Last Commander Standing – Remembering Ubisoft’s R.U.S.E.

War has changed.

Ubisoft’s R.U.S.E. was real-time strategy game based on World War II, and I remember getting sucked into the game through a few friends, back when it was released on Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 in 2010. My friends who were hooked continued loving the game so far as to buy it again on Steam when it was ported the following year.

Fast forward to 2020 and believe it or not there are still die-hard R.U.S.E. rebels fighting it out on the beaches. I caught up with players Oliver, Brooks and Tim about why they still play the game.

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What draws you to R.U.S.E. and not other RTS war games?

Brooks: There’s no other game like it.

Oliver: I feel like this game is quite easy to pick up and yet at the same time complex.

Brooks: Ruse has the fighting but it also has the Ruses which is another side of it. The other games don’t have “Ruses” they just have combat.

Oliver: It had something different about it. You’re meant to play deception not just rock paper scissors with units.

I’m not usually one for these kinds of games but the element of “Ruses” really made this underrated Ubisoft hit more about deception and fooling the enemy rather than tactical RTS gameplay. Ruses allowed for players to deploy fake units, spy on the enemy, affect unit behaviours and more. As you can imagine, playing a game that relies so heavily on back-stabbing and trickery between friends made for an… interesting time. Needless to say I soon stopped playing the R.U.S.E..

Due to an expired military license, R.U.S.E. was pulled from Steam in later 2015, only five years after its original launch. That said, the game’s multiplayer servers are still online.

So, does R.U.S.E. still have a sizeable number of people playing online matches?

Brooks: No, we meet the same people a lot. We know which players are good.

Oliver: You do get new faces but It’s quite distinguishable who’s new or not because of the levels and most people are level 100, the max level. You’ll get very few people who aren’t level 100, and if they aren’t level 100 there can be discrimination against lower levels.

What’s the difference between level 100 and 0? Are there unlockable weapons, abilities, units etc.?

Brooks: No it’s just a status thing. You could be level 95 and join a lobby and you’ll be kicked.

Can you tell how many people are on at any one time?

Brooks: No, but there are games, you can see how many games are on. You can see how many servers are open.

How many servers do you normally see?

Brooks: I don’t think we have ever seen anything more than 7 *laugh* Normally 3 or 4.

Ubisoft officially closed its dedicated servers for both console versions in November 2017 though they remain open on PC. The peak number of players reached within the last 30 days from the beginning of this month was 229, but averaging at 110.3 at any given time.

With R.U.S.E. no longer listed on Steam, buying into this niche multiplayer scene comes at a premium – you’ll be looking to pay £50 if you want to purchase access via someone else’s Steam account.

Is R.U.S.E. really worth the cost, in 2020?

Oliver: Yes.

How much did you originally pay for it?

Tim: I paid the lowest of £2.50 on Amazon.

Brooks: I paid a fiver and we all originally had it on Xbox.

Oliver: Yeah I was gonna say, we bought it on Xbox and then on the PC because there wasn’t a unit capacity, so your Xbox could only handle a certain amount of units in a game whereas your PC could handle more. So we bought it twice.

How long have you played it for?

Oliver: According to my Steam I played it for 589 hours.

Brooks: 368 Hours.

Tim: Mine is 539.

Do you have any funny/interesting stories of your time with the game online?

Brooks: You get little Hitlers sometimes, they’re way too serious.

Oliver: Extremely bossy.

Brooks: Typical toxic behaviour, quit the game if they’re losing

Oliver: They’ll leave even though it’s quite rare to get a game

Have you made friends with anyone in the community from the game?

Oliver: I’ve chatted to some people in Austria through the game. It’s quite international.

Brooks: I’ve met people from Mexico on there.

Oliver: I think the game is for World War II nerds and at that point you get into a weird realm about men who would change their steam names to a general or a historical figure and also have their steam picture changed and you do sometimes see ones that are Nazi related. I’ve even seen Rommel.

Are most of the people are historic enthusiasts rather than RTS fans would you say?

Oliver: I do wonder if it’s people who love history or the glorification of World War II. This game is obviously based on real life historical events but I feel like if you are respecting the history you wouldn’t want to replicate Nazis.

Our players finished with some closing comments on the game:

Oliver: There is a community sense in the game. There’s been multiple times I’ve been like “I have to rush downstairs to do something or go to the toilet” and the game allows you to chat with other people on the opposing team and I’ll say don’t attack me, and people will be very sportsman-like and respectful.

Brooks: There’s also a Discord channel for R.U.S.E. and they do other games as well so it crosses over but I see so many of the same people who play online on the Discord server.

The story of how R.U.S.E. was wiped from the Steam store is sadly all too familiar. As previously mentioned, Ubisoft didn’t renew their military license which meant they could no longer sell the game as it included real military manufacturers. We’ve seen Microsoft do the same with past Forza games due to pricey vehicle licenses – if there aren’t enough players driving up engagement and spending money, these games are removed from sale. While good for business, it sucks for the niche communities keeping older games like R.U.S.E. alive against all odds.

It’s quite fitting for a game called R.U.S.E. to be so in the shadows when it comes to what the game’s playerbase. Unsurprisingly, Ubisoft have yet to hint at  a sequel or some kind of return to R.U.S.E. but for some people, it doesn’t look like that’s needed. Upon further conversation with the game’s last clutch of commanders, it was evident they’ve found ways to squeeze every last drop of enjoyment out of this ageing RTS and they aren’t going to give up on R.U.S.E anytime soon.

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