The RPS Verdict: R.U.S.E.

By RPS on September 20th, 2010 at 12:37 pm.


Following on from Jim’s individual discussion of RUSE, the RPS high-fiving fraternity elected to spend some time getting to grips with Eugen Systems’ latest RTS, and discovered they rather liked it. It was time for a verdict. But what would the collective verdict be? And were they wise to the tricks and traps the game laid out for them? And why was John on holiday? Did anyone care? There were so many unanswered questions. Read on to discover…

Jim: RUSE: A real-time strategy that seems to have surprised people. Did it surprise you guys? It surprised me.
Kieron: It certainly surprise attack-bonused me. Regularly. But I suspect we’ll get to that.
Quintin: I had no faith whatsoever in it before I played it. Not entirely sure why. So yes, I was surprised. Alarmed, even.

Jim: I suspect it’s a game that lots and lots of people will simply pass over because it’s a strategy, because it’s World War II. But it’s a neat piece of design.
Quintin: That’s just it. It’s neat and inventive in almost every area.
Jim: It has two main categories of neatness: the presentation and the Ruse mechanic itself. And the two are interlinked.
Kieron: I kinda liked Eugen’s previous game, Act Of War, but it was one of the most brainless mainstream RTS games (in single-player, anyway) I’ve ever played. This couldn’t be further from that.
Jim: This is one of those cases where, to a degree, the graphics is the gameplay. And I mean that by the way in which Ruse presents its battlefield. You can see everything, but what you see isn’t necessarily how things are.
Quintin: We should explain the graphics / presentation.
Jim: Now, as people are keen to point out, Ruse isn’t the only game with decoys and such in, but the way it uses them is, I think, unique.
Kieron: It’s the first game since World In Conflict to genuinely feel fresh in that aspect.
Jim: Go ahead Q, explain it up. (It made me mourn World In Conflict, actually.)
Quintin: Sir! Yes sir!


Quintin: When you’re at the most zoomed out, you get a table with a strategic map on it, in some generic WW2 war-room somewhere. You can even swivel the camera and see administration types hard at work. At this point, units are represented by stacks of chips that can be slid around in an enjoyably sticky way. Zoom in, the stacks don’t get bigger, they just slide apart. So, a stack of 8 tanks becomes two. Keep zooming, the chips morph into the actual units. Supersized, so you can pick them out. Keep zooming, and finally you’re looking at a proper battlefield with units sitting there, actual size, and the command room and table are long gone. It’s seamless, and delicious.
Kieron: It’s kind of like that Snow-Crash-idea of VR, applied to WW2. Sliding from information to representation smoothly on a scale. Certainly much slicker than – say – Supreme Commander.
Quintin: It’s slick, but my own personal love of it comes from how immersive it feels. In the loosest sense, you feel that much closer to being a general.
Jim: Immersive is a dangerous word. How do you feel closer to being a general?
Quintin: Sliding chips around, analysing intel, panicking like a bastard.
Kieron: Mainly, panicking like a bastard.
Quintin: With the camera at its most zoomed out, the abstraction and simplification of your battlefield information feels plausible. You know there are “some planes” over there. There is “some artillery” here. You have “a tank force” here.
Jim: Do you guys agree that because of the scale of that map, the pace is peculiar? In that it’s real time, yes, and constantly evolving, but at the same time slower than RTS’ teach you to expect? Of course the intel’s the thing: the planes might not really be there, while others could be that and simply be hidden.
Kieron: The intel is absolutely key – and, yes, the pace is also the thing. It does play slower, in unit movement. But it’s not slower. As in, it’s not as if you ever get a chance to sit back, unless you’re totally out of resources and down to the last few units
Quintin: My problem is actually that it’s too fast. I’d argue that it’s a game that lends itself to chin-stroking, but it’s hopelessly frenetic. It needs a speed slider, a la StarCraft 2.


