People seem to forget that when the mammoth franchise of Grand Theft Auto started it didn’t look the same as what was delivered in the later editions. The first games were top-down, arcade-type affairs. Yes, the bones were there, what with the missions, racing, and shooting, but they looked very different to what many see on Grand Theft Auto V. The developers of Rustler have taken those early influences though and used them as a template for their new game. But instead of throwing us into a modern-day setting of crime in the city, they’ve replaced the era with that of the middle ages, and instead of cars, you steal horses. Let’s get ready to do the hustle in Rustler.
When you first load Rustler up there is a full motion film that gives you a hint of what the game, and its tone, are about. A bald medieval anti-hero (who you play) is shown causing mischief and chaos around a ye olde village, stealing horses, getting in fights, and generally rustling up trouble. But it also gives a hint of the humour included, with bards beatboxing in the corner. Rustler is not a serious game.
The writing, dialogue, and humour are rife with borrows, paying homage to GTA, Monty Python, and a whole bunch of other pieces of popular culture. You play Guy who after killing a knight of the realm learns of a tournament where if he can get in, will make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But to get entry to the tournament he needs to build some cash up. And to get the cash, he needs to partake in some unruly, unlawful behavior. He’s basically an agent of chaos for cash.
What this means is that very soon you find yourself meeting all sorts of shady characters doing jobs for them and possibly killing them as well. The writing is funny at times and at other moments you will be groaning. There are some clever setups and interesting mission designs in regards to the writing. It’s good fun, even though after a while it does start to become a little tiresome.
The gameplay involves you looking for quests dotted around the map, hunting for other events like racing to get some cash. You can move Guy around as normal, have punch ups, sword fights and steal any horse, pretty much from anywhere. You’re going to have to learn to love the horses too because you’re going to spend most of the game on one. You can gallop, cantor, and attack from the horse. You can even reverse your horse, very, very slowly. It’s a mechanic that takes a bit of getting used to, mostly as they don’t handle like cars, which is the point. This does mean they can be frustrating especially in chase scenes and racing. There are some great, fun little touches though, when the horse is sometimes found in parking areas with a P sign next to them and when you are wanted by the guards for committing a crime you can go into the equivalent of a ‘paint and spray’ to get your horse made over, ridding you of your wanted status.
The quests you take in are a good mixture of fight, run and fetch quests. If you commit a crime, or attack someone, you will have the guards chasing you forever, and as you would expect, at times that can get a bit frantic. They rarely let up either and a good few times I’ve had people chasing me for what seemed like an eternity, all across the map even though I had escaped them by quite a distance. As you progress through the game the more money you make and more experience you get, you’ll be able to upgrade your skills; more health, better-attacking power or even the ability to throw excrement at your enemies to distract them.
Rustler comes with a visual take that is of the top-down variety, but not as top-down as the old GTA games. Here the world is in more detail and three-dimensional, but it’s a fun place with people going about their medieval business, full of visual gags aplenty, and powered by an environment that feels busy and active. The audio elements have a load of great effects to them, especially in terms of the environmental noises. And there’s a great device employed whereas in the old GTA games we had the radio stations, in Rustler you can hire the services of a bard who will follow you around, playing music as you cause chaos.
Rustler is a lot of fun, but the big decision you need to consider is whether or not that fun is for you and whether or not you can buy into the comedy references and mature humour offered. But away from that, Rustler makes a great attempt at taking influence from older games and using that to create something original. The writing, concepts, and quests are quality and there is plenty to enjoy in what you get to do. So grab a horse, arm yourself with some poo, and become a world-famous Rustler.
Round them up with Rustler from the Xbox Store