What I like best about RUSE. is how broad its palette of strategy actually is. The very slow pace of the game - infantry takes so long to move into position that they need to head off in the wobbly old truck at least one cup of tea in advance of any planned attack - offers scope for planning complex tactics far in advance. I now produce cheap infantry early on and send them off into the map, purely to be able to distract my enemy into keeping an eye on them, or to provide myself with harrying raid troops that can keep someone busy while I concoct my aircraft raid masterplan, or my tank assault.
The ruse powers themselves supplement this kind of play enormously, because you can trick enemies into thinking you have troops where you have none, or even swap signals so that - for a brief time - some of your units appear to belong to the enemy. This morning's game could have gone entirely the wrong way had my opponent been using his ruse properly. He might have had an entirely different strategy, having hidden his buildings with camouflage, or deployed dummy buildings to give me the wrong idea about where he was operating. I knew I was at risk of messing up entirely if I threw everything into an anti-air strategy, but what the hell, we'd have to see.
As it was, he really didn't produce any ground units at all, aside from a handful of infantry which I clashed with early on. Initially it looked like his air power might land me in trouble, but I eventually managed to produce the mobile anti-aircraft guns that would win the game. Pushing these forward until they surrounded his quarter of the map, I managed to force his retreat. As I held this line, I rolled some artillery forward and started to hit his base. After some skirmishes with light units, and the destruction of a number of strafing aircraft, I took the upper hand. Reliant on airpower, he was forced to concede.
What's interesting about RUSE is that while it seems relatively hardcore as a strategy, everything in the world is carefully presented so that it easy to deploy. You can learn by playing, and the game will tell you quite openly that a band of infantry will have trouble taking on an armoured column. Ubisoft claims that all this stuff will make RUSE exceptionally accessible to inexperience strategists, and it may be right. That said, I wonder whether the slow pace, the relatively conservative setting and lack of fireworks will mean it doesn't exactly tantalise the mainstream audiences. I've little doubt that - ranking system or otherwise - this will be a game dominated by a tiny ultra-hardcore community, even though there's a lot yet to see, including a single-player campaign that could prove to be very interesting.
RUSE is due out for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in Q1 2010.