Jim: It could use a speed slider, yes. But I really, really like the pace it has by default.
Quintin: Which brings us onto the ruse stuff.
Kieron: (Another thing like World in Conflict – its relative lack of interest in the resource game. More so, it’s a game which where most short games will end up with both sides with no resources)
Quintin: Kieron and I were talking about this yesterday. I’m starting to think that ruse’s ruses aren’t anywhere near important enough. It’s not a game of bluffing. It’s an RTS, with this miniature bluffing element added.
Kieron: I think they’re key and important – but they’re tertiary. Top level is unit positioning and control. Second level is build-queue stuff. Third level is the ruses. And you basically master each one in turn.
Jim: Not sure i agree. I played a lot of multiplayer and the Ruse’s almost always played a major role in any victory, for me at least.
Kieron: That’s not what I’m saying.
Jim: The game would be quite dead without them.
Kieron: But it’s not the primary part. If you don’t know how recon work, for example, all the ruses in the world won’t help you. You can win without the ruses, but you can’t win without those 2 higher level skills. Someone with mastery of all three will take you apart, of course.
Quintin: Couple of things people should know about the ruses before we continue. One, they take the form of ‘cards’ that you can play once every few minutes. Some of these cards hide your units, or launch fake attacks. But, and this is the real reason I think they bottled their core concept, lots of the Ruse cards just apply combat bonuses.
Jim: I kind of lumped recon in with the ruses, mentally. I mean the ruse cards aren’t used in isolation. They are tied into the fog of war mechanism, the recon, everything else.
Kieron: Yeah – that’s the thing. The Ruses aren’t ruses. They’re special abilities
Quintin: Right. If the ruse cards were nothing but subterfuge, fakery and spying, this would be a much purer game. But half of them cause penalties to your opponent’s morale and speed up your units. At which point you’re playing an RTS. A really great RTS, with a pleasing, watery flow to its combat, but a straight RTS all the same.
Kieron: They’re basically strategic-level special-ability cards. Even down to the fact the map is divided into specific areas which the abilities effect – that’s frankly boardgame.
Jim: Yes, that was my first response to it. It’s a real-time boardgame.
Kieron: Okay – while we’ve kicked around it for its lack of purity. I think it’s also worth noting that it does put the whole deceptive stuff much nearer the top of the priorties than any RTS I can remember. In most RTS games, the one where you one via stealth is the one you occasionally bring up. In this one, fundamentally, it’s won or lost by stealth.
Jim: Yes, it really claims deception, ambush and sleight of tactics for itself.
Kieron: I mean, the battle Quinns and I had yesterday was hilarious – infantry can capture your bases if they get behind lines, and both of us managed to subvert the others bases, pretty much simultaneously
Quintin: I’ve lost at least one match because I saw a huge stack of tanks coming at me, knew they were fake, spit-and-cardboard contraptions, and then they turned out to be very real indeed.
Kieron: Even the defensive ones are useful – the camoflage netting which hides your manufacturing stuff means that the enemy has no idea what you can build
Jim: Faking the faking is a smart move.
Quintin: That match we had yesterday-
Kieron: Quinns and I were also talking about this – in the way they moved, fake-offensives have a certain look to them
Quintin: Oh yeah I need to take that back.
Kieron: The higher level skill has to be moving tanks to make it look like fake-tanks
Quintin: Turns out you can manoeuvre fake offensives around like regular units.
Kieron: Heh. Man! We suck.


Kieron: Actually, this sort of segues to my main problem with the game.
Quintin: That match we had yesterday, Kieron- I think the highest praise I think I can currently give Ruse is that I lost that match because I didn’t have a plan. I built units, I moved quickly, I threw up a defense, but then what? Then I had nothing. You can’t just build units and push. Ruse doesn’t let you. So your artillery shredded me while I sat staring at the game like it was TV.
Kieron: Oh, those mischievous french
Quintin: Ruse is a strategy game. It’s weird.
Kieron: Okay – that problem with it.
Quintin: “What’s your strategy for this game?” “Oh, I don’t have one.” *panned*
Kieron: Actually – the thing which they do that with is by you being able to build any of the core unit-makers from scratch. As in, you don’t go infantry then tanks then planes then experimental. If you want to, you could go experimental from the off. In other words, there’s got to be a plan there when you go in. ANYWAY! THAT PROBLEM! Despite all this, for a game that’s a co-developed PC/console game, it’s impressively bad at explaining its fine details. Playing it is easy enough. But details are just hidden. The key thing are the sides. As in, you’ve got the Americans, English, French, Italian, Soviets and the Hun. Each one’s buildings build slightly different units. Like, the English get the recon plane for free without having to research it. Problem is, you have to build each building to see what you’re able to build with it. So in a game where each player’s recon units can come from different bases, not knowing which one is which is a real killer. And on a higher level, on the nation selection screen, there’s no notes even in the vaguest ways. Which country is good at turtling? Which one has killer planes? A pop up would solve all that.
Quintin: It’s true that even if they told you what your bases did, you wouldn’t know what your opponent was capable of. This is a very English Verdict, isn’t it? We’re just grumbling. I love this goddamn game.
Kieron: That’s why you need to have the pop-ups on the nation select, so you can get the vague sense of them. Yeah, I love it to death.
Quintin: Haha.


