If you were to hold up Rustler and look at FDA-mandated list of ingredients, here’s what you’d find: a large quantity of Grand Theft Auto (the old school, top-down GTA), some filtered Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a big dollop of parody, and lots of spicy language and situations.
This Kickstarted game stew has been simmering on the stove in Early Access since February and is about to be served up on PC and consoles at the end of August.
Developer Jutsu Games transposes the wild lawlessness and irreverent tone of Grand Theft auto to the middle ages, a historical period absolutely ripe for cultural anachronisms and humor ranging from the clever to the ridiculously silly. Rustler never met a joke that it didn’t cozy up to, so we have lute-strumming bards engaging in rap battles in place of GTA’s radio stations, No Horse Zones, knights more stupid than noble, witch hunts, and of course, stables where you can Pimp Your Horse. Just so that’s clear, we mean trick it out with cosmetic enhancements. And just so we’re clear again, we mean better saddles and bridles and stuff.
At least in the current Early Access version, there is a fairly compact main campaign in which the lead character, aptly named The Guy, is questing to find the love of his life by winning a tournament, plus a large number of side quests and shorter missions that have nothing whatsoever to do with the plot. Most of these involve mayhem or lawlessness of one sort or another, often ending in wild combat on horseback.
Funny The Way It Is
Although Rustler’s open-world is relatively small, in classic GTA fashion it is rife with possibility and creative fun. Just about every pixel is packed with a joke, anachronism, cultural reference, or bawdy entendre. Of course, one’s sense of humor is as personal as a fingerprint, but Rustler plays the odds and assumes that everyone will find something to chuckle at. It’s a pretty good bet.
As Rustler has gone through its months of Early Access, it has steadily improved in important ways, like controller support, driving…er, riding, combat with both ranged and melee weapons and the scope of activities and quests. The developers have promised some cool features specific to the DualSense controller and a planned, steady stream of DLC after release. When it launches, Rustler will be a strictly single player game.
Rustler is an isometric, top-down game and though it isn’t a graphical barn-burner, it looks colorful and detailed with architecture roughly suggesting the medieval period, set in a variety of rustic environments. One of the audio highlights of the game is a bard that can be hired to travel with Guy and enhance his questing through parody songs. In general, characters speak a subtitled gibberish language that seems to combine equal portions of Sim-speak and intestinal distress. It gets a bit repetitive, but it’s certainly economically more feasible than voice-acting thousands of lines of dialogue in many different languages.
Transposing modern cultural references to older historical periods is nothing new in entertainment (or even video games), but Rustler’s fusion of old school GTA mechanics with a medieval setting feels different enough to be engaging. It’s dense with humor and at around a dozen hours, Rustler is short enough that the conceit and jokes don’t overstay their welcome. Thanks to an open world that encourages one’s impulses for mayhem and a variety of missions, Rustler plays like a more substantial game than the single gag premise might suggest. It’s also an open-ended world that could easily be expanded on or franchised should the game find a niche.
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