Ruse: Let Slip The Tricks Of War

By Alec Meer on March 24th, 2009 at 5:32 pm.

The current, surprising industry-wide obsession with real-time strategising continues. This time it’s Ubisoft having a crack at both a new IP and a new take on this oft-static genre, with the fascinating, board game-esque and absolutely gi-frigging-normous Ruse.

I took a first-hand gander at Eugen Systems’ (you’ll know them from oddball action-RTS Act of War) new baby last week, but sadly the terrifying EmbargoBot has been stood menacingly by my PC since then, wagging an electro-death-finger at me whenever I think about mentioning the game here. Now I can. And I will. Watch me. Yeah. Yeah!

Before I get into exactly why Ruse could be monumental, let’s let those who are so inclined jerk their knees at its theme. It’s a World War II strategy game. Go on then, moan away, blissfully ignorant that if there’s one thing more over-familiar to PC gamers than World War II games, it’s people moaning about World War II games.

(The developers’ reasoning for using World War II is interesting, incidentally. It’s a bona fide modern and massive conflict between multiple factions, but one that uses technology close enough to today’s to be suitably familiar and explosive. Or, in other words, it’s fields and tanks and machine guns, and it’s hard to think of much that’s more suitable for an RTS.)

(Clicky yon pic for gigantovision)

With that out the way, let’s get to it – I’ve never seen anything quite like Ruse. In terms of scale, at least. Much was made of Supreme Commander’s mega-zoom, but while that offered immense scope it didn’t really elicit awe-struck gasps. At a certain point, the terrain turned near-featureless and two-dimensional, while the units compressed into bland, flat icons. There was never, really, a true sense of celestial omniscience, but simply shuffling shapes around a grid: a magnet dragged underneath a tray of iron filings. Supcom was the maths of war, and rarely its spectacle.

This, on the hand, offers a true 3D space of land, sea and oh-so-much air. There is talk of there being other theatres of war, but what I’ve seen so far was mile upon miles of European fields and towns, free from loading pauses or zone transitions – Google Maps with a z-axis and explosions. There’s no cheating via fog of war, either – the lie of the land is yours to see whenever you like. There’s a neat twist on fog of war for the enemy units too – you can always see where your foes’ guys are, but unless you’ve got someone in sight range of them, you won’t know what they are. So scouting, stealth and poker-like guesstimation of what he could/should have in his hand all become vital elements in gauging whether it’s safe to head over to a given area. It’s very much a game about strategy and counter-strategy, not unit rushes or 400 clicks per minutes, so taking risks is not on the cards.

As part of that is the second major leg propping up the game, the titular ruses. Deception has long been an essential part of warfare, but bar a few token magic stealth units it’s an element that most RTSes tend to overlook. Here, the idea is you go into battle with a few pre-selected tricks up your sleeve, and the when and where of their deployment can win the day. This is where the boardgame sensibilities really make themselves known, as the Ruses are halfway between cards and the general/meta-abilities so common in other RTSes. They couldn’t be called entirely realistic, but they are at least grounded in the technology of the time. The best example is perhaps Radio Silence, which both neatly fits into a layman’s grasp of military skullduggery and, in practice, grants invisibility to your units while they’re in a certain area of the map.

A ruse, yesterday. Well, 1944ish.

All in, it’s looking incredibly promising – an RTS that might truly realise the promise of becoming the general grimly pushing pieces across a planning table even as the battle itself rages beneath him. On the maxi-zoom mode, you’ll even see the edge of said table, and blinking, chattering 40s machinery in the background. It is due for console too, always a cause for concern with RTSes, but apparently PC is very much the lead. Done right, it’s got the potential to be the sort of kick up the arse for the genre that Company of Heroes was, but this time even more free from the rusty chains of Command & Conquer.

I’ll doubtless be writing more about Ruse (the name is, I suspect, as much a reference to Risk as it is to deception) in the not too distant, but in the meantime you can watch the dramatic but fairly unhelpful CGI trailer below. Beneath that you’ll also find some canned blurb and Q&A gumpf (i.e. glorified press release rather than a bespoke interview) to paint a broader picture of these immense killings fields. With this cut and paste we are really spoiling you.

