Reviews

'Tryst' Is Not As Technically Refined As 'StarCraft'

There’s value in Tryst, but in the end, the most impressive thing about it is its lofty goals.


Tryst

Publisher: BlueGiant Interactive
Rated: N/A
Players: 1-8
Price: $24.99
Platforms: PC
Developer: BlueGiant Interactive
Release date: 2012-09-14
URL

Tryst is the second release from developer BlueGiant Interactive, a small-ish company based out of India. Tryst is an RTS that focuses more on smaller, more intimate, "micro-intensive" battles than it does on longer, drawn out matches with complicated economies akin to the Age of Empires series. Although the lack of workers, the short build times, and the slow income initially cause play to feel a lot like Dawn of War, Tryst's real goal is to cut into to the massive StarCraft 2 audience. Tryst successfully imitates all the best aspects of StarCraft 2, but it shines brightest in the few moments when it takes on an identity of its own. And while it's fun and interesting (qualities that make any game worth at least a closer look), it never offers enough to feel complete.

The comparisons to StarCraft 2 might seem a little unfair, given that Blizzard has had a decade and virtually limitless resources to develop it, to say nothing of the incredible legacy that the original left behind or all the free advertising that it continues to get from YouTube "shoutcasters" that commentate for professional tournaments. But BlueGiant seems to invite the comparison. Tryst’s interface is virtually identical to that of StarCraft 2, and it proudly boasts on its press releases whenever a reviewer calls it the "indie StarCraft." Even the sci-fi “corrupt empire vs. scrappy rebels vs. all consuming alien menace” plot bears at least a passing resemblance to the conflict of StarCraft. It's an ambitious target to aim for, and while it's hard to imagine any RTS ever challenging the rapacious demand for more StarCraft, Tryst puts itself in a decent position to try.

Tryst cuts most of the bells and whistles that StarCraft has and the merciless paring down to the core mechanics is a really wise decision. Unlike StarCraft, Tryst has only 2 distinct factions the player can choose to command. The humans play much like StarCraft's terrans and the alien zali play like a cross between the zerg and protoss. At first glance, it might appear that Tryst is foregoing a significant part of StarCraft’s depth, but since the protoss haven't really had a significant impact on StarCraft (in the story or in the mulitplayer) since Brood War, the erasure of their equivalent doesn't leave the gap that it seems like it should. The humans and the zali play differently enough to feel unique, while at the core they aren't so different that a player can't experiment with switching sides every once in a while. The game’s novelty shows in how it allows each player to really personalize their army.

Players can apply a permanent upgrade to each unit as the match progresses. There are three tiers of upgrades and each tier consists of three different irreversible options. Either the unit gets an improvement to a stat, a buff that helps nearby units, or a new ability, depending on the upgrade. The upgrades come at a low cost and have an incredible influence on how the game can be played. Two players, each playing the same faction, can employ enormously different strategies based around their upgrade path. The system ensures that any play style is viable and any tactic can be responded to. By the time a unit has been fully upgraded, they take on a remarkably different role. Even the same unit upgraded along a different path becomes unrecognizable from its other iterations. It makes the modestly sized unit count for both the humans and the zali seem so much larger and more impressive.

The biggest disappointment with many multiplayer strategy games is that a twenty-minute match is often decided by the first battle. Early advantages in StarCraft. WarCraft, or League of Legends generally translate into a victory later on, and the best thing a player at a disadvantage can hope for is that their opponent will make a mistake. But the deep upgrade system of Tryst mitigates the impact of early advantages. It doesn’t work perfectly, an early first battle is likely to pay dividends, but the upgrades provide a losing player with options to compensate for an enemy’s advantage or even nullify certain strategies. The myriad of choices is overwhelming at first, and it takes quite a while to figure out how different upgrades interact in an overall unit composition, but working your way into a play style can be fun so long as one can keep a spirit of experimentation.

It adds a layer to the competitive aspect of the game, which is important since the competitive aspect is pretty much the only aspect. There is a single-player campaign, but it’s so disappointingly short that it can be considered a tutorial for the online mode. The lack of a lengthy campaign wouldn’t be so sorely missed if what was provided wasn’t such an interesting set up. The campaign takes place on the planet of Ishtonia IV, where the miraculous substance, lohum, is abundant. Miners on the planet are underpaid second-class citizens that eventually rise against their administrators. Enter the zali, who have also been lured to Ishtonia IV by the lohum. As the zali start winning several key battles, the rebels and government put aside their differences to fight a common threat.

It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s executed with such self aware gusto that it’s actually quite charming. The game follows Oliver Petrovich, the son of the current president and Aeryn Ozarr, the leader of the rebellion. Oliver, while apparently well intentioned and generally likable, is an unproven leader and a military novice, while Aeryn comes off as extremely competent but cynical. The two barely have any chance to show any chemistry together, but they’re interesting enough in the few times that they do interact with one another. The biggest problem is that with only five story missions the game ends by the time the player starts feeling anything for the world or the people in it.

Most RTS campaigns consist of levels where the player must take an enemy base, search for and protect/destroy macguffins, hold a location for a time limit, or guide a small squad of soldiers to a destination. Rather than cycle through these staples, Tryst features one level of each of these and calls it a day. There are a number of choices that the player must make early on that promises grand consequences, but none of it ever pans out. It’s an interesting thought exercise when you must choose between saving a communications facility or a power plant or whether to rescue a group of soldiers that will make your army stronger or a group of doctors that will keep your existing troops alive longer. But ultimately, none of these choices make a difference, even though they absolutely could.

The conflict with the zali never seems to be a serious problem since they’re wiped out in five short missions that are all pulled off without any complication. We never even really learn anything about them, other than they want lohum and that they’re good at accepting defeat. Moreover, the personal tale of Oliver and company never gets told either, since their arcs are resolved in about four hours of gameplay. The game doesn’t have to be a sprawling epic if it doesn’t want to be, but the cutscenes and promotional material makes it seem worth doing.

The campaign of StarCraft 2, when compared with its predecessor—well—sucked, but it was not due to lack of effort. StarCraft’s single player options were designed to be worth doing, and the first game and its expansion are responsible for one of the better stories in games. Tryst, on the other hand, provides little more than “there’s a war” and expects that to be enough to satisfy its players. If BlueGiant only wanted the single player to train players for the multiplayer than they should not have dressed it up as a campaign that would deliver a deep world with complex characters.

Tryst is not as technically refined as StarCraft. And even though there’s just enough substance to make the game worth at least looking into with a price tag of $25 it’s not exactly something that one can purchase on a whim. Without the sophisticated matchmaking of more well-known games or a worthwhile single player to back up the competitive play, it’s difficult to recommend. The demo is worth a download, and the game would make for a good tournament among friends with a weekend to kill. However, Tryst is not likely to be all that it wants to be. There’s value in Tryst, but in the end, the most impressive thing about it is its lofty goals.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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