Games

The Value of the Soldier

For all the game's effort to be like StarCraft, one of the most unique things about Tryst is how valuable each individual unit is.

More than most game genres, the RTS has developed its own lexicon over the years. To "one-A" in an RTS is to clump all the player's units into a single control group, to press the "A" key and click on the map roughly at the enemy base location. This tells all the players' units to move to the enemy's base and attack every enemy along the way. It's generally considered a noob strategy because the only skill involved is turtling (another RTS term) in one's base long enough to amass an unstoppable army and jamming that army down the enemy's throats. The strategy's effectiveness is based on the opponent's skill, as it it pretty much only works against an easier AI or a player that isn't as good at turtling. It's a blunt force strategy with no regard for each individual soldier and one that interestingly doesn't really work in the RTS Tryst.

For all the game's effort to be like StarCraft, one of the most unique things about Tryst is how valuable each individual unit is. Every single unit in the game has their own special ability, either an attack or some buff that helps surrounding friendly units. Coupled with the deep upgrade system that further personalizes an army, it makes each unit more individually competent and grants them a value beyond their cost in resources. On their own, each unit isn't worth a whole lot, but even in small squads of five to ten, their worth begins to soar. Obviously, more troops are better, but in Tryst a handful of properly upgraded specialists deployed in a well executed attack can rip through an army twice its size or larger.

This doesn't happen with the three race’s basic units in StarCraft. Zerglings work only in swarms. Terran marines advance like musket lines, clumping, firing, and dying en masse. Even commando drops reque at least fifteen disposable troops to be effective. Protoss zealots, while they're individually more costly and effective than the other two race's basic troops, have limited utility as slower moving, melee troops and become obsolete as more units open up later in the match. The basic units of StarCraft are designed to be disposable. We aren't supposed to care about their loss. A swarm of zerglings can be easily replaced, the marines are fearless, drugged, lobotomized criminal psychopaths that would probably be better off as grease stains than left alive. The zealots proudly proclaim how they "long for combat" and how willing they are to give their lives for their home planet of Aiur. These soldiers want to die; they’re designed to.

The player isn't supposed to care about a few dozen (or hundred) soldiers, if that player is playing right, more can be easily dispatched. Tryst doesn't operate on this level. Because income is produced so much more slowly and the population cap is so much lower in Tryst than it is in StarCraft, every unit is important throughout the entire match. Units becomes more important as they become more specialized. The player/general doesn't want to keep their troops alive because they all seem like really great guys (even though the campaign does offer a squad-based mission featuring some really great guys). They want to keep them alive for their strategic value.

It's a great direction for an RTS to take. It's great to want to keep every soldier under your command alive, even if for purely pragmatic purposes. It's a new way to think of strategy. Each soldier isn't a hero commanding extraordinary power as in games like League of Legends or WarCraft 3. But they aren't a nameless, faceless grunt with almost as much value dead as alive as they are in StarCraft or even as the multiplayer characters that the player commands in Call of Duty or Battlefield. Rather, they're a perfect compromise: trained experts with a specific combat role, each valuable to the effort.

There's nothing wrong with StarCraft’s approach to strategy (I can't count the number of zealots that I’ve thrown into an entrenched expansion just to free up supply and move an enemy out of position), but at the very least, it's a great deal more callous than the warfare simulated in Tryst. For all that Tryst seems to want to be like StarCraft (and it really seems like it does), it takes a far more cerebral approach to army-building where the general has to maximize the use of every grunt under their command to win. But what’s most interesting about it is that it forces the player to care about those grunts without even making characters out of them.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

In the wake of Malcolm Young's passing, Jesse Fink, author of The Youngs: The Brothers Who Built AC/DC, offers up his top 10 AC/DC songs, each seasoned with a dash of backstory.

Keep reading... Show less

Pauline Black may be called the Queen of Ska by some, but she insists she's not the only one, as Two-Tone legends the Selecter celebrate another stellar album in a career full of them.

Being commonly hailed as the "Queen" of a genre of music is no mean feat, but for Pauline Black, singer/songwriter of Two-Tone legends the Selecter and universally recognised "Queen of Ska", it is something she seems to take in her stride. "People can call you whatever they like," she tells PopMatters, "so I suppose it's better that they call you something really good!"

Keep reading... Show less

Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

Keep reading... Show less
3

A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

Keep reading... Show less
9

Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

In terms of continuity, the so-called promotion of this entry as Miller's “third" in the series is deceptively cryptic. Miller's mid-'80s limited series The Dark Knight Returns (or DKR) is a “Top 5 All-Time" graphic novel, if not easily “Top 3". His intertextual and metatextual themes resonated then as they do now, a reason this source material was “go to" for Christopher Nolan when he resurrected the franchise for Warner Bros. in the mid-00s. The sheer iconicity of DKR posits a seminal work in the artist's canon, which shares company with the likes of Sin City, 300, and an influential run on Daredevil, to name a few.

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image