Developer Q&A -Alexis Le Dressay – Eugen Systems Creative Director
• What sort of game is R.U.S.E.?
R.U.S.E. is the game that will take the player into the heart of strategy: You’ll have to manipulate huge armies to defeat your opponent, and rely on your ability to analyze moves and tactics in order to beat your opponent’s strategy and fool them.

• What was your source of inspiration?
Deception is present everywhere in our daily lives: in media, politics, even relationships, but we also realized how important it was during wartime. There are so many stories around this hidden side of war, including the famous “Fortitude” operation. None of the other RTS games give the player the opportunity to control this major aspect of strategy.

• What is the overall goal of the game? Is it a Macro or Micro management Strategy game?
R.U.S.E. can be played using a macro vision, a micro one, or both. The player can decide whether to manage the whole army or just certain troops. The IRISZOOM EngineTM is the best technology to do that. You can switch from high-level strategy, where your goal is to understand and adapt to the enemy’s plans in order to fool him, to the role of a general who organizes reinforcements, the defense of strategic points, or research into new weapons. Ultimately, you are the commander who has to ensure that the battle will be won using the right units, in the right place, at the right time.

• Do you have a solo campaign?
Obviously, we have a deep solo campaign taking place in the World War II background. Famous combat scenes, such as the bloody battle of Monte Cassino, or the very well known Operation Overlord, can be reenacted by the players. But we wanted to give a brand new approach of this major event of our century, which is why the solo campaign will give the player the opportunity to experience this story through the eyes of the master strategists who pulled the strings of this world conflict. You’ll discover an adventure where it’s all about manipulation and illusions…

• Any multiplayer modes?
A multiplayer mode is of course available in R.U.S.E. Indeed, the use of manipulation, bluffs, and other tricks to win a confrontation is even funnier when it comes to playing against a real human opponent via the online features. Basically, it’s very rewarding to know that your strategy worked and that you managed to fool the person you’re playing with. It’s truly more exciting than just being able to click a button faster than your opponent to create more units than him, if you know what I’m talking about? (joke). Be sure that we will provide you with more information about the multiplayer modes available in R.U.S.E. soon.

• Why is it the game of deception?
In R.U.S.E., we wanted the player to focus on the core of strategy game. A strategist must observe, analyze, and understand every little step on the battlefield. R.U.S.E. is the game where each player uses their intelligence service to anticipate the moves of their opponent; this makes some information available about the enemy. Deception is also a matter of avoiding being spied on: lying, fainting, hiding, and faking…you’re the only one who decided when it’s time to reveal your real forces! That’s like poker!

• Is R.U.S.E hard to handle?
Absolutely not. R.U.S.E. is easy to pick up and play. In order to create a deep and pure strategy experience, we made a special effort to determine a fine game rhythm that allows the player to analyze, decide, and manipulate without being bothered with the usual tons of displayed information inherent to RTS games. We managed to do it without losing the game depth that is expected by the players. Just as an example, note that there are more than 200 units and buildings with their own details to manage in the game.

• What about the IRISZOOMTM engine? What does it bring to the genre?
First of all, we developed a brand new technology that recreates entire warzones for gamers to play in. Regular RTS games illustrate Operation Overlord by recreating the map of Omaha beach; In R.U.S.E., thanks to the IRISZOOM™ Engine, you will be allowed to operate in the entire area of Normandy…hundreds of kilometers will be available in real time! Three levels of zoom on the battlefield will help you seeing everything in a few seconds with an interface, very simply and clearly.

In conclusion, we can say that you will be given the chance to experience a much larger and true-to-life version of the mythic scenes of WWII than in any other RTS, which really makes R.U.S.E. the ultimate strategy game.

And a press release:

Product Description

Developed by Eugen Systems, creators of the critically acclaimed strategy title Act of War: Direct Action™, R.U.S.E™ is a one-of-a-kind RTS game that allows players to bluff their enemies to lead their nation to victory, controlling the action from the heart of the battlefield to the full theatre of war.

