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Licence to lie.

Real-time strategy is an oddly gentlemanly affair, given its ultimate goal tends to be small-scale genocide. "I insist, good sir - let me clearly mark upon your map the exact location of my neatly-clustered power station." "Nay, sir - I could not in good conscience own a tank with more hitpoints than yours." Oh, balance - you have so much to answer for.

RUSE may be as constructed around equally-matched unit rosters as any other RTS, but it's that little bit closer to the deception and trickery of real-world war. It's about getting one over on the enemy, lying to them, luring them into traps... It's dirty.

Which means, despite appearances, this is not simply Another World War II Strategy Game, and you should wipe that spiteful expression off your face, young man. It is, it's true, set upon 1940s battlefields and thus features no laser-targeted apocalypse bombs or fungal death-spores from dimension x, but it also offers maps the size of Somerset and controls focused on motion and battle, and not too much fiddly micro-management.

There's very much a boardgame sensibility behind RUSE, but fear not - you can zoom right in for more naturalistic, animated action

Those enormous maps, especially, are quite the thing - from fields to hills to sea, from ground to sky, all at the flick of thumbstick or mouse and without any of that nasty loading business. The size is not simply shallow graphical posturing, either - RUSE is about strategy on a huge scale, pushing against and defending multiple fronts. Movement is in broad gestures, vast arrows directing murderous traffic across the land, and planned from a maxi-zoom-out that displays the battle as figurines upon a commander's table. This is a game that wants you to feel like a true general, pulling strings from afar and privy to information beyond anything his peons provide - not the strange half-god, half-tank mechanic figure you assume in most strategy titles.

With that in mind, you have access to much more information than simply what your units can see. In a neat twist upon fog of war - always a strange, arbitrary and almost science-fictional element in any RTS - you're forever able to see where enemy units are, but won't known exactly what and how numerous they are until you've got direct line of sight. So you always know where to go for a fight, but unless you've been diligent in your reconnaissance you'll have little idea of whether you'll come up trumps or get your botty handed to you.

The view from my window on a Saturday night, assuming the tanks are firing WKD Blue.

Complicating that further are the titular ruses. Depending upon which cards - for the ruses are indeed presented as boardgame-like cards - your enemy has up his sleeve, what the game tells you is a temptingly exposed and frail army might in fact be a mighty squad of armoured steel. Or perhaps it's a decoy army, luring your attentions away from a major invasion force on the other side of the map. Or perhaps it's just a couple of expendable units ripe for the killing, but en route to them a more fearsome squad lies in ambush, rendered invisible thanks to the radio silence ruse.

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Alec Meer avatar

Alec Meer


A 10-year veteran of scribbling about video games, Alec primarily writes for Rock, Paper, Shotgun, but given any opportunity he will escape his keyboard and mouse ghetto to write about any and all formats.