Set in a "vast, mystical purgatory" called the Downside, Pyre is a party-based RPG focusing on an ensemble cast of characters engaged in 3-on-3 battles called Rites.
The game takes place in a high fantasy setting. The story is told through on-screen narrative passages that include a hyperlink-type system used by the player-character to further explore the story. In addition to guiding the exiles during "Rites," which resemble a sports game, the Reader must determine how to help support or improve the party by performing activities such as scavenging for supplies, learning more of the world's lore, or mentoring the exiles to improve their abilities.
Through the land, the party encounters other groups of exiles, which starts the Rites, the game's combat system described by Marty Silva of IGN as a mix of Defense of the Ancients, Rocket League, and Supergiant's previous game, Transistor. Rites take place on a field with two columns of flame, or pyres, at opposite ends and the three exiles facing off against three opponents on a top-down perspective. Each team attempts to destroy the opposing pyre by launching a single glowing orb that steadily whittles away at its health. The player only controls one character at a time by passing the orb among the three. A character traveling with the orb is vulnerable to being temporarily banished from the Rites if an enemy's aura touches them, which would drop the orb at their feet. The different characters have various skills that aid them in the Rites, such as dashes or long-range projectiles. Each player's characters also have different passive abilities, such as moving quickly about the arena but does little damage to the opponent's pyre, while another is slow and bulky but can do the greatest damage.
The game includes a local multiplayer mode, which allows two players controlling separate teams to compete. Supergiant was unsure if they would be able to include online multiplayer in time for the game's launch and opted to keep this mode to local and player-versus-computer matches for release.
Versus Mode is a local competitive multiplayer game type for two players, or one player and the CPU. It is conceived of as a "bonus" to the single player campaign, and will not support online play.