I've fallen out of favor with RTS games lately. It's not that I dislike them – I played a ton of StarCraft and Warcraft II back in the day, and still have fond memories of Warcraft 3, WH40k: Dawn of War II, Company of Heroes, and the like. But I've lost interest and instead have drifted to MOBAs, which contain all the stuff I like without the things I don't.
So it was a bit trepidatiously that I stepped into Tryst, upcoming RTS from Bluegiant Interactive. The one big criticism I can level is that it feels too cobbled-together, every aspect feeling too familiar to other RTS games. But if you can ignore the familiarity, it's honestly better than I thought it would be. Rough around the edges, but with heart, and a lot of potential.
Tryst's story is that in the far future, an alien mechanoid race called the Zali have seen humans as a threat and started doing what any two races would do in such a position – negotiate peace treaties and try to divide civil ground to keep casualties at a minimum!
Just kidding. Of course they have declared open war, and have decided that the mining planet of Ishtonia IV would make a good battleground, what with it being a resource-rich planet and all. The idea that the resources they fight for might get drained in a long, drawn out war not occurring to them, naturally.
It's not that it's a bad thing to have aspects of your game borrowed from other games, but the familiarity is hard to ignore. The game is a sci-fi RTS based around a conflict between aliens and humans like StarCraft. Matches are about resource acquisition while building an army from your own base (Dawn of War II), there's upgradeable stats that changes their loadout, and units can take cover behind structures (Also like DoWII). Resources at the base are harvested through ore extractors which go at a certain rate (like Total Annihilation). The Humans have a build order that's virtually identical to the Terrans, and the Zali are weird Borg-like robots with a heavy focus on religion.
But, as much as I want to dismiss it on those grounds alone, I was a little alarmed at a few things. For one, I went into the game with a bots 1v1 match, and begun to tamper around with figuring the build order for buildings and units on the Human side. I barely captured two or three points on the map and managed to get a scout ship, a team of marines with a few medics, and a dropship before the AI came knocking on my door, only instead of chocolates and flowers he had robots and assault rifle bullets, and tore me to shreds before I could even know what the hell. And I was only on the Easy difficulty!
A bit of digging brought me to an interview with the developers, who said they wanted it to be shorter, and more aggressive, like MOBAs. They aimed to cut out the time where both teams amass an army or hunt for resources in favor of slugging it out with guns. Which is appreciated, since I'm pretty awful at RTSes, so the faster it kicks me in the backside and tells me that my squad of marines and medics will just have to do, the better.
New to this game are environmental hazards, which surprised me in the worst way. I went out to capture an objective and, amid my upgrades I was tinkering on in my base, I heard screams of pain and agony and realized my squad was burning to death while capturing a power generator that was on top of a bit of molten, scorched earth. Remember when I said I was rough with most RTS games? I was not lying.
There's also the fact that the loadouts are for all units, something I didn't expect. I was under the impression that it was like most RTSes these days, with one giant hero unit who levels up and gains abilities to be used mid-combat. But there's no hero, instead you just buy bonuses, and depending on what you've selected, your units do different things. You can do the typical Marine stimpack and trigger an entire squad of supersoldiers at the cost of health, or just give them a passive bonus and make sure your enemy uses theirs too early, or just outmaneuver them.
The lack of thinking time means you need to know very, very fast what you're going for, and it cuts much of the downtime out of many RTS games. Make a squad of marines, send them to capture points, then get to upgrading if you want the high-end tanks and mechs. Upgrade trees have been stacked very high, meaning that you're not going to want to alter your plan halfway if you change your mind.
The speed of Tryst is also worth mentioning – as a fan of Total Annihilation and Dawn of War II's slow, methodical pace from objective to positioning to combat, it's a bit surprising. The maps are large enough that it's not quite like Starcraft's right click, wait three seconds, you've arrived. Instead the speed has found a nice middle ground.
I usually play these games single-player only. Partly because I genuinely enjoy some of their stories, but mostly because I am horrible at micromanaging in competitive environments. So, having previewed the multiplayer component, take this with a grain of salt, but Tryst has a lot of potential. It just needs to go through a mountain of polish.
It's not just the bugs, prerequisite for a beta, but by god are there a lot of them – I couldn't change the video settings in the slightest without my PC exploding, and when I gave up and just settled for it looking about as good as Starcraft did when I played it in 2001, it crashed halfway through my games anyway. But even without the bugs, the game feels unbalanced and confusing. Why would I want to give my units the flat armor and damage upgrade when I can just give them stimpacks and win any fight they get into? How do the Zali units and structures work, anyway, where do I harvest resources? Are my Mercs out of ammo? Since when was that a feature? And what do I do with them after earlygame ends and you start getting into bigger brawls? Can any of the buildings do anything, or are they all just barriers to getting the good units?
These kind of questions plague the multiplayer as you trial-and-error your way to figuring out what something does right before your enemy, who has conquered all of Europe while you tinkered in your base, drives enough tanks through your front door and shoots you in the face. Naturally, much of this would be solved with a tutorial/single player campaign that inevitably will be in the retail release of the game, which is why it's not docked any points. But Tryst is one to keep an eye on. It's jigsawed together from other bits from more famous games, but each one adds to the uniqueness this one has rolling. There's piles of StarCraft clones out there, and Tryst looks to kick it over and stand triumphantly apart.