Saturday, March 31, 2012

R.U.S.E - Review

Version Reviewed: ??? Latest Steam version as of review.
What I like: Slower pace than many RTSs. Beautiful landscape and useful zoom feature.
Not So Much: I’m getting too old for RTSs. Still gets hectic at times.
Other stuff you may like: Many play modes, multiplayer available.
The Verdict: B- (Good )

About my reviews

Official site:

With all of the recent talk about Eugen Systems’ recent offering, Wargame: European Escalation, I decided it was high time to finally play their older game, R.U.S.E. I had purchased it long ago during one of Steam’s sales and it languished in my library. Surprise! R.U.S.E. is a RTS set in WWII. You will command a familiar set of units - infantry, tanks, AT guns, artillery, etc. to meet your objectives. It’s slower pace may not appeal to those who enjoy hyperactive RTS, but may be appreciated by those who desire a more deliberate pace. While multiplayer exists, I didn’t exercise that aspect of the game at all as I am almost exclusively a single-player gamer. Like many of the games I review, multiplayer fans probably will get more out of the game than me as the mechanics themselves are enjoyable. Maybe my site should be One Guy, Too Many Single-Player Games Even When Multiplayer Is Offered.

Getting Started
The manual is fairly light, but does cover enough to get a good understanding of the game. The campaign acts as an extended tutorial, so those with prior RTS experience could jump right into the campaign. I’m rather anal when it comes to documentation so I preferred to read the manual even if not strictly necessary. The mechanics are not complicated at all to understand.

A 23 scenario story-driven campaign is available, along with battles, operations, and online multiplayer. The campaign uses cut scenes between missions to tell the story of your rise through the ranks as an American officer. Some scenarios seem to be loosely based, at least in spirit, upon real WWII operations and settings. This is not a historical strategy game per say, but more in the style of a WWII based action movie. The story was not that intriguing, but passable. The worst aspect was that the protagonist, who we are playing, was not that likeable. At times, I wished the game would let me choose his actions so I didn’t have to play such a jerk. Since this is a RTS and not a RPG, I just had to sit back and watch. The short scenarios can be completed in about 10 minutes, with some longer ones closing in on an hour. The campaign slowly introduces new units and ruses to the player. I played the campaign on hard and it didn’t get challenging until the 13th-18th scenario. After that there were several I found challenging. Once of the cool effects in the campaign is seeing battles ranging on in surrounding regions. It does nothing for game play, but makes the player feel part of something bigger.

Battles are engagements against the AI and have several parameters to adjust the play to your liking. Over 20 maps of various sizes are available to choose from, which determines the maximum number of players. The player can select a large map that supports 8 players, but leave some of the slots empty to create a wide open battlefield. Battles can be every man for themselves or split into teams. The time period defines the weaponry available and a time limit can be set so the game doesn’t go on indefinitely. Like campaign scenarios, operations are won by meeting objectives, but some of these objectives are just to outscore your opponents. Assets may already be present on the map at the start of an operation instead of the clean slate found in the battles. To be honest, I only touched on the battles and operations. After playing through the campaign for 30 to 40 hours, a handful of battles and an operation were enough for me. Since RUSE is a pretty good game I may revisit those aspects at a later date for my own enjoyment, but I tend to have a fairly short attention span. At times the AI seemed a little hampered in the campaign and more fluid in the battles.

Points are accumulated for your score by meeting objectives, destroying enemy units, and capturing or destroying enemy buildings. Victory in battles and some operations are determined by your score.

Game Play
Combat occurs on beautiful landscapes, crisscrossed with roads and rivers, painted with fields and forests. Attractive graphics don’t make a good game, but they sure do help. The player can zoom in to focus on one aspect of the battlefield, or zoom out to take in the big picture. This seamlessly morphs the display into a commander’s battle plan table. As the player zooms out, units in close proximity to each other combine to form stacks, which can be directed as a group. Zoom back in to order individual units. This works for the most part and is a great feature. Sometimes I did find I had to zoom in more than I wanted to get the units to separate enough to select, but it wasn’t a big deal. The last game I can remember that had such as useful zoom is Hegemony: Philip of Macedon.

Resource Management

Supplies fuel the war machine, and without enough you won’t field enough troops to win. Except for a small number of campaign scenarios, supplies are gained by building depots on special locations, after which supply trucks trickle back to your base to deliver supplies for use. Supply trucks always travel by road and are vulnerable to enemy attack, making good targets to disrupt the enemy. The AI will take advantage of unsecured supply lines. If a supply depot is destroyed, the location is free to be claimed by building another depot. Constantly destroying enemy depots can drain the resources of the owner, since the depot costs supply to build. Better yet, send in your infantry to capture the depot which will then fuel your war efforts. You do need to be careful with your resource management because if you don’t have the supplies to build a depot, you can’t claim the supply locations to generate more supply. Your headquarters usually generates a small amount of resources, but this didn’t always happen during the campaign. A couple times my carelessness forced me to restart as I couldn’t generate any new supplies.


In the campaign the player primarily leads the American forces, but during other modes of play there are 6 countries to choose from (Japan was also added via DLC). Before a particular unit type is constructed, the player must build its corresponding base (infantry and recon, artillery and anti air, armor, anti tank, airfield, and prototype for more powerful units). Once a base is placed for construction, headquarters sends out a construction unit to the location. This unit travels by road to reach the destination and can be destroyed by the enemy. Unit construction occurs pretty quickly, so planning in advance usually isn’t that critical. Many units can be upgraded to a stronger class, such as light infantry to rangers.