Key Features

Become the master of deception

o Fight a war of perception using recon units & your spying network to gather intelligence on your enemy and then strike at his Achilles heel!
o Use overturning deception skills to mislead your enemy: decoys, camouflage, radio silence, deciphering, intoxication…
o Combine military manoeuvres & cunning stratagems for victory: your brains are the ultimate weapon!
o From captain to the chief in command, live an epic campaign full of manipulation, jealousy & betrayal!

Experience War as a Strategist

o Command a huge spectrum of units : dozens of infantry, vehicles & aircraft units with specific abilities
o Wield executive power : secure revenues, plan units production & launch advanced research programs
o Undermine the enemy strategy by cutting its supply lines & weakening its logistics
o Use the exclusive IRISZOOM® engine as the most intuitive interface to easily identify the balance of power and run into action
o Fight on immense & incredibly detailed maps, the biggest in a RTS: a perfect playground for strategy!

Fool real people is the ultimate thrill

o Test your strategic skills with fast-paced, addictive cooperative & adversarial skirmishes, up to 8 players
o Face unpredictable battle situations & reverse the balance of power by using bluff and deception against your opponents
o Choose your nation between 6 Axis or Allied powers with specific units & abilities

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55 Comments »

  1. Andrew Dunn says:

    I’ll be keeping an eye on this one, I think. Interesting premise, at least, and the macro-scale-but-not-SupCom thing appeals.

  2. Alex says:

    Well, two glaring red flags got thrown up as I started reading the interview: first, another acronym-making-a-word name? Really? I forget who did this first, but whoever it was can go to hell – but everyone who’s imitating them is worse.

    Secondly, ‘the IRISZOOMTM engine’ just reeks of excessive hype, though I find it’s pretty honest of RPS to put it in all-caps rather than use the ™.

    Could be fun, could be another SupCom. Won’t know till it hits shelves.

  3. skizelo says:

    You know what, rats to you Meer. WWII is played out. In fact it’s gone past “played out” straight through “worrying”, “disturbing” and “sad”. It now resides in the elysium fields of unoriginal ideas, where no one can muster up enough energy to penetrate it’s protective cloak of soul-crushing ennui.
    But yeah, this looks good. It’d look better in space.

  4. Heliocentric says:

    That interview was pretty wierdly laid out(joke)

  5. Fumarole says:

    So, finally some strategy in an RTS? Color me intrigued. Awesome trailer to boot.

  6. Rich_P says:

    All in, it’s looking incredibly promising – an RTS that might truly realise the promise of becoming the general grimly pushing pieces across a planning table even as the battle itself rages beneath him.

    Cool.

    EndWar, Ubi’s last console RTS, is utter crap, but assuming the PC version isn’t “compromised,” this sounds extremely interesting. To date, Total War is the only RTS series that makes me feel like a real field commander, even if the AI is somewhat defective. SupCom comes close, but usually collapses under its own RTS-ness (resource management, unit production, expansive unit trees, etc.)

    Has an RTS game ever come up with a winning “battlefield coordinator interface”? The ultimate test, for me at least, is if the game allows me to plan, launch, and direct a D-Day style assault without simply making 3 unit groups and clicking attack move in succession. I want to pull up a map, assign battle groups, draw arrows, set timings, and give the units parameters (“if x, then y”) and watch the battle unfold. I don’t want to even control individual soldiers, only battle groups, but I reckon you’d need top-notch AI to keep your units from being completely worthless.

  7. LewieP says:

    Surely it is “Tom Clancy’s R.U.S.E.”?

  8. Heliocentric says:

    Tom Clancey’s R.U.Z.E – Reality Undergrowth Zone End

  9. Turin Turambar says:

    I have played Panzer General. And Close Combat. And Combat Mission. And Company of Heroes. And Pacific Storm.

    And Sins of a Solar Empire. And Supreme Commander. And Total War games. And more.

    So… is this game something really new?

  10. Jim Rossignol says:

    Arguably World In Conflict was Ubi’s last RTS :)

  11. Sev3rity says:

    Was it just me or did you expect the two guys in the trailer to kiss at the end? Those were some passionate looks they shooting at each other

  12. Gap Gen says:

    I totally agree on SupCom’s ability to remove the majesty from two armies of giant robots blowing each other to pieces. Hell, I didn’t notice how big the Galactic Colossus really was until I watched the parody thing by Rooster Teeth. Hopefully this will manage better.

