Have You Played… RUSE?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.

Real-time strategy games seem to be a dying artform, which is a shame given that Eugen System’s RUSE provided a perfect roadmap for where they might want to go.

RUSE was an RTS inspired by poker, about deceiving and being deceived through subterfuge.

Was that column of tanks approaching to your east real, or an illusion created by misinformation? Was that territory to your south real empty, or was it simply being plunged into darkness in preparation for a devious ambush? By using powers across regions of the board, you attempted to convince your friends you were deploying one strategy when your real plan tightened around them like a noose.

This made for tense, smart matches, where tactical thought was rewarded more than macro- or micro- actions per minute.

It’s a real shame the game didn’t seem to catch on. Ubisoft published it but there’s never been a sequel, and Eugen instead turned to their – admittedly beloved, but to me impenetrable – Wargame series. I still hold out hope for more strategy like this, however, which felt more like a boardgame for the way it played with social dynamics, than yet another hopeless retread of Command & Conquer.

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41 Comments

  1. cauldron says:

    It doesn’t seem to be available at Steam anymore.

    • Appendix says:

      They seem to have lost the right to some of the IP (weapons/tanks) and UBVIsoft refused to renew it.
      Therefore; no more RUSE to buy

      • Jekhar says:

        That’s also the reason Sega pulled their recent Outrun and Afterburner iterations from online stores. Bullshit like this really sucks about our new online retail landscape.

        • Strazz says:

          That’s also the reason Sega pulled their recent Outrun and Afterburner iterations from online stores. Bullshit like this really sucks about our new online retail landscape.

          How so? Even before online retail, they would have simply stopped publishing the game if they no longer had the rights. You still have access to the game, and if you purchased a digital copy, you can redownload.

          • GomezTheChimp says:

            I can`t: it`s disappeared from my Steam library.

          • Xocrates says:

            @GomezTheChimp: You sure? Mine’s still there. Look up your library for R.U.S.E with the dots. “ruse” will not actually find it.

          • Jason Lefkowitz says:

            It’s still in my library too — just played it the other day. So if you bought it before it fell out of the storefront, you should still have it.

          • Jekhar says:

            Yes, i still can access my copy of Outrun. But i stupidly didn’t buy Afterburner Climax while it was available. Now i can’t get it anymore. Had it been a retail game, i would still be able to find it in bargain bins or on amazon/ebay. But as it was an online only release, it’s gone forever for me.

    • Chiron says:

      Time to go to the Bay of Pirates then I suppose?

      It was a good game, wasn’t that great outside of the Ruses but I’d love to see some subterfuge or cards like this make there way into one of Eugens Wargame series in a small way.

    • Warduke says:

      Interestingly you can still buy Steam keys on Amazon and activate the copy on Steam… I just tried it and it works.

      • GenialityOfEvil says:

        It’s only selling the game that they’re not allowed to do, the games themselves are still legal to own and technically the keys on Amazon were already sold. It’s a nifty little loophole where this kind of stuff doesn’t affect retailers. Sadly, digital storefronts don’t buy the keys upfront, they’re just given the ability to generate them and then pay for them later.

  2. tigerfort says:

    I tried it, and I really wanted to love it – here was the intelligence and misinformation heavy RTS I’d always wanted – but it just didn’t click.

  3. Dominic Tarason says:

    Oddly enough, I found the Wargame series (at least the first two – naval combat is perhaps a bridge too far) more accessible than Ruse. There’s fewer moving parts and simpler objectives. It’s just a little more realistic in its engagement ranges and line-of-sight systems.

    • Jason Lefkowitz says:

      I’m with Graham on this one; I loved R.U.S.E. but bounced off the Wargame series (despite multiple attempts to grok it) myself, mostly because Wargame replaced R.U.S.E.’s straightforward interface and big, easy-to-find units with a baffling array of buttons and units the size of pixels that got swallowed up by the map.

      It’s too bad, because I loved the theme of the Wargame titles and wanted to like them so badly. But I just could not get past how hard they were to get into.

      • hamilcarp says:

        I bounced off RUSE but fell in love with Wargame. I’m not going to pretend the game isn’t impenetrable, it took me 3 years before I could consistently win in multiplayer. I The combat is relatively simple without the ruse system but the huge variety of units allows more tactical flexibility than any RTS I know of. While Red Dragon has its fair share of issues, I can safely say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had in multiplayer RTS.

        • defunct says:

          I played a lotta RUSE. I really wanted to love Wargames afterwards because of it. I kept trying and it kept beating me down. I was told to try multiplayer because it was easier!! (seriously??) Three years of my life to find out if I’m any good at a game? No thanks!

