Platform(s): PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Genre: Open-World, Top-Down Shooter, Isometric, Classic GTA Homage
Veteran gamers will remember the old days of GTA 1 (1997) and GTA 2 (1999) being top-down shooters. While the games industry has since moved on ever since GTA 3 (2001), indie developer Jutsu Games have returned to this retro genre with a twist of their own; what if it’s GTA 2 in medieval times?
Rustler is an open-world, top-down action game set in a historically inaccurate medieval setting. It’s anachronistic, which means that it’s basically modern elements set in medieval skin. The easiest way for me to describe the overall vibe and tone of the world in Rustler is probably that it’s similar to the land of Far, Far Away in the Dreamworks’ Shrek animated movies. The potential of satire and spoof is there, and Rustler can be funny at times, with references to other medieval comedies like Monty Python And The Holy Grail.
Nobody Expects The Spanish Inquisition
Players assume the role of a guy simply named Guy. The way he looks suspiciously reminds me of the protagonist in Rockstar Games’ Bully (2006). Just like other open-world games but from a top-down isometric perspective, you’ll have to basically navigate medieval life as a sort of gangster. You’ll do odd jobs to get money (which usually involve killing someones) or to get somewhere. Sometimes, the knights will come after you when the wanted level rises, just like the cops in a GTA game. Instead of cars, you’ll be riding on horses. Instead of guns, you’ll be using crossbows and swords.
The humour is fine and the easter eggs can be fun, but it’s not exactly deep satire the game is trying to aim for. All I need to tell you is that the game has a dedicated button (pressing down on the D-pad on an Xbox Series controller) just for impromptu fart and burp noises. Yup, you read that right. A button just for farting and burping noises, which doesn’t actually affect the gameplay in any meaningful way.
The mission structure is basic, as they mostly involve going from one location to another and killing someone or destroying something. The humour and tone are what makes them fun, which is great considering that the gameplay is simplistic and clunky at best as well.
The combat feels janky and imprecise because you can’t lock on to enemies, so you’ll unsatisfyingly just whack them to death with a stick, a sword or an axe. You can block attacks with your shield (if you have one) and you can evade by rolling. There’s also a crossbow (though it doesn’t feel particularly great to use) and you can even parry, even though the mechanic feels almost impossible to actually pull off.
A big gameplay mechanic in Rustler is horse riding. You’ll spend a lot of time riding horses, especially when traversing the game’s open world and escaping from the knights. I’ve read feedback from other people who complain that the horse riding feels frustratingly janky. In my experience, it’s not that bad, though it is easy to accidentally hit objects and get stuck, which is annoying.
More Than A Flesh Wound
Unfortunately, there are many factors that are a detriment to enjoying Rustler. These include the lack of a quick or manual save (you can only do so at your house located on the map) and the fact that there’s no voice acting at all. All dialogue is simply gibberish (like the made-up language in The Sims), and it’s annoying when you have to press a button prompt to advance the dialogue while trying to do other activities like escaping the knights on horseback at the same.
Oh, and there are only two ways to decrease your wanted level and get the knights to stop hunting you down. You either have to find a ‘Pimp-A-Horse’ stable (another example of the game’s humour) or tear down your wanted posters. It doesn’t help matters that the game’s checkpoint system is also horrible, as I find myself respawning at weird checkpoints that usually results in me having to repeat some dialogue or missions again.
Finishing the game will take at least five or more hours. I can appreciate the game’s humour and the world, as well as participating in amusing missions like killing a peeping tom and proceeding to wear a woman’s clothes as a disguise to infiltrate and sabotage a French distillery while the French knights there are screaming references to Monty Python (your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries).
Rustler is not a bad game. The writing and setting can be fun and entertaining, but the shoddy controls and janky mechanics make for an unsatisfying experience. I enjoyed the game but couldn’t really bear to play much of it one sitting. If the developers could polish the game’s controls and refine some of the mechanics, I’m sure the result will ultimately be a much more enjoyable experience.
- Funny satirical writing that references medieval pop culture like Monty Python.
- A humourous medieval setting and world that reminds us of Shrek’s Far, Far Away.
- Can be fun in short bursts.
- Awkward and janky controls during combat and horse riding.
- Basic mission structure and not much variety.
- No voice acting, only gibberish.
- Poor checkpoint system.
- No ability to quick or manual save.
Final Score: 50/100
Review copy provided by Ripples Asia. Played on PC.