  13. Turin Turambar says:

    Also, how is the game played? Real time? Turn based? Mix? Are you supposed to play in RT in all the stratetic and tactical levels, and in many warfronts at the same time?

  14. Gap Gen says:

    Also, that is an extremely stylised trailer for an RTS.

  15. Markoff Chaney says:

    At least the little guys and Russians still put out Turn Based Strategos. E:TW is almost pulling me in since my little guys take so long to reload it’s almost like taking turns! WW2 though seems a little fast. I am intrigued by the RUSE system though. Sounds like a nice thing to add strategically.

  16. Rei Onryou says:

    SupCom works better in Skirmish/Replays I expect since you can just watch gloriously huge robotsplosions. But to play it properly, everything had to be zoomed out enough to be shown as a symbol. Still awesome. Must play more of it.

    T.O.M C.L.A.N.C.E.Y.’.S R.U.S.E T.M has potential…

  17. SwiftRanger says:

    SupCom is about constantly zooming in and out, it’s certainly not always a game of dots and if you do try to play it completely from the Strategic View then you’ll lose. It did have 3D terrain but not very steep stuff and certainly not as influential as in TA. The scale never became that clear idd, mostly because trees, rocks and weirdo civilian buildings didn’t bring enough real life to the maps.

    These Ruse screenshots don’t look very convincing but SupCom’s early screens didn’t look good either. The WWII theme might be overdone but plenty of SupCom’s mechanics were rooted in WWII mechanics as well. And Eugen Systems did show promise with Act of War so I am looking forward to this. :)

  18. FhnuZoag says:

    What the fuck is up with that trailer? The guy attacked with landing ships full of zombies, and decided to eschew an invasion altogether in favour of just a ship artillery bombardment?

    That didn’t happen in WWII.

    It did make me want a multi-touch control interface, though.

  19. Tei says:

    @skizelo: I see your “is played out” card, and I raise one “But looks a Company of Heroes”.

  20. Subject 706 says:

    The game itself looks intriguing, moreso if said console versions do not compromise the pc one… but JESUS CHRIST, not WW2 again. Why not Korea? Vietnam? WWIII? Neds vs. Chavs? Anything else than WW2!!!

  21. Stromko says:

    I think the troops on the landing crafts were supposed to be made of clay or something. Or maybe sacks full of goo. It was very oddly animated materials-wise, and it’s not clear how they were held up before the ramps went down.

    Maybe they were wax and their feet were bolted to the floor but they melted from the balmy Atlantic seas. Though I thought the Atlantic and the channel was quite cold. Eh. Lots of odd decisions in that trailer, not fair to criticize just one.

    Like, I wonder if they’re trying to market it mainly to trendy French restaurants with the game set in a table with a multi-touch screen. That appears to be where they’re playing.

  22. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Interesting.

    The first pic looks like a shot from Medieval: Total War (the first of course).

  23. DigitalSignalX says:

    Great trailer, my impression in the HD version was that the first landing wave was just stuffed mannequins used to trick the defender into exposing all his defensive assets for the enemy strike craft.

    I too would like to have seen this in space instead, but what can you do, game companies are deathly afraid of new IP, and here they can at least combine the “security” of a WW2 comfort zone while they try and sell a new RTS style. If it sells like mad, space would likely be a sequel. Maybe after some DLC’s.

  24. cHeal says:

    Great advert if nothing else!

  25. espy says:

    I think they mean “feint”, not “faint”. You wouldn’t want to faint when you should be feinting.

  26. Inanimotion says:

    I love my some Ubisoft.

    Let’s see if they pull it off well though…

  27. bitkari says:

    A new RTS… that’s more strategy than twitch… leading on the PC…. from Ubisoft.

    This can’t be right.

    But in case it is, wooooo! Intrigued!

  28. DCPowerball says:

    Looking good! I like what I see, i hope it delivers to it.

  29. VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    I like the approach to RTS that’s described, intrigued enough to look for more info on this when it comes out. I’m not a big RTS fan, though I am a big fan of board games.

  30. Radiant says:

    That looked FANTASTIC.

