The allure of the playgrounds offered by the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) franchise is undeniable. Gamers thoroughly enjoy being able to do almost anything within a digital realm emulating modern civil society. The success of the relevant games has been immense, and has spawned off many copy-cat as well as unique and interesting titles along the way. One such title is Rustler, clearly inspired by the original game in the aforementioned and infamous series, but with a medieval twist.
Developed by Jutsu Games, Rustler follows the antics of protagonist Guy and his friend, Buddy. These two regular medieval joes currently work for a local mob boss, doing what needs to be done to put food on the table. Before too long, the duo catch wind of a tournament hosted by the Crown where the spoils are the hand of the princess and practically half of the current kingdom. Unfortunately, the duo have depts to pay before menacing on their new noble quest. As far as narratives go, the just of the game revolves around this unlikely duo swindling and fighting their way from the bottom, to the top, in a medieval world full of anachronisms, pop culture references and Monty Python-esque humour.
Part of the charm of Rustler is how it clearly does not take itself seriously, at all. The world of is full of absurd situations, such as cage fights in a medieval arena, joining a sect of round-earthers, or pimping a horse with neon lights and spoilers. The game also parodies many aspects of modern society, such as parking zones, radio stations, and social media influencers. The humour is often crude, irreverent and politically incorrect, but also decently funny for those not easily offended. Although there are quite a few laugh allowed moments, a lot of the humour can also be quite puerile and immature. It would have been nice if the title could have steered ever closer to true wit and dark humour to offer more lasting appeal.
The gameplay of Rustler is reminiscent of the old-school GTA games, with a top-down perspective and simple controls. Players can explore the map freely, or follow the main storyline and side missions. The latter are varied and border on hilarity, involving tasks such as sabotaging a rival’s horse race, delivering drugs to a witch, or helping a bard write a hit song (one of the more memorable quests in the game). There are also some decent mini-games to play, such as archery, jousting, or horse racing.
Combat in Rustler is mostly melee-based, with swords, spears, axes and other medieval weapons making the brunt of the gameplay. Ranged weapons can also be used, such as crossbows or holy hand grenades, but these are more for flourish than the default. The combat is not very deep or challenging, but it is satisfying enough to hack and slash one’s way through enemies. Perhaps rather interestingly, and taking a page out of the game it is inspired by, players can also use one’s horse as a weapon, by trampling or drifting over foes (it is as ridiculous, yet hilarious, as it sounds). The game also has a wanted system, similar to GTA, where guards will chase Guy if he causes too much trouble. Thankfully, the wanted level can be dropped by going incognito and by means of hiding in haystacks or, a personal favourite, bribing them to turn a blind eye. Gameplay is decent, at first, but quickly becomes repetitive without much innovation for what are, honestly, ageing mechanics.
Visually, Rustler offers a colourful and cartoonish overview of a nicely laid out medieval landscape. There are fair amount of details and animations adding to the immersion of the world. Complementing the visuals is the sound design, providing some truly catchy bard songs – acting as radio stations – with somewhat realistic sound effects for weapons and horses. Voice acting can leave a lot to be desired, but this lends into the charm of the game with performances ranging from decent through to the absolutely absurd. In terms of accessibility, the game also supports multiple languages for subtitles and interface elements; decent offerings for an indie release.
Rustler is by no means a perfect game, with a fair amount of polish missing from what could be one of the more inventive GTA clones. Technical issues, such as random glitches and bugs, can affect the performance and enjoyment of the game. The title could also do with a better map system, more customisation options for Guy’s character and his horse, and more variety in enemies and locations. The game is also relatively short and easy enough to complete, with a main campaign lasting no longer than around 10 hours.
Despite its flaws, Rustler is a game delivering what it promises: a fun medieval homage to the classic GTA games of old. It does not take itself seriously at all, and invites players to do the same.
|Interesting premise and time period||Uninventive and semi-frustrating gameplay|
|Entertaining, if somewhat puerile, narrative||10 hours to complete – but interest will wane long before then|
|Looks good with many Easter eggs to GTA|
Title reviewed on Xbox Series X with code supplied by Jutsu Games.
Owner, founder and editor-in-chief at Vamers, Hans has a vested interest in geek culture and the interactive entertainment industry. With a Masters degree in Communications and Ludology, he is well read and versed in matters relating to video games and communication media, among many other topics of interest.