by Derk Bil
previewed on PC
One of the biggest challenges that game developers face, is to create something new, something no one has done before. This seems to be especially true for developers that create Real Time Strategy games. The answer isn’t necessarily found in thinking up a new gameplay mechanic or interesting new unit. In the case of R.U.S.E., one of the novelties is actually the removal of a staple mechanic as well as re-introducing a more traditional way of conducting warfare.
In R.U.S.E., you start in a war room. The center of the room is occupied by a large table on which a massive map lies that depicts the battleground for the coming battle. Across from you is the enemy general, looking at you intently, trying to gauge his opponent as do you. Zooming in, you will notice that the map is occupied by armies of both sides. Your units look like tin soldiers and vehicles and towns show up as colored dots. Then you notice that you can zoom in even further. Suddenly you are right in the middle of the action, counting the bullet holes in what used to be your soldiers.
The zoom function is one of the most powerful I have ever seen in a strategy game, or any game for that matter. Aptly called Iriszoom, the engine that makes this happen is able to smoothly add detail to units, buildings and scenery without so much as a hiccup.
Most notable is the lack of fog of war. From the overhead map, you are able to see where your opponents forces are located. You have complete freedom to roam around and determine your best course of action. So much freedom in fact, that you could just plant your factories right next to his base should you want to. But hold on, there is just one tiny problem with that idea. You see, factories need to be built and once they are built they need supplies. To make all this happen, you need secure supply lines with trucks driving hauling in loads of building materials. Trucks are not armored vehicles. They are vulnerable and need protection that is difficult to give when the enemy is in control of the area.
So you can see that building your factory in your opponent's backyard is not the way to go. Should you be able to get away with it though, you would have a major advantage over your oppontent, who really does deserve a good trashing after that.
A lot of effort has been put into making the gameplay as intuitive as possible. There is no place for health bars or complex descriptions of what needs to be done to achieve something. You will be able to quickly make sense out of any new situation. If your units are damaged they will start emitting smoke. If they have sustained heavy damage, they will emit even more smoke. If they are too damaged to fight or flee, they will look like a burning pile of rubble. Easy no? Placing units on the map is very easy too. You simply order a unit to be built by placing it on the map.
In war, "knowing" is half the battle. Yet simply knowing where units are won't be enough to win. To be effective you will need to know what sort of enemy you are up against. Sending in a tank to dispose some infantry could turn out to be painful when the enemy infantry unit turned out to be the 3rd anti-tank division. So you will need intelligence. Once you have proper information about your enemy's units you will see a rough estimate of the chance of
success should you engage the opposing forces.
One way of gaining information about what's on the battlefield is sending in units that scout the area. An alternative might be the use of a ruse. Ruses are the aces up the commander's sleeve, the ultimate control over the information that both you and your opponent have at their disposal. There are quite a few fun ruses available. With the Radio silence ruse, your opponent will have a hard time finding your troops while the Blitz ruse makes all your units, including supply trucks, move a lot faster. The Camouflage Net works similar to radio silence with the additional perk that it is able to hide buildings even when they are in plain sight of the enemy. Another useful ruse is spying on your opponent and for example stealing his war-plans. The best thing about ruses is that you can use a number of them at the same time! What is deadlier than a nearly invisible enemy that is able to travel across the map much faster than your own forces can? Of course, the effect of a ruse will only last for a limited period of time, so you’ll have to play your cards right.
And that is what R.U.S.E. is all about. It is warfare the way war is played out in real life. If you can confuse your enemy and make him doubt his intelligence, you are on step ahead in the race to win the war. But… are you really that certain that your own intelligence can be trusted? Think twice.