  31. Spanish Technophobe says:

    I don’t know why I thought that trailer was hysterical. Maybe it’s the glamor of the setting mixed with the nerdiness of a game for grognards?

  32. KP says:

    I have to say that trailer is awful. Shows nothing of the game. and those two look like tools.

  33. Zyrusticae says:

    Whoa.

    That trailer was… amazing.

    Honestly, very cool stuff. Looking forward to more.

  34. KP says:

    Also, why the supcom hate? I thought the strategic view was awe inspiring. When I pulled back from a heated fight to the silence with the soft music it made me thoughtful of the scale of my plans. :D
    -and anyone who says they played exclusively from strategic view was either bad at the game or didn’t realy play…

  35. Cokesakto says:

    Is this going to be anything like Men of War, where it’s fairly realistic and you can blow everything up, but with a Total War sort of scale? That sounds nigh-on impossible to control. I mean, “I would have to delegate real lieutenants to command individual companies” sort of impossible.

    That said, I always love insane ideas. I hope this gets some attention.

  36. Ben Abraham says:

    But why is it “R.U.S.E.” not just RUSE?

  37. Radiant says:

    R u serious everybody?
    It’s just an acronym.

    I was always wondered what happened to the guys that did Act Of War; that game in itself was balmy.

  38. Radiant says:

    edit please!

  39. Rudolfo says:

    I’d love more round based strategy, hell, any of it would be great. Like in the olden days when I played Battle Isle 1 and 2. Add in superior graphics, strategic gimmicks like cards and use an original setting…not any real war I mean: and it’s consumer:S.O.L.D.

  40. aufi says:

    i’ll agree the dummy animations seemed odd, but i’ll suspend disbelief on the point.

    perhaps the chap was trying to draw out and expose as many of the defensive units as possible, as well as mark the locations of fixed positions as they fire madly upon the fake-landing. this done, he proceeds to give them a good pounding before his real forces land.

    either way, this is a great idea. i hope morale takes some part, too. also surrender. and other dorky strategy wishes.

  41. aufi says:

    also, i think the stylization was perhaps an effort to appear analogous of 2 chaps playing chess, and hence convey the true strategy nature of the game.

    the fella who won seems vaguely reminiscent of Bobby Fischer, to my mind. the other fellow perhaps even more vaguely reminiscent of Spassky. though Spassky was russian. then again, america never fought a conventional war with the USSR, so they made him german.

    um. yeah.

  42. BooleanBob says:

    Looks intriguing, although the deception element strikes me as something that might feel very gimmicky if they don’t have a solidly balanced RTS running alongside it. I wonder how long it will be before it gets its first summary dismissal of just being PwG (Poker with Guns).

  43. MrFake says:

    That trailer makes me want a latte, and I don’t even know what a latte is, but not so much Ruse. Meer’s words do make me want it.

    But I’m still expecting so many trappings of the old guard, and the mention of powers (likely with material cost or cooldown timers) isn’t helping. I’ll suspect another RPSRTS and call pass on it until we get a Wot I Think.

    Oh, was that really an advertisement for the game, or Microsoft’s table-o-impractical-fun?

  44. SlappyBag says:

    Oh my lord I wish that trailer was real, who cares about this RTS we need awesome tables like that!!!

  45. Radiant says:

    And suits!

  46. Derek K. says:

    I myself am holding out for a Roundheads vs Cavaliers RTS.

    In space, of course.

    If nothing else, the idea of actually being able to see enemy orders interests me.

  47. A-Scale says:

    The anti-ww2 people just have weak imaginations.

  48. Serenegoose says:

    yeah, this game looks interesting, and would look more so with a sci-fi context. To be honest, I think that’s what I’d like to see most. a really immersive sci-fi FPS along the same vein of call of duty, rather than the one-man-army route of quake or whatever. a sci-fi RTS that felt ‘realistic’ would be peachy too. doesn’t actually have to be realistic, it could be the total war school of realism.

  49. Tei says:

    How meta!..
    Seems a game about some guys that play a RTS game on a table on future Starchild Cafe. Es a emulation of a emulation!.
    This one will pwn The Sims *and* Starcraft.

  50. Tei says:

    Uh… I sould have read the text of the article, maybe. Please ignore my comment.