I haven’t been very diligent about this blog lately, have I? So I’ll give an update: I reviewed Tryst (Review of Tryst. PopMatters. Oct 5 2012) and then I wrote about it (“The Value of the Soldier.” PopMatters. Oct 9 2012). To summarize: Tryst is okay but it loses itself in its goals. Essentially, it wants to be StarCraft. Honestly, if you’re making an RTS, why wouldn’t you want to be StarCraft? It’s insanely popular, it’s reasonably well balanced and it’s actually a pretty interesting space opera. But BlueGiant Interactive doesn’t have the resources or the technical muscle that Blizzard has, so Tryst can only ever be a knock-off. A fun and charming knock-off with a lot of potential and some great ideas, but still a knock-off.
Tryst exists in a doomed space between it’s source material and its individuality. It’s identity rests on its source of inspiration. The farther away from StarCraft that Tryst gets, the less it can brag about being about being the “indie StarCraft,” the closer it gets to StarCraft, the less reason there is to stop playing SC for something that’s just a copy of it. Tryst‘s novelty depends on its similarity to StarCraft. It’s StarCraft, but with a neat upgrade system. The neat upgrade system might create a unique spin on StarCraft, but on its own it’s not enough to make a game on its own. So Tryst is stuck in this limbo of creating something new that depends entirely on something old. Ultimately, if Tryst is supposed to be just like StarCraft, why should I bother playing it when I can just play StarCraft?
When games seem to only execute their great ideas half way, as Tryst seems to, it’s usually pretty easy to construct a hypothetical perfect version of it. A Skyward Sword with a bigger, more varied and logically connected world and faster scrolling text, or the 2008 Prince of Persia remake but with fleshed out combat and a more realized sense of danger. But with Tryst it’s nearly impossible to imagine what they could have done to improve. The farther from StarCraft the game gets, the emptier it seems; the closer it gets and the more pointless it seems.
That’s harsh. Especially since I felt it deserved the generally favourable review I gave it. Perhaps with a stronger single-player option I might be happier with it. But that eats away a lot of resources that should be used on what the game is meant for: competitive multiplayer. Perhaps if it somehow had the vast community and sophisticated matchmaking that StarCraft had I would have fewer complaints about it. But that kind of community doesn’t just pop out of nowhere so it’s impossible to imagine that size of audience for a young development company with a small library.
There are some really unique things about Tryst that make it worth playing for those with $25 burning a hole in their wallets. For one, as I wrote about, the game forces the player to think of even their most basic units as strategically valuable. You can’t just attack-move all your tier one soldiers into the enemy base to clear supply for better units because that strategy will evaporate your army. The player is far better off to improve every soldier under their command and keep them alive as long as possible. Each unit is valuable and becomes more valuable the longer they stick around.
For another, the game’s protagonist, Oliver Petrovich, is a really interesting figure. He’s a spoiled prince of a rotten empire. He knows his government is evil and that he’s the benefactor of a lot of suffering. He also has every intention of democratizing his empire when he comes into power. Sort of like a Franz Ferdinand figure but in deep space wearing a robotic combat suit. But Oliver doesn’t seem to have any idea how one would loosen his father’s oppressive grasp on the population, he wants to, but he (like Tryst), is too caught up in his grand plan to know how to put it into practice. Moreover, he’s completely untested as a commander when the line of succession puts him in charge of the planet’s greatest military force. Coupled with freedom fighter Aeryn Ozarr’s justified cynicism, the two leads make for an interesting dynamic. One that never gets explored.
If nothing else, Tryst gave me a lot to think about. And it’s introduced my to BlueGiant Interactive. Including Tryst, they only have two games under their belts and, on the surface, they seem fairly similar. But I hope they keep producing more material, I’d like to see where they go from here.
Further reading: Rothschild, Rebecca. “Show me the Shiny! Tryst.” Sugar Gamers. Sep 27 2012.
Fenzel. “The Awful, Sexist Plot of Starcraft 2.” Overthinking It.” Jan 24 2011.
Sanderson, Joey. “Genres that dominate the competitive eSports scene.” Esportsinformer. Oct 24 2013.