Kieron: It’s got the best artillery since World In Conflict.
Quintin: Jim! You were playing the single player too. What do you make of it? Cutscenes aside, I was really impressed. It’s totally worth buying the game for the singleplayer alone.
Jim: The single player isn’t bad, actually, but it’s not great. But that’s partly the fault of me having played the beta multiplayer extensively first. I found the opening levels slow and irritating, and it was about level 10 before it really picked up for me. That said, some of the huge maps with ongoing battles, that stuff is really impressive. When you are a part of a much bigger engagement, that’s great. A shame about the story it tells, of course, the cutscenes really were rather clonky. And unskippable in places.
Kieron: I admit, I only got onto the second level. I just didn’t have much interest in playing a campaign game with it. That said, I’m also enjoying it as an against-the-AI skirmish game.
Quintin: You should give it time. Or play it on the hardest setting. The scenarios it pits you against are good and varied. After a few missions, it starts testing you.
Kieron: Yeah, but why bother when the MP is so good? That’s the thing. I’m quite pure on this one, oddly.
Jim: Yeah, solo or co-op vs AI, or multiplayer, that stuff is all so well engineered, so hefty and solid. There’s no reason to worry about a campaign that doesn’t quite deliver.
Quintin: Have you guys been feeling really stressed during battles? Or is that just me?
Jim: No, icy calm, as always.
Kieron: Heh.
Quintin: But there’s so much to think about and counter! It’s not just rock / paper / scissors.
Kieron: I’ve been… well, often aware I’m playing sub-optimally. You know – I have 7 ruses and a load of money because I’ve been spending all my time worrying abuot my individual men.
Quintin: I mean, you have infantry, recon, armour, anti-air, artillery, anti-tank, and then a whole seperate pecking order of aircraft. And everything reacts like oil and water with everything else. I can’t keep up!


Kieron: The games often do reach a moment when it’s just all gone full-war crazy. And you can’t actually engineer individual battles as much as you’d like. Which is a lot of fun. Which… well, I dunno about the speed thing. There’s generally plenty of time for you to see your line is crumbling.
Quintin: Which, to go back to my original point, is one of the things that makes me feel more like a general making hard decisions.
Kieron: Yeah – “Oh god. I’m going to lose in 30 seconds. What now?” I should quickly mention the morale system, which is another thing which makes it generally.
Quintin: You look at the tactical map and you immediately see- “Right, he’s lost. That recon unit is toast. That tank detachment will be dead in 20 seconds.”
Kieron: As in, if people get hammered, they rout.
Jim: The morale is really well done, actually. I found myself screaming at my retreating units. They just sort get hurt and back off. And you want to urge them on
Quintin: Hence the Fanaticism ruse. GET BACK IN THERE. See, if this game actually stuck with the ruse idea, the Fanaticism ruse would make your units appear to be static for 20 seconds, allowing you to pull them back. Or something.
Jim: Perhaps we will see more Ruse cards. I mean a DLC type thing would make sense, assuming the game sellss.
Kieron: Yeah
Jim: Also, it’s interesting to note how long the beta was on this one, months and months, and I think that shows in how well engineered the game feels.
Kieron: Your suggestion Quinns… well, that’d be doing something quite different. It never disappears units from LOS.
Quintin: I know, I know, it’s a rubbish suggestion. I’m just trying to convey a point.
Kieron: The heart of the game for me is how it deals with the fog of war. You know – how it walks a line between various “levels” of knowledge. As in, you *can* see all the map. So you can plan. And you know when there’s a big army coming – just not what the army is. When you’re close up, you get perfect knowledge – meaning scouting is still important. However that opens up this whole delicious space for the ruses to operate in.
Kieron: That’s how it differs from a standard RTS, and is why it works so well.
Jim: I think that’s an interesting lesson for games as a whole. Games seldom actually trick or deceive you in any interesting way. Ruse is all about that, and I think it could inspire a few other fun mechanisms. At the very least, RTS games should use recon in a more interesting fashion. (Which the original ground control did, actually.)


