By all appearances, R.U.S.E. is another attempt by Ubisoft to redefine strategy gaming in a way to be more attractive for casual fans, slowing the pace of real-time strategy and adding depth to the genre.
"We wanted to create something new, and we followed that creative vision for several years," said developer Mathieu Girard.
R.U.S.E. development for the PC—it is also coming out on the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360—was focused on three very specific prongs: Dimension, Depth and Deception.
To add dimension to the game, the title uses a special graphics engine that allows gamers to zoom in to the single unit level or zoom out so far that the world becomes a flat board, with the units represented as pieces and chips, resting on a table in a slightly out-of-focus room.
The focus on depth is a bit harder to define, but Girard says it means that the game isn't a click fest, but rather a title that focuses on strategy and skill.
The most noticeable twist in the strategy game is the focus on deception. At the start of every match players are given randomly selected Ruses.
The ruses are broken down into three categories: hide information, plant false information or steal information.
For instance, a player can use a ruse to make their units invisible on the map until they are encountered, or they can use a ruse to create fake units that wont disappear until they are attacked. A third ruse shown during the demonstration allows a player to see the orders being given by their opponent as they occur, with the orders showing up as arrows and troop moments on the map.
The addition of these ruses in a strategy game force players to rely more on craft and deception than on brute strength to win an encounter. The game will ship with ten different ruses.
After walking me through the basic concepts of the game, Girard played through a quick level.
The demo kicked off with a briefing explaining the tactics that would be used to take the town of Montecassino, explaining that the player would have to approach the left flank of hostile units to take the town.
Girard used the Radio Silence ruse, picking a specific sector to activate it in, to make his units invisible.
As his tanks rolled into position, Girard zoomed all the way in to show me the details of the battle. I could see ships at see launching a secondary attack, planes fighting above and tanks ski
High level of detail, can zoom in and out, watch ships launch attacks, plans fighting above, tanks skirmishing. As the battle raged below, the sky filled with paratroopers, each person rendered individually.
Girard tells me that if you add everything going on on screen you have 1 billion polygons.
The game also does a nice job of assisting players as they develop strategy in real time. For instance when you highlight a target it tells you whether it is an easy or hard target for your unit to attack.
Another interesting element to the game is the use of supply roads. In R.U.S.E. you gather resources by building plants. Those plants than follow supply roads back to your base to supply you with a constant infusion of cash. And these supply roads, not just the units or bases, can be attacked to disrupt a player's income.
The game uses the environment in other ways as well, directly impacting the effectiveness of a unit's attack.
The game, due out this winter, will feature 200 units types and six factions, U.S., U.K., France, Italy, Germany and the U.S.S.R., and while the single player campaign will have you take on the roll of the allied factions, the developers promise that they have built in some "nice tricks" to let you play the other units as well.
Each of the units include detailed damaging, they added. When a unit I hit it will start smoking and eventually catch on fire before exploding. If they retreat in time they will auto heal.
R.U.S.E. also features robust multiplayer support that will include skirmishes pitting as many as four players against four players. There are also a number of different AI personalities gamers can go up against, if they'd rather.
In the story mode, which should run at least 10 hours, the game uses the major theater of World War II, but in a way rarely seen in WWII strategy titles.
"We're not out to remake a boring historical lesson," Girard said. "World War II was a war of information, of deception.
"The inspiration was poker, because it is a game of bluffing."