          • hamilcarp says:

            Fortunately, even when I was bad at the game it was still incredibly fun, or else I wouldn’t have stuck with it.

  4. Jakkar says:

    I’d much rather these systems were permitted to emerge naturally, as they would from a proper battle simulator of adequate scale.

    RUSE was a symbolic, board-game attempt to force these systems through within a simplistic framework.

    Scale up a simulation like Men of War to the level of Supreme Commander in years to come, implement the necessity of communications/transmissions/signal jamming, all the basics of intelligence, and these elements of gameplay will become not only possible but vital to success.

    • Chiron says:

      Stop stop, I can only get so erect.

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        cockpisspartridge says:

        I was hoping for an Archerism in this article. I’ll go with ‘Hey, it’s the 1930’s. can we have our words and shitty airplane back?’. haha.

  5. Shadow says:

    “Real-time strategy games seem to be a dying artform”

    Uh, what?

    • Mokinokaro says:

      Starcraft 2 and Wargame are the only big rts franchises still around sadly. Well Dawn of War 3 too I suppose.

      We do see some strong efforts from smaller studios but the genre just is too complicated for newbies to really break into the esport scene which is what most rts devs try for.

      • Jakkar says:

        I think the distinction here is ‘RTS’/’RTT’ – you’re talking about games that are loosely ‘real-time tactics’, i.e. very small-scale battles in which you influence the movement of individual units to achieve short term goals without reference to the bigger theatre – or without that theatre actually existing.

        RTS, while misattributed in general, is something some are trying to properly apply more to the bigger, slower and more thoughtful games in which you may or may not have micro control over skirmishes but guide multiple battles over a larger theatre – strategy, rather than small unit tactics.

        RUSE and the Wargames (sounds like a good band) lean more toward RTS in the true sense of ‘strategy’.

      • Shadow says:

        Yes, there’s Starcraft 2 and Wargame, and there’s also Company of Heroes 2, the upcoming Dawn of War 3, Cossacks 3, and this year saw the release of Act of Aggression and that not-SupCom from Stardock, off the top of my head. There’s also the Total War games, which are turn-based/realtime hybrids and remakes of Age of Empires II and Rise of Nations. There’s a number of minor RTS games as well.

        RTS games exist in a smaller volume, but just because the genre isn’t overflowing with shovelware like RPG and Action are doesn’t mean it’s dying. Random journalists have claimed strategy in general has been dying for years on end now. But nevertheless, there it is. Even turn-based strategy, allegedly more endangered, keeps ticking with games like XCOM 2, Endless Legend and the upcoming Civ6 and that game from the original X-COM creator, Julian Gollop.

        As for “RTT”, it’s an attempt to further sub-classify certain games, but ultimately RTS is the greater term, and any RTT is in essence an RTS.

        • Kamalen says:

          Consider that StarCraft 2 just pass the 6 years mark ! In a 6 years timeframe, only a dozen good RTS is awfuly low.

          Not only that, but except big names like Blizzard and Sega, the genre sells quite badly ; and as a result, in Age of Agression or Grey Goo, population deserted in weeks despite sales.

          The genre is not really in great health at all, that is not just a random journalists call

          • Borreh says:

            I’m a genre fan since first playing C&C Tiberian Dawn in 1997 and I’ve found RTS, if anything, to be regaining popularity in recent years. The success of Starcraft 2 surely helped, true, but there’s quite a lot of more-or-less RTS games being released nowadays. The only catch here is that RTS became a niche genre. A steady niche judging by the amount of games coming out, nothing that seems to break sales records, but the there’s enough interest to keep the games coming.

            Just from the recent years: Starcraft 2 with two expansions, Dawn of War 2 with a ton of expansions, Company of Heroes 2 (very popular), Planetary Annihilation, Ashes of the Singularity, Grey Goo, RUSE and the entire Wargame series, Act of Agression (twice, in fact), constantly updated Sins of a Solar Empire, and from the smaller studios we’ve got Etherium, 8-Bit Armies, Crush Your Enemies, Tooth and Tail, Meridian: New World and its sequel Meridian: Squad 22…

            That’s a LOT of games for a “dead” genre.

    • Xocrates says:

      Back in the 90’s you couldn’t move for the things, and they had a significant presence in the AAA space.

      Nowadays you can count them by the fingers of one hand.

  6. Xocrates says:

    So, I see a column of enemy tanks moving down a road to an intersection surrounded by forest. I order a group of troops that are currently right next to said forest to move into it so that I can set an ambush.

