Wednesday, March 31, 2010

RUSE

I’ve been playing the RUSE open beta. The game has impressed me so far with its outstanding balance and macromanagement, strategic focus. For once, an RTS is actually a strategy game, not a tactical micro-fest!

RUSE is not a game where you can spam any one unit against a competent player and win. The game has an amount of genuine strategic depth seldom found in RTSes. Most RTS games are designed in such a way that unit micro becomes the primary occupation of the gamer as he plays. Games between even high quality players come down to one out-microing the other. RUSE minimizes micro through reasonable unit AI, and a wider scope than most RTSes. It also puts an unusually strong emphasis on intelligence gathering and deception.

Buildings and Economy

Every side has the same set of production buildings. Their costs differ between sides, though, by as much as $20.

  • Barracks – Produces infantry and occasionally armored recon. Italy gets a light tankette from its barracks.
  • Armor Factory – Produces armor and occasionally armored recon.
  • Artillery and Anti-Aircraft Factory – Produces towed, self-propelled, and/or armored artillery, assault guns, as well as towed, mobile, and/or armored anti-aircraft guns. Some sides, like Germany, get Anti-Aircraft weaponry that can also be turned on tanks.
  • Anti-tank Factory – Produces towed Anti-tank guns and Tank Destroyers.
  • Airfield – Produces fighters, bombers, fighter-bombers, and recon aircraft. Can only house 8 planes at a time.
  • Prototype Factory – Produces special country-specific units like jumbo tanks, flame tanks, hybrid weapons, and all-around late-game units.

Every side also has the same logistics buildings.

  • Headquarters – You start the match with an HQ pre-placed and yuo cannot build another one. The HQ is the source for engineer trucks (the only source until (if) you build a secondary HQ). Supply trucks need to go from your supply depots to your HQ (or secondary) in order for you to receive money. If you lose your HQ and have no secondary, you cannot use ruses and all your units become visible.
  • Secondary Headquarters – Engineer trucks can originate from this building if the site of the building they’ll build is closer to the secondary than the primary HQ. Supply trucks can drop money off here if it’s closer to the supply depot than the primary HQ is. If you lose your HQ, you don’t lose access to all the goodies mentioned above if you have a secondary HQ up.
  • Supply Depot – build a supply depot on a supply dump and supply trucks travel from the dump to your nearest HQ, providing you with your main source of money in most games. There is only so much money available in each supply depot—they run out and cannot be replenished.
  • Administrative Building – Expensive and fragile building that provides monetary income at a slightly slower rate than supply depots. These are not often seen in shorter matches, but in game modes with more than 3 players a distinct transition in gameplay happens where supply depots run out and player must transition their economies to admin buildings or be cash-starved.

There are also a number of AA, AT, anti-infantry, and multi-purpose bunkers available in different combinations for different sides.

Unit Mechanics

RUSE has a relatively complicated rock-paper-scissors unit balance. I can’t render the counter system here in a particularly readable way, so I’ll simply tell you that for every strategy I’ve used or seen, I can easily think of a counter. No one unit seems too powerful in every situation. Units have clear weaknesses and strengths and combined arms rule the day.

The game breaks down to putting the right units in the right place at the right time—more so than most RTSes. In 1v1 games you don’t have enough time to counter everything (you will surely lose to any competent player if you try). You have to assemble groups of units with certain composition depending on what the enemy has shown you and what you know—map size punishes unit composition errors and intelligence laxity by preventing players from moving units to hotspots rapidly. Preparation and foresight are the bywords in RUSE.

The most notable unit for its interesting mechanics is infantry. Infantry are the cheapest unit in the game at $5 a piece. Infantry are generally weak in combat, but they can hide in woods and cities and launch devastating surprise attacks on enemy units that pass by without recon. Infantry can also capture buildings, including supply depots, with surprising swiftness.

Maps

Maps in ruse consist of several terrain types and features:

  • Roads along which units move faster. Production buildings can only be built abutting roads. Supply trucks only travel on roads. Engineer trucks generally stay on roads. Roads act as the main arteries of the battlefield—along them most units travel and controlling them has a significant impact on the match.
  • Rivers provide for choke points by blocking land unit movement. Occasional bridges along rivers comprise the choke points in ruse.
  • Forests block line of sight, and provide certain units the ability to hide from all but recon units and surprise attack nearby enemy units. Many units cannot move through forests, like artillery, heavy AA guns, tanks, and tank destroyers.
  • Mountains are impassable and block line of sight. You don’t see many of them in RUSE.
  • Towns are groups of buildings along roads where infantry and other light units can hide. It’s difficult to see into towns—they’re a great place to ambush tanks.
  • The terrain aside from what I’ve just mentioned usually takes the form of fields and farmhouses. This standard terrain is the basic and most frequently seen kind of terrain. It doesn’t grant any bonuses or penalties.

Ruses and Intel

The defining feature of RUSE is the ruse system. RUSEs allow you to manipulate the intel (and occasionally alter the abilities of units) your opponent receives. In RUSE, you have three levels of intelligence about enemy units.

  1. No information whatsoever. THe unit is effectively hidden. This occurs when units are hidden by the use of the radio silence ruse or when certain units are in woods. If your recon is nearby, hidden enemy units within its line-of-sight will be revealed to you.
  2. Unidentified. Units that are not hidden but are not within the line-of-sight of a unit are shown as “counters”. There are counters for aircraft, heavy, and light units. The counter you see for an enemy ground unit may be altered by the inverted intel RUSE. You also cannot tell if an unidentified unit is a decoy.
  3. Identified. The exact unit count and names of units are known because you have a spy ruse active in the sector or the units are in line-of-sight of your non-recon units or air recon.
  4. Fully Identified. If ground recon units have line-of-sight on an enemy ground unit, they can tell if it’s a decoy. Air recon cannot.

Here are the ruses currently in RUSE:

  • Blitz – One of the few ruses that doesn’t have to do with intel. Blitz doubles the speed of your units in a sector.
  • Terror – Enemy units in the sector will retreat after sustaining less damage than usual.
  • Fanaticism – Friendly units in the sector will sustain more damage before retreating.
  • Spy – Reveal the identities of all enemy units in the sector who are not under radio silence.
  • Decryption – Reveal the orders given to all enemy units in a sector who are not under radio silence.
  • Radio Silence – Hides all of your units in a sector. They are only visible when in a unit’s line of sight.
  • Camouflage Nets – Hides all of your engineer trucks and buildings in a sector. They are only visible when in a unit’s line of sight.
  • Inverted Intelligence – Units in a sector who are unidentified appear as if they were of a different type than they actually are.
  • Decoy Building – Place a decoy building (corresponding to a unit producing building) in a sector.
  • Decoy Assault – Attack a sector with decoy tanks, planes, or infantry. You can only decoy assault with a kind of units that your production buildings or decoy production buildings can produce. The only way to tell a unit is a decoy is by shooting at it. Decoy units die in one hit and show a “decoy” message when they die.

3 comments:

Alex said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex Vostrov said...

Sounds interesting. RTS devs very rarely stray from the conventional formula, so it's good to have some fresh air. I especially like the intelligence-counterintelligence theme.

Too bad that I won't be playing it due to the draconian DMR.

Dwarfy said...

They dont use the DMR