all exiles themselves and had been liberated through the Rites. Through the letters you receive after a Nightwing is freed, you learn that all liberated exiles are offered cushy jobs and impressive titles. Your Nightwings reject them in favour of linking up with Volfred's agents, to further his Plan.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Vilified: What the Eight Scribes did against the Empire, sending back exiles who believed in their teachings to peacefully create the Commonwealth. Volfred's attempted peaceful revolution aims to do the same.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Drive-imps, which power the blackwagons of the Downside. Their huge eyes, round body, and stubby limbs are adorable, and you can even click on them in the wagon screen to make them chirp and wiggle. Ti'zo, as an imp, is also ridiculously cute, though his status as a Rite player can push him into Badass Adorable.
  • Rousing Speech: In the final act, the Reader actually comes up with one themselves, drawing from the other exiles, with the player choosing individual sentences. One particular phrase becomes Arc Words throughout the rest of the playthrough.
  • Running Gag: Whenever Hedwyn thanks Bertrude for the things she's done for the Nightwings, she assumes he is hitting on her and responds in anger, leaving him confused.
  • Sad Battle Music: In each Liberation Rite, the Lone Minstrel and the Gate Guardian perform the duet Never To Return.
  • Sadistic Choice:
    • Only one of your party members can return to the Commonwealth at a time.
    • You can free only 6 exiles before the Rites stop working.
    • At the last Liberation Rite, you can free either yourself, Oralech, or whomever you anointed, dooming the rest to eternity in the Downside.
  • Second Place Is for Winners: The happiest outcome you can achieve in the final ascension rite actually requires that you lose the final match against Oralech. When the portal opens that would allow him, you, or your chosen candidate to be ascended, even though he could choose himself, he hesitates. If you choose at this moment to reach out to his mind, he will realize that the Nightwings have been working for the greater good and that his anger towards Volfred has been unfounded. He will then allow you to ascend in his place and will not kill himself afterwards, which he does if you don't free him otherwise.
  • Snake People: The bog-crones of the Commonwealth. The wyrms of the Sea-Dominion are the aquatic type. They are said to be distantly related.
  • So Long, and Thanks for All the Gear: Averted. If a character leaves the party after completing a Liberation Rite, their Talisman is returned to the party's inventory.
  • Sound Test: An interesting and diegetic example. When the Lone Minstrel properly joins your caravan, you can find his lute. If you click on it, you can play any song in the game on it. However, it'll be an acoustic version of it, as if you were playing it on the lute.
  • The Stars Are Going Out: They're being devoured by the Titan Stars. Since the Path of the Rites is shown by the stars, once they all go out, the Rites will no longer work and no one will be able to escape the Downside. There's nothing you can do to stop it, either.
  • Sports Game: The non-story segments are basically a fantasy version of basketball, with you raising your players over the course of the game, trying to keep them happy, and retiring them when they win an ascension ritual.
  • Third-Person Person: All wyrms speak like this.
  • Total Party Kill: Completely possible, provided you make the right play. Invoking Shax's Titan Star will cause all of your opponent's exiles to respawn immediately if you do this. It's also possible for both teams to wipe everybody out if they aren't careful.
  • Turns Red: Most of the triumvirates have unique effects when you do enough Pyre damage in your first Rite against them or when you face them in a Liberation Rite. These aren't always deliberate on their part and don't always work in their favor.
    • The Accusers stand over their Pyre, preventing you from plunging into it, though this is when the throwing tutorial shows up. In a Liberation Rite, Lendel boosts his Aura with a technique his team developed.
    • The Chastity's Pyre regains 50 strength.
    • The Dissidents constantly fire their Auras or (unconsciously) infuse the Orb with their chaotic energy, reducing the Orb's gravity.
    • The Essence, in your first meeting, challenge Pamitha to a one-on-one. In a Liberation Rite, they start from mid-field.
    • The Fate introduce the Moon Drops which buff anyone who picks them up. In a Liberation Rite, they pray to Jomuer with such sincerity and resolve that your exiles are shaken, increasing their respawn times.
    • The Pyrehearts get rained on during their Liberation Rite, reducing both Pyres' strength when the rain first starts and boosting both teams' Pyre damage in subsequent rounds.
    • The Withdrawn invoke Yslach, causing pools of ichor to appear as obstructions. In a Liberation Rite, the pools appear wherever someone is banished.
    • The True Nightwings are bombarded by meteorites which banish anyone they strike. These always strike the Nightwings first, leaving your Pyre open for the beginning of one round.
  • Variable Mix: This game, like the rest of Supergiant Games' work, heavily employs a dynamic soundtrack. The music will change depending on where you are, who's talking, what's happening, and when. Interactive objects tend to each have their own sound cues, as well.
    • Taken to extremes in some of the voiced songs. During the Liberation Rites, the lyrics will change depending on who your opponent is (with 2 versions based on who currently has the point advantage.) The ending credits song will change depending on who you've freed, and who remains in the Downside.
  • Voice Grunting: Combined with Fictionary above. Dialogue is accompanied by short Sahrian phrases and/or vocalizations to set the tone. The only voiced English lines in the game represent either telepathy or knowledge of a forgotten language.
  • Videogame Caring Potential:
    • Plenty of opportunities. From going out of your way to ensure certain members stay together, whether back in the Commonwealth or in the Downside, to encouraging the Stowaway's burgeoning romance, to listening to their complaints and reassuring them that they are loved and treasured as friends and companions, there's a lot you can do to help make the Nightwings' life that little bit better.
    • You could even throw the Liberation Rites and allow some of the opposing triumvirates a chance at freedom and a glorious return.
    • Even better, many of these small kindnesses will give boosts to those exiles in the Rites.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential:
    • Of course, you could always play the Nightwings as the most incompetent triumvirate to ever grace the Downside, ruining everyone's shot at freedom, and ensuring that only the biggest jerkasses around go free. Which, in turn, leads to a violent uprising that technically fulfills Volfred's plans, but at the bloodiest cost possible.
    • If you talk to Sandra throughout the game, you follow her arc where she warms up to you, but then tries to push you away because she is afraid you will just leave her alone like everyone else did after the rites finished. If you continue to talk to her, she'll warm up to you again. At the end, she'll ask you to take her orb with you so she can stay with you for however long you live. If you say no, she will be clearly crushed and the orb will go silent.
    • After a certain point, you can run over Howlers or ram the other triumvirates' blackwagons with your own for your own amusement.
  • We Were Your Team: If the leader of an opposing Triumvirate ascends, they will not regroup in time to face you again.
  • Wham Line:
    Volfred: <They haven't told you Readers such as you cannot go free.>