Kieron: Yeah.
Quintin: It’s an interesting enough game to make me happy that I’ve abandoned StarCraft 2 for it.
Kieron: It’s certainly much more my sort of RTS game than SC2. It’s much more my sort of toy soldier.
Jim: I’m still playing Men of War. So, gentlemen. Your recommendations to the reading public?
Kieron: Thumbs up!
Quintin: Buy! Buy!
Alec: in a flash of thunder and steel, Meer is here! And I say “Ruse is pretty good, y’all should play it”
Quintin: Man.
Kieron: Man!
Jim: I also say get it. It’s a game that men should play.


Our verdict: SALE!

Kieron: I think it’s my fave RTS of the year so far.
Quintin: I like it more than any RTS I’ve played this year.
Kieron: Even when I beat you?
Quintin: Rematch tonight? MAN.
Kieron: Bring it.

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46 Comments »

  1. Tei says:

    I have bought Act of War *twice*.
    It was a amazing RTS, with cool antivehicle and maps and “endgame” weapons.

  2. TotalBiscuit says:

    Big fan of RUSE and glad to see it appears to be selling pretty well.

  3. -Spooky- says:

    Indeed. Like the huge tabletop style, epic fights and smooth gameplay (no stress, enough time for coffee *g*).

  4. Ian says:

    THE THUMBS!

    Quinns is surely One Of You now, Hivemind?

  5. Danny says:

    The beta left me pretty unimpressed actually. But you know, 4 blue thumbs are making a man doubt himself..

    I ask you this: should I spend those two hours a night on RUSE, or KB: Crossworlds? (equal love for TBS and RTS)

    • battles_atlas says:

      Similar, I didn’t mind the demo, but wasn’t entirely convinced. This has got me changing my mind. Still, it will have to wait its turn until after I’ve had my fill of Civ V, sometime in 2013

    • subedii says:

      Yeah the singleplayer demo left me nothing if not kind of bored. For atmosphere and style (and overall singelplayer quality) Company of Heroes felt far better.

      I will also say that CoH clearly has the best artillery in a WW2 game. Clearly I say!

      If I were to pick this up, it would have to be for the multiplayer, but right now I’m more questioning between either this or Men of War. And well, there’s other RTS’s I’m into on the online-side at the moment, so having a damp squib of a singleplayer campaign certainly put me off a bit.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, I didn’t enjoy the beta at all. Though that could have been due to not really understanding what I was doing. Had the demo installed for quite a while but can’t motivate myself to try it.

  6. Philip L says:

    Wow, I certainly wasn’t expecting it to be better than Starcraft 2! It must’ve changed a lot since the beta.

  7. Ken says:

    There is some terribly jarring grammar in this article. It would have been worthwhile to proofread it before publishing.

    I’m enjoying the opening section of RUSE on the PS3 at the moment. As a weak RTS player, I would appreciate if the tutorial pop-ups stayed on screen until I press a button to dismiss them. As things stand, the tips disappear too fast and before I can relate to what was said, another tip pops up. Playing catch-up in a tutorial is weird. I agree with the suggestion of a speed slider for the game in general.

    - Weak player who enjoys the genre.

  8. Gary Numan says:

    When are we getting a new World In Conflict game dammit?!

    What are Massive up to these days anyway?

  9. Mike says:

    Quinns’ drawing abilities has really come along this year. We’re hoping he’ll consider the subject for GCSE.

  10. Wilson says:

    I think this game is definitely something you get to like after playing it for a bit. I haven’t bought it yet, but I enjoyed the betas a lot, so it’s on my ‘to buy’ list. I just really liked the feel of it, it felt very natural and smooth (as Quintin mentions with his talk of ‘watery flow’). It is innovative and different, but it feels so comfortable that it isn’t obvious.

