R.U.S.E – Eugen Systems – PC
This RTS was released in September of 2010, and at the time I recall thinking it looked neat, but lacking anyone to play it with, and in the midst of Starcraft 2, didn't bother picking it up. Well, this week a friend of mine wanted a strategy game to play together where he didn't have to rely on APM or such to win, a “thinking man's game” as he put it. After some hemming and hawing we decided to pick up R.U.S.E.
The basics of it are pretty simple. The game is a midway point between the neckbeardy turn based strategy/war games, and the APM fests like Starcraft or even Dawn of War. In that regard, it actually hits the nail pretty squarely on the head. There is always something to be doing and thinking about, and timing does matter, but it never feels rushed. The maps are very, very, big when unit speed is taken into account and the fact that you can quickly zoom way out or way in seamlessly can make it seem smaller than it is, but travel time really does matter quite a bit. When you zoom all the way in you really see the scale of the game, and its pretty impressive to realize just how big the maps are when you see it from that angle, but its almost useless from an actual gameplay standpoint. I tend to spend my time at abou 50% zoom. Zoom far enough out and units are displayed using classic war gaming “chips” which is a small thing, but somehow satisfying.
The meat of the game, and what makes R.U.S.E unique is its approach to information. You are almost always operating under incomplete information. Scouting yields partial information such as “the enemy has a heavy unit here” etc. The “ruses” (most of which are decidedly NOT ruses by definition) help you gain more info, or hurt your opponents ability to gather info. They have a cooldown, and you apply them to a sector on the map. The trademark ones, which create large decoy armies which appear real on the map to the opponent until they are actually fired up on are neat, but actually relatively sparsely used in my short experience thus far. I've generally opted for radio silence (hides my units), blitz (speed increases for my units), etc. They aren't as flashy as pulling off a huge flank due to the enemy thinking your army was somewhere else, but they don't rely on your opponent making mistakes to be useful.
Base building and resource gathering is pretty well done. All the maps have roads, along which you can build buildings (anywhere you want, but of course this is subject to what you can reasonable defend). Standard stuff like infantry barracks, armor depot, etc. Resources are gained by building supply depots on the resource stockpiles around the map. After which you will have trucks going back and forth to your main command center. They are quite spread out, so protecting your supply lines actually matters and map control means quite a lot from what I can tell so far. Cities on the map create choke points which are easy to defend. Infantry can hide in forests (to ambush and do extra damage), and moving on roads is a lot quicker than moving cross country. Units have a range and line of sight that is easily visible when the unit is selected (a blue outline appears which shows it clearly), which makes positioning units pretty intuitive and doesn't leave you wondering if you'll be able to see past a given piece of terrain.
At the end of the day, RUSE does a pretty darn good job of making you feel like a general. The pace of the game is slow enough that you aren't going to be held back by any physical limitations and so far I've been able to comfortably play without using hotkeys at all. It can border a little on the slow side though if you like more action. The fact that “micro” is basically non existent means that whoever makes good decisions, uses their ruses well, and positions their units right before the battle is going to come out ahead. If you like the idea of an RTS which allows you to play that way without feeling the pressure of a misclick ruining your day ala Starcraft, this might be the game for you. It isn't pulse pounding excitement most of the time, but its fun and satisfying to see a plan come to fruition. At thirty bucks on Steam I would recommend it only if it sounds way up your ally, but on Steam sale casual wargamers or rts players will get their money's worth.
Verdict: Buy it (on steam sale).