This guide is the advice I wish I'd given them along with the game, based off of chats after they got partway through. The first three notes are useful to read before starting play at all. The latters can be read up-front, but will make more sense and be more useful after playing through 5-6 Rites or so.
Five Useful Tips for Newbies
Consider Remapping the Keys - Especially Jump
Assuming you're using the keyboard.
My first playthrough, I stuck with the default keybindings and never really got the hang of using Jumping effectively. At least one friend has had a similar difficulty with where the default Jump key is located.
Note: remap the keys (especially Jump) for whatever will be comfortable for you.
The most critical commands to be readily accessible are:
- Movement (left, right, up down).
- Sprint / dash.
- Some form of "pass control to another character".
The game gives you three different ways to pass control between characters ('cycle through', absolute reference, and 'character pointed at') - you don't need to use all three! It's probably best to get good with one of them.
Saluting is only used with certain skills, so isn't as crucial, particularly early on.
You Can Change the Difficulty Mid-game
This is easy to miss, since it's not how most video games work.
- If the Rites are too easy for you, you can bump the challenge up to Hard, then drop it back down if they get too hard.
- If the Rites are too hard, drop them down to Easy until you get the hang of them.
Don't Get Hung Up on Winning Rites
The story continues and interesting things happen regardless of whether you win or lose. I did my 2nd playthrough of Pyre on super-high difficulty to see how the story would go if I lost most of the time, and I still found the story eminently satisfying - the only downside was the frustration of throwing myself over and over at contests I had little hope of winning (and even then, most of the time it was still a fun challenge to see if I could get close).
If you really want to win a particular Rite for plot reasons, if you hit escape during the Rite the pause-screen has a Restart option. Even if you lose the Rite, I don't believe the game autosaves until sometime past the "defeat" screen, so you can reload and try again. But don't feel like you have to have a perfect record, even for the most important Rites!
Don't Get Hung Up on the Scribe Trials
If I could only give one piece of advice about Pyre, this would be it.
Of the people I know who've tried the game, over half of them stalled out due to repeatedly throwing themselves at a particular Scribe Trial they just couldn't win and getting frustrated / losing momentum.
The Scribe Trials vary substantially in difficulty, both in an absolute sense and based on how well your default playstyle handles the particular challenge set forth.
- If you can't beat a given Trial now, put it away for a little while and come back to it once that character has grown more powerful and you've become more experienced with the game. In the meantime, keep an eye out for any Talismans that would be particularly useful for that Trial.
- If you're concerned about content / story: you can finish the entire game without doing any of them. They really are 100% optional.
- If you're feeling ultra-completionist: you can always drop the game difficulty to Easy for that stupidly hard Trial... and remind yourself that it's fine to get to Level IV or V before going after it.
Don't get me wrong - the Scribe Trials can teach you a lot by forcing you to learn new ways of using a character or handling certain situations / matchups in a Rite. But getting stuck on one is a bad bargain: the rest of the game is good enough it's not worth abandoning it just because this one part sets you a hard challenge.
List of Basic Rite Skills
This isn't advice on how to win Rites, but a list of "here are very basic things you can do in a Rite that might be worth consciously thinking about and perhaps practicing":
- Banishing an enemy by casting your Aura.(*)
- Banishing an enemy by running into them (if your Aura is larger).
- Running the Orb into the foes' Pyre.
- Throwing the Orb into the foes' Pyre.
- Using sprint / dash.(*)
- Using jump.(*)
- Swapping from one character to another (in response to threats, or to replenish Stamina, or just because).
The items marked with (*) can be pretty different for different character types - e.g., sprinting over a long distance is differently useful than a quick short dash is.
I call this out because I've found players tend to find a style that works and then ignore other options - as mentioned above, I massively underused Jump for most of my first playthrough, and only cued into how useful throwing the Orb into the foes' Pyre could be a ways in. And if that's how you want to play, that's totally fine! But if you're looking to have more versatility, come back and take a look at this list after playing half a dozen Rites or so and see if there's anything basic you're never using.