Units follow the rock, paper, scissor approach, but with some adaptations depending on the circumstances. Infantry is good vs. other infantry, but if hidden in cities or forests can ambush units, allowing them to down more powerful foes. Tanks beat infantry, AT guns beat tanks, etc. Units are rated for their effectiveness at fighting infantry, armor, airpower, and destroying buildings.

How Foggy Is the Fog of War?
Each side can see the location of all of the enemy units, but there are nuances to the system. If an enemy unit isn’t in your line of sight, you only get a general idea of what the unit is. When a unit is in your line of sight its exact type is revealed. Infantry and some of the other units can be hidden in cities and forests. These units are not revealed at all until they launch an ambush, or are spotted by an enemy unit. Recon units excel at discovering hidden units with their large line of sight, making them very valuable. Some of the ruses also alter these rules and will be covered later. Ground line of sight is interrupted by buildings and forests, while air recon doesn’t have that limitation.


Ruses represent the deception and misinformation of war. Every couple of minutes each side is granted a ruse to deploy, which can be banked for later use. The map is divided up into sectors and a ruse only affects one sector. Two ruses can be deployed in a given sector at the same time. There are 10 ruses in all and range from deploying fake buildings and assaults, hiding your units or buildings from the enemy if they don’t have line of sight, seeing enemy orders and units, increasing your unit speed, ordering your units to fight to the death, and reducing the morale of the enemy. Ruses didn’t have as big a role in victory as I would have thought they would, but are definitely helpful. In my opinion ruses should be slightly more powerful and less abundant, so they are special.  


Combat is pretty simple, select your units and click on the target. Before committing to the attack, the UI gives you an idea for your chances of success. Units automatically engage enemies within their range of fire. A unit will try to withdraw from battle once too much damage is inflicted upon them. If they can relocate to a safe spot to recover, the unit can return to battle. Since there isn’t a strength or combat readiness value, I assume they return at full strength. Since this recovery period isn’t very long, morale is definitely handled as one might expect in an RTS and not a more serious wargame.

User Interface
The UI is pretty typical for a well-done RTS. Panning, rotating and zooming the map are all easily accomplished. Building units is also made simple. Select the unit from the ever-present menu, or use the appropriate hotkey and click the spot where you want the unit to deploy to. No panning the view back to the base is necessary.

The UI displays all of the relevant information the player needs to track: supply balance, number of ruses available, what ruses are deployed and how much more time is left before they expire, how much time is left in the scenario, and the current score.

Planes can be quickly selected to attack enemy units and buildings and return to their airfield when out of ammo or fuel. All in all the UI assists the player with the management if their units.

There are scripted moments in the campaign that cause a change of view which is sometimes disruptive. It is compounded if it occurs when trying to produce units or give orders. It occurred enough to annoy, but not to totally ruin the experience.

Difficulty and AI

As mentioned earlier, the campaign was pretty easy until the later scenarios, even when playing on the hard difficulty setting. In the campaign at times the AI would attack with forces much too weak to cause significant damage, and wouldn’t claim some of the supply depots. I didn’t notice these issues in the battles. Perhaps the campaign scripting prevented the AI from making optimal choices. On hard, the AI did best me a couple times in the battles and was pretty aggressive.

Graphics and Sound
The terrain is quite attractive and is quite a sight both zoomed out and at close range. The unit models are detailed enough but aren’t in the same league as the terrain. Frequent verbal alerts are given when buildings are complete, a unit is destroyed, and other pertinent moments. Sometimes the chatter was a little too frequent, but was better than no feedback at all. It would be hard to find fault with the presentation of RUSE.
Unidentified units displayed as counters
Units spotted with spy ruse

Technical Performance
The game performed flawlessly without any crashes or hiccups.
My Specs: Windows 7 64-bit. Intel Core i7 860 @ 2.80 GHz. 8 Gig RAM. ATI Radeon HD 5850.

In The End...
R.U.S.E. sits somewhere in between a typical click-fest RTS and a more cerebral strategy game. The pace is slower than many RTSs, but can still get hectic with the number of units and large area to cover. It can be just my age starting to show as my brain and fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. I would have appreciated the ability to pause the game and still issue orders. Such a feature would have emphasized the strategic elements of the game. RUSE made me realize that I really do prefer turn based games, or at least pausable real-time games. I don’t enjoy the feeling of being rushed and like a more deliberate pace - even though this is a slower pace than most RTSs I have played. I’m getting too old. During lulls in the action the ability to speed up time would have been appreciated too, but like real life time can’t be altered.

The AI generally plays a good game, especially in the battles. It did fall into some patterns at times where I could survive an onslaught and then counter attack. Sometimes in the campaign nearby units didn’t help allies or the AI didn’t develop available supplies.

There were times when I wish Eugen Systems favored realism, such as when an AT gun placed within a forest could fire through the forest to hit a tank on the other side, but all in all RUSE succeeded in straddling the line between a typical RTS and a deeper strategy experience.

Score: B- (Good)

1 comment:

  1. One reader commented on the Steam forum that RUSE is intended to be a multiplayer game and I didn't cover it. The reason is that I don't play multiplayer. I don't think it is unfair to do a single player review as long as I'm upfront about that is what I am doing and mention that multiplayer exists. My goal is to give readers a good picture of the game mechanics and they can extrapolate how it might be during multiplayer. Most strategy games support multiplayer and it probably adds much value for those that use it.