  11. laikapants says:

    I really need to take more jabs at RUSE, my burgeoning CivAddiction kept me away from it last week. Hopefully this time I won’t end up in a 3v3 60 minute long Turtle battle.

  12. Heliocentric says:

    I have a question. It was suggested people play on hard, but one of my furious hatreds of strategy games is when the enemy cheat (spawn units when you’ve wiped out resources, magic micro enemies which dodge even when attacked in 3 places on the map where your own units sit stupid.)

    On hard does the enemy get smarter? Or just stronger, richer and faster?

  13. Xercies says:

    I played this and i have to agree sometimes there is way to much to think about especially battle fronts. i played the Demo and I was just overwhelmed when it asked me to go against two different sides, my brain was like “ah! can’t handle this” by the end of the demo i hadn’t really used really any Ruses since i was just focusing on my men all the time.

    I think its a good game but i don’t think its my kind of game if it gets even more hectic then the demo.

  14. Alexander Norris says:

    I’m kind of in two minds about this.

    On the one hand, it seems to be a genuinely good and fairly innovative oldschool RTS for all the people who moan whenever a new RTT comes out, so I’m sort of sad that it’s most likely going to end up being completely overlooked coming out this close to SC2. On the other, it’s Ubisoft, so I’d sort of like them to be punished for the fucking atrocious DRM idea, even though Ruse doesn’t use it.

    It’s an RTS, though, so I will never, ever enjoy it, and the most good I can personally say about it is that the menus are really pretty.

  15. sexyresults says:

    bought it you bastards

  16. Boldoran says:

    I am torn between this and Civ V. I think Ruse deserves support for the time they took to balance it (I played the beta) and for the fresh Ideas they introduced while Civ V even took some things out that I liked in the predecessor (religion in particular). On the other hand Civ has always been a great game series and introduced many people to the joys of turn based strategy.

    Most likely I will buy Civ and get Ruse at a later date or maybe bundled with their first expansion (assuming there will be one). Still hope this sells well until then.

  17. zipdrive says:

    Sounds Extra-aswesome. I also think there’s a lot of potential for expansion/DLC with more armies and more Ruse cards.

    Rob Zacny had something interesting to say about his disappointment from the game, though, on GWJ:
    http://www.gamerswithjobs.com/node/51699

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah – SPed that on Sunday. Another reason why I haven’t given the campaign any time.

      KG

    • Pew says:

      The campaign is pretty awful and mediocre, but I’m glad multiplayer is actually good. Maybe one day I’ll give it a try!

      All the Ruses you needed in the campaign were spies and camoflage/radio silence. Most of the others were kind of pointless or unnessary. Of course you still use them because you get plenty of Ruse points…

    • DrGonzo says:

      That’s just convinced me out of buying it. I enjoy Skirmishes but I don’t want to buy it just for that, and I’m absolutely poo at multiplayer strategy.

    • SheffieldSteel says:

      @zipdrive

      Thanks for the link. This in particular stood out, and I think it bears repeating…

      Eastern Europe’s pointedly foreign game industry offers a glimpse of what’s possible when developers do more than mimic the work of their American counterparts. The allure of games like STALKER, Metro 2033 and The Witcher is not simply based on gameplay, but the way they take us on a tour of other people’s experiences, beliefs, and anxieties. Eastern European developers have embraced games as fiction, rather than as interactive versions of films we’ve all seen.

  18. Spinoza says:

    The Great Four love the game I’ve attempted to play and immediately despised. Goodbye world ,the blue oceans , dark forests and green pastures, goodbye.*sigh*

  19. mavvvy says:

    Bought this recently and been playing it alot (in between furious sessions of minecraft and league of legends).

    What I find most enjoying, is that the game seems to capture the eb and flow of a battle really well, more so on the larger maps.

    In a game last night I sent 18 soviet infantry units (Which seem to build faster then other nations infantry) to their death to defend my weak flank, against an enemy tank spearhead supported with infantry and artillery. It was a panic build as the German armour managed to get in firing range of my base, but my fanatic soviet troops pushed them back with almost 100% casualtiies. “Not one step back”

    To note early russian troops in the game only get molotov cocktails as their anti-tank weapon so they are somewhat limited in their tankbusting abilities.

