So I’ve been playing the beta version of R.U.S.E. for a while. R.U.S.E. is an amazingly cool game, even if the developers don’t understand that everyone forever will call it “Ruse”.
Ruse is a Real Time Strategy game with a significant focus on strategy and pissing the hell out of other people. This makes it the perfect thing to play online. Unlike most RTS games, Ruse doesn’t require much in the way of frantic clicking and micromanagement. The way to win is careful planning, deception, and understanding your enemy. The basic gameplay is simple, but the possible variations on the simple mechanics make things shine. The gameplay is slow enough to allow for strategy while also giving players enough to do moment-to-moment that it never becomes boring. And in a frankly amazing twist it actually appears almost perfectly balanced out of the box. There’s no one strategy that you see time and again, no one unit people build like it’s going out of style. It’s my new favorite competitive multiplayer game.
The basic game is building and moving little tanks/soldiers/airplanes from a wide strategic view, positioning them on the board in a way that will make them most effective. In fact, when you zoom out they turn into little board-game tokens. You can surmise most of the simpler rules. Tanks beat soldiers, soldiers beat anti-tank junk, planes beat tanks/soldiers, but die to Anti-Air.
There are a lot of little wrinkles, though. One is that units aren’t simply “better” or “worse” than one another. Those tiny soldiers there? If they hide in the city ahead, and position their little RPG launchers, a column of tanks could be reduced to so much scrap metal if they try to rumble through. Unless, that is, those vile Axis have some aerial recon planes up spotting for them. Then they just reduce those clever troops to paste from a good distance. This is how the game gets complicated, simple rules interacting in strategically important ways.
Then there are the titular “Ruses”. Basically, they’re devices designed to get people on the internet to question your sexual preferences. With a ruse you can hide your troops, make your tanks look like soldiers and vice-versa, create a decoy army or airforce, make booby-trapped decoy buildings that kill anyone who tries to capture them, see your enemy’s plans and orders, or any number of incredibly mean things. You could, for example, create a dummy army to attack from the left, then place a small force on the right and a large invisible force behind the dummies on the left. On the attack you push with your left force and your dummies. Your enemy feels like a clever boy because he recognizes that only one of these attacks is real, and goes for the left force. Then you attack with your reserve army when his troops have been drawn away and he kindly asks what specific kind of homosexual you are.
Ruse was completely off of my radar for a long time, because RTS + WW2 screamed generic to me. But after downloading the demo I have to say it scratches an itch I didn’t even know I had. Ruse is a computer game for people who like board games. Tokens, strategy, anger, and impeccable balance combine into something lovely. I highly recommend you at least give it a try when a demo comes out, or download the beta version from Steam, which should be available for a few more days.
P.S. If you’ve ever played Diplomacy, I’m sorry for the friends you lost, and this is a lot like that but in real time and doesn’t take 20 hours to play.