GOTY 2017: Best Tone Control
This year we've brought back our category awards to recognize achievements in specific areas of game development. There are 10 awards in all, with two new ones being awarded every day this week. Keep checking back for more winners!
Best Tone Control: Pyre
Supergiant Games | July 25th, 2017 | Linux, Mac, PlayStation 4, Windows
Runners-up: Nier: Automata, Sonic Mania
There’s one experience that comes to mind when describing tone control, and that’s going to a Disney park. Tone control as a feeling, as an experience, is immediately apparent in any of the Disney parks around the world. Perpetually excellent, never as crowded as you think, and a tonally on-brand experience—even the drink bottles have special Disney-ified labels—these parks set the gold standard in consistency, comfort, and theme.
Game developers do their best to immerse players in their worlds much the same way the masters at Disney do. But it’s hard work. However, one of 2017’s games excelled in the control of its tone from start to finish: Pyre.
The first experience you have in the world of Pyre is a welcome (of sorts) from three of the main characters. As a newly exiled castaway in the downside—a place that is one-part prison, one-part Mad Max-style dog-eat-dog wilderness—you’re asked to join the group and step into the wagon. Inside you see bric-a-brac scattered about, along with some robes and masks left out—in less than five minutes, the stage has been set for Pyre. As you cross the paths of the downside, and take on triumvirates in the Rites, and click on options throughout the menus, you’re always greeted in a manner that makes perfect sense in that very particular place.
The art, design, the music—whether in menus or in gameplay—and the writing of Pyre all suit a world that’s fantastical but grounded, and one which reveals itself over the course of the experience like chapters in a book. The writing balances moving the story forward and explaining the details of what’s going on to the player—a hard tightrope to walk for most games, especially one where the world and its background requires so many details. The music, another Darren Korb joint, is diverse in its themes and tones but always suits your opponent in the Rites or the moment in the story. And the art and design both in hand-drawn or polygonal form is intricate, beautiful, cohesive, and otherworldly—yet plays off familiar themes.
Our runners-up this year also exhibit strong tone control throughout. The surroundings and menus that help guide the androids through the slightly offbeat apocalypse that is Nier: Automata are consistent in ways that surprise on a regular basis, including in how these features are delivered to the player. And Sonic Mania provides a hypercolor, blast-processed smash of early 1990s attitude from start-up screen until Sonic’s given up his last ring.
However, there’s a special atmosphere to Pyre, and that rarified air makes it more than deserving of this award. – Doug Bonham