I’m a sucker for a good deckbuilder, but few have held my attention as well as Slay the Spire. There’s a new one in the works, though, and after spending a good few hours with its brand new demo, I’m rather confident in saying it’s bloody brilliant. Its name is Pyrene, and it’s due out later this year.
Slay the Spire perhaps isn’t the best comparison for Pyrene. While both games have cards at their heart, their mechanics and gameplay are very different. In Pyrene, you don’t so much battle as simply move over cards, giving and taking damage as you do. In fact, if you’ve played Forward: Escape the Fold, you’ll find its gameplay very familiar. There’s a good reason for that: Pyrene comes from the same small studio.
It’s as if Two Tiny Dice has taken Forward as a building block, fleshing it out in just about every way. Pyrene has the same, enthralling, addicting card game at its core, but it’s brought to life with gorgeous art, compelling characters and even a story to will you to keep playing. Not that you’d need a good reason to keep going: simply besting your previous performance is enough. But here, you’ll collect wood to take back to your village in order to restore ruined buildings.
It means that, after a while, you’ll have an inn, a watchtower, a marketplace and other structures to help you on each run. From the inn, you can change characters, while the watchtower allows you to select various permanent upgrades – providing you have enough points to spend.
Permanent upgrades are always a boon in games like this, but it’s the moment-to-moment gameplay of Pyrene that has kept me coming back. It’s rare a demo keeps me hooked even after I’ve done everything it wants to show me, but Pyrene got its hooks in me very quickly.
Related: The Best Games Like Slay the Spire
Venture out into the field and you’ll have a small map to move through. It’s not all bad: you’ll come across some shops and the odd place to upgrade your cards and relics. But when it comes to battles, you’ll find yourself in the midst of a grid of cards. You can move one space onto any card that’s to the left, right, top or bottom of you. Some will be enemies and, as long as your health score is bigger than theirs, you can take them out. Other cards will be helpful, placed from your own hand of cards, including health, weaponry, shields and more.
Pick up a sword card for example, and you’ll damage all enemies on the board in one go. Other cards might burn or freeze enemies, making them go down much easier. You’ll have to think about your path through the cards carefully, though: when in battle, you can’t move into a blank space so you’ll have no choice but to spend the night, eating up provisions as you go. After spending the night, enemies left on the board will increase by one health, and all empty squares will be refilled.
You might have to spend two or three nights in a battlefield – maybe more – as you’ll keep playing until you find an altar. It appears at random intervals, and once it’s collected, the battle is over. Your health will be restored, and you’ll be rewarded with either new cards or a relic – a random passive upgrade. The more enemies you kill while the altar is present, the better your rewards will be. But you can go to it as soon as it appears. Sometimes you’ve got no choice, depending on the state of your health.
But tactics speak is for another time. This is just a demo for now, and after exhausting everything it has to offer, it’s safe to say that Pyrene is very much at the top of my most anticipated games for 2024. Two Tiny Dice are creating something wonderful: a deckbuilding roguelike with an engaging gameplay loop. But more than that, it has charm, personality and a whole lot more. If collectible card games are your jam, this is one you’re going to keep coming back to, again and again.
Pyrene is set to release on PC later this year. Give the free demo a try for yourself right now.