- Jun 27, 2008
Disclaimer: This is just impressions on a beta, so there isn't terribly much to talk about. Please forgive the length. Those of you who have read my reviews before know how long they usually are, so this is unusual for me.
RTSes and I have had a rocky relationship. On one hand, games like Sins of a Solar Empire and Command and Conquer have always been right up my alley, not requiring too much acclimation time before I'm stomping on the face of the nearest untrained person, laughing at their tears as the base they worked so hard to build crumbles to the ground aflame. However, on the other end of the spectrum, I've been the sniveling ***** in several too many Starcraft or Supreme Commander matches, which tends to frustrate me a great deal. Well, the public beta for Ruse came out this past Tuesday on Steam, and now that exams are over I've finally sat down and taken the time to play it. Much to my dismay, Ruse fits in neither of those aforementioned categories, rendering me unable to use spicy adjectives to color my like/dislike of the game.
For the uneducated, Ruse is a real time strategy game set in World War II, depicting certain battles between the Axis and Allies. Of course, they've been beaten to the punch by about fifty-million other games, most of which are bad; so, what makes Ruse stand out? Well, for starters, the game employs an in game engine known as IRISZOOM (yes, according to the game's site, it is in all caps) which allows you to zoom as far out from the map as to make it look as if it were a strategic board, and as far into the map as to focus on a single unit. When zoomed as far out as possible, all units and bases turn into little tokens, if you will, giving the idea that you're simply in a war room looking over strategic plans for attack. Understand that it's quite difficult for me to explain (luckily, I come bearing images), but it works incredibly well and looks absolutely stunning, especially when zooming very quickly. Not content with instituting only one innovation into the genre, the game also gives you bluffs to confuse the enemy, called Ruses. These vary from camouflaging your bases so enemies can't see them, to disguising your units as different units, and even initiating fake attacks. They're brilliant ideas and work absolute wonders for gameplay, adding a complete other dimension to strategic planning.
Who the hell is that guy over there and how did he get into my war room?
Underneath all of that flashy and overrated "innovation", Ruse is a fairly standard RTS. You build bases, gather resources, build units, and then send them off to give your opponent a bad day. However, there are a few small tweaks that drastically effect the way matches are played out in Ruse as opposed to something like Command and Conquer. For one, resource gathering bases can only be built in certain locations, and they are not even infinite in supply, meaning that you'll have to spread far and wide across the map in order to keep yourself well supplied. Ruse is also much more realistic. Units have lines of sight, certain units can't go through certain types of terrain, and matches can be won or lost in the most interesting ways. A fleet of bombers can annihilate an enemy who didn't build enough anti-air guns. A bunch of your ground troops can slip through a forest undetected and destroy anti-armor guns guarding the enemy base so your tanks can break through and seriously fuck shit up. It's this type of thing that gives a real warfare feel, something that has eluded every other game in the RTS genre.
The beta allows you to choose from several different factions, including the Russians, Germans, Japanese, Italians, French, and, of course, those boring ol' Americans who can't seem to stay out of any damn game. I played several matches and used the Germans, Americans, and Russians. All the units of each faction are historically accurate and each faction has its share of strengths or weaknesses, making each one play drastically different. As the Germans, my tanks seemed weaker, but my anti-tank defenses were damned near impenetrable. As the Russians, my tanks were stronger, but my anti-armor guns seemed to be made out of glue and tinfoil. This allows for a great deal of gameplay diversity and gives people many opportunities to find a faction that suits them.
If you look up into the top left corner, you'll see that the German army has 69 American dollars. There are so many fucking jokes in there, it's ridiculous.
The graphics are another strong point, looking decent even on some rather low-end systems (like mine for example). The environments are massive and absolutely beautiful. No one object is completely stunning, as individual things are low detailed once you zoom in (this is an RTS after all), but it's the way the entire package comes together that makes everything amazing. The maps have a great abundance of colors, which is an absolute breath of fresh air, and it makes a nice contrast to the black and gray machinery of war when they rumble across the landscape. One particularly impressive aspect of the graphics are the explosions. Yes, the fire and smoke effects are magnificent, and make it awe-inspiring when you drop a shit-ton of bombs on a city to eliminate the enemy units using it as refuge. Aiding the graphics is the awesome sound design. Explosions are perfectly deafening and simply increase the intensity of the battles. If I had to complain about the sound and graphical presentation, I'd say that they should really replace the way in which buildings are built. An annoying welding sound is used and the base simply appears. It's a nitpick, but it's really all I've got.
I can't say anything about the Campaign, as it is unplayable, but they do allow you to play multiplayer and skirmish modes. Honestly, after getting stomped by the AI on whatever the default difficulty is, I've been too afraid to go online, so this was based entirely around skirmishing with an AI. Hence why I said Ruse fits in neither of my pre-established categories. As much as I'm getting spanked by the enemy, the game never ceases to be fun, and the fact that battles are an amazing spectacle doesn't hurt either. I haven't gotten frustrated even once during my time spent with the game and considering my temper, that's an amazing feat. I'd recommend you check out the Ruse beta whether you're an RTS fan or not. Given the extreme difference between this game and its brethren, you may suddenly find that you do enjoy RTSes.
Thanks for reading and feedback is always welcome.
If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to read my other reviews: Stalker: Call of Pripyat [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.179661-Stalker-Call-of-Pripyat-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427], Battlefield: Bad Company 2 [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.178952-Battlefield-Bad-Company-2-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427#5203299], Shutter Island [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.177337-Shutter-Island-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427-Spoiler-Free#5103651], Halo: Legends [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.176694-Halo-Legends-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427], Stalker: Clear Sky [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.176604-Stalker-Clear-Sky-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427], Stalker: Complete 2009 [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.168926-STALKER-Complete-2009-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427], HAWX [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.122907-Tom-Clancys-Hawx-SniperWolfs-first-review#2487130], Fable 2 [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.129939-Fable-2-Review#2830125], and The Boondock Saints [http://www.escapistmagazine.com/forums/read/326.168594-In-the-sights-of-SniperWolf427-The-Boondock-Saints]