    Meanwhile I go do some micro-ing elsewhere, upon which I hear alerts that my troops are under attack.

    Turns out, that despite my troops being right next to the forest, they decided the best course of action to enter it was to follow the road around it, through the intersection, and into direct line of fire of the enemy tanks.

    I didn’t play much after that.

    • feamatar says:

      Too lazy to play at least 1 campaign mission or a tutorial, or just to read anything about the game, so giving up instead. My favourite reason to stop playing games, yeah.

      • Xocrates says:

        This happened in a campaign mission, of which I played a fair bit of.

        Also, I posted this here as an example of of the straw that broke the camel’s back. I wasn’t impressed by the game by that point since I found it fiddly to play while not being particularly deep, with many of the Ruses existing to compensate for stuff they removed in relation to more standard RTSs.

        I could have developed my point more, and considered to do so, but thought that removed impact from that particular anecdote.

        But no, I’m clearly just an idiot that didn’t play the game. So thanks for that piece of incisive commentary.

        • Jakkar says:

          Don’t acknowledge the trolls, you know it feeds them.

        • batraz says:

          Hard the same experience as Xocrates ; felt like soldiers were acting randomly, which undermined all my bold strategic moves… But maybe it was just some menu I never found.

          • feamatar says:

            I didn’t meant to troll, but isn’t there 2 movement like 1 road and 1 direct just like in Wargames? It was a long time ago, and most of my memories are from that game.

          • Xocrates says:

            I don’t think there was. Google doesn’t seem to know anything about it, and given that the game was on consoles it’s likely that they kept them quite simple.

            I think you could set waypoints, but other than that a move order only caused the units to find the fastest path and take it, which was made worse in that I’m pretty sure move commands were always represented by a straight line.

    • Jakkar says:

      It is an awkwardly forced game… Yet the basics don’t work very well under the clever gimmick and nice presentation. Gameplay just wasn’t very precise, ergonomic or viscerally satisfying.

      It was a good idea that would have better waited for technology to catch up – it should have been for tablets, ideally 10″+ models, rather than played on a screen like a conventional PC strat.

  7. Jason Lefkowitz says:

    The great irony of R.U.S.E. was that it was a great game despite its central “ruse” mechanic, which they built all the marketing and much of the game design around, turning out in practice to be a great big nothingburger. I never found the ruses to be the kind of game-changing element that the designers clearly thought they would be. But the gorgeous maps, dead-simple UI and elegant rock-paper-scissors unit design made for fun play even if you completely ignored the ruse mechanic.

    Sadly the lesson Eugen seems to have taken from R.U.S.E.‘s failure was that all those nice things needed to go, so in the Wargame series they replaced them with drab maps, convoluted interface and ten zillion units distinguished from each other by tiny stats differences. And that seems to have worked out pretty well for them sales-wise, so it’s unlikely we’ll ever see anything as approachable as R.U.S.E. from them again in the future.

    • All is Well says:

      I’m a bit perplexed by your recurring point that the Wargames suffer from a “convoluted interface” and a “baffling array of buttons” (from above). I mean, sure, it takes detailed knowledge about the game to tell how a M1A1 Abrams is supposed to differ from a M1A2 or M1A1(HA), but I thought the interface itself was fairly straightforward, and even a bit minimalistic – there’s only a handful of static interface buttons. The only overwhelming/cluttered part would be the unit icons, because there are often lots of units on the screen at the same time. But even then, those are very clear and informative, having an icon to indicate unit type and the name of the unit. What RTS interface do you find acceptable or at least less convoluted, if I may ask?

  8. tangoliber says:

    It was the best 1v1 RTS I ever played. I got tired of explaining why, though, so I won’t get into it. But when playing 1v1 on ranked maps, it was perfect in pacing and strategy. I played about 400 hours, and I felt like every 100 hours I went through an epiphany and completely changed the way I viewed the game’s strategy.
    The campaign and the large multiplayer maps weren’t very good, though.

  9. MrUnimport says:

    Everything I’ve seen of Ruse suggests it’s a clumsy proto-Wargame that attempts to graft weird region-based superpowers onto an RTS that isn’t nearly as abstract under the hood, with all sorts of strange UI bells and whistles that serve mainly to make it look like a mobile game when it really isn’t. Especially egregious is the manner in which units physically group up into stacks when the player zooms out, making their actual positions on the table unclear at any sort of altitude. I’ve never seen an RTS engage in this sort of quantum uncertainty before and for good reason.

  10. Szhival says:

    For me both RUSE and World in Conflict are games that really should be continued, if not in name, then at least in idea.