    The ploy

  20. Torgen says:

    Played the MP beta some, until I learned it would have UbiDRM, and quit in disappointment. Now that it’s plague-free, I really should buy it. SO many games yet to be played, thanks to reading RPS (you bastards!)

    Perhaps a fan letter to the devs will suffice until I can purchase this.

  21. Choca says:

    RUSE is freat fun in multiplayer, the campaign is rubbish though

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    Even down to the fact the map is divided into specific areas which the abilities effect – that’s frankly boardgame.
    Jim: Yes, that was my first response to it. It’s a real-time boardgame.

    This is what I loved about the beta. I’m definitely picking Ruse up when I get my internet connection running again.

  23. Jimbo says:

    God dammit, Bannon!

  24. tyrspawn says:

    The “Ruses” seem like such a damn gimmick. You won’t know a real ruse until you play Highway to the Reich in multiplayer. That’s a game where you can really trick your opponent into thinking you are doing one thing while you do another.

  25. Mehoo says:

    Anybody know of any good community sites for this game? Howcome there’s no gamereplays.org portal?

  26. neems says:

    As mentioned, the campaign isn’t great – it does pick up after a while, but as soon as you start getting into skirmish / multiplayer you lose interest in the single player game.

    Although I’m not entirely up to speed regarding the different teams, I’ve found that playing skirmish / multi as random is a good way to learn. I’m also a big fan of playing limited conflicts eg 1939 tech only, or whatever. Although that can throw up some interesting problems – some nations don’t have anti-tank technology, others have very limited air forces etc etc.

    All in all, I’m impressed – I’ve already played more of this than Starcraft 2.

  27. mypenisrules says:

    Can you say next mini game for WoW?

  28. Undecided says:

    I have to say, given that I’ve now played 5-6 levels into the SP, I am asking myself why this game has bothered with closeup models of their units.

    It’s worse than with other RTS games. Here, you are quite literally required to constantly be semi-zoomed out to the macro-map, just in order to keep an eye on the overall happenings and properly ambush-flank-reinforce.
    So, in turn, all you are playing is “move the buttons”, with buttons being the button representation of a unit. Close up combat this is not. So the “it’s a boardgame in RT” ala Risk comparison is right on.
    It’s you, moving buttons over a board in a preferably winning type of fashion.
    And winning is, so far, still terrifyingly easy.

    And, I suspect, it will remain so and only be hampered by the lack of a true “tactical” pause system which lets you pause and give orders. So difficulty won’t be set by actual difficulty, but by “How fast can you click, suckaaaaa”.
    Which, for me, loses the one advantage SP had over MP, i.e. not being forced to compete with flying on a sugar-high madmen that click about on their mice faster than a hungry woody woodpecker.

    So this has me worried. I also couldn’t give less of a toss of the excuse for the so called “plot”, but that’s no surprise these days and only of little relevance for the actual strategy game.

    That I load 90% of textures and LOD for on real reason is a bit more annoying though.
    And I’m already starting to suspect that you can eventually severely exploit the AI once you get a grasp of the rockpaperscissorruse thing.

    I would definitely recommend this more in the direction of people looking to play this online rather than those expecting epic SP stuff.

    The Total War series still has far more epic sized battles and immersion in terms of graphical glory and fine details like morale etc, and the Hearts Of Iron series will give a similiar macro approach to warfare without the pretense of a high-end 3D game that never really shows. And Arsenal Of Democracy(effectively a bit of a modded HOI2) is currently 6$ on D2D.

    But if RUSE turns 6$ some day, by all means, that’s a buy.

  29. neofit says:

    I started reading, with a bit of hope, that maybe I had missed something, and RUSE wasn’t the usual silly RTS like the Blitzkriegs and Men of War, with their mindless units and tanks shooting at twice their length. Maybe it’s like a “Close Combat” or “Theater of War” game? Then I stumbled upon “build-queues”, thank god not too far into the article. Thanks for the info, Ctl-W’ing now, sorry for the bother :).

  30. OoiTY says:

    I have no idea why everyone is griping about the single player. I quite enjoyed it, the cutscene were quite stylish, abeit unskippable at times. Of course, this is coming from me, who thought the story of SCII was great.

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