    The Lone Minstrel: The stars... are fading.

  • What the Hell, Player?:
    • Of course, keep ramming the other blackwagons and you'll get yelled at.
      Almer: Have you not done enough yet, Nightwings? Father was just now attempting rest, but still you torment him. He may think you have some honor in you, but I can see plain what you really are. Leave us alone, damn you!
    • You can mind-control Oralech into liberating you instead of himself if you lose the final Rite to him - one of the few unambiguously evil decisions in the game. The option to back out says that your conscience is shouting obscenities at you. Go through with it anyway and the last thing you see before you ascend is the shock on the anointed Nightwing's face.
  • You Can Turn Back: Volfred says this to the Reader twice, once when you first meet him and he implies that he will take over the Nightwings, and once when he cynically assumes that the Reader only helped the Nightwings because they didn't know that they can't be freed through the Rites. In both cases you have a number of dialogue options, but you can't actually accept.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters:
    • The Highwing Remnants see themselves as fighting for their own freedom. The Commonwealth paints them as vicious savages.
    • By agreeing to help with Volfred's revolution, the Voice will call you and the Nightwings cheaters and terrorists with no respect for the tradition of the Rites. Volfred, on the other hand, sees his Plan as a way of restoring the Scribes' original values.
  • Zero-Effort Boss: Near the end of the game, you may have a Rite where your opponent doesn't even bother to show up, meaning you simply have to walk the Orb into an unattended Pyre to win.

Strands may break alone
But twisted make a braid
Together on their own
The journey shall be made.