09/09/2021

๐Ÿด Rustler | Review | Xbox Series X | 6.5/10 | "A Horse That May Have Bolted Too Soon" ๐Ÿด @jutsugames #GameDev #IndieGames

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The premise of a top-down GTA game that is set in Medieval times is a winner on paper and Rustler really does have its moments but unfortunately, some fundamental issues that are present throughout limit the enjoyment.

As an all-around rogue Guy, Rustler has you working for a man named Herb as a horse thief, but – unbeknownst to him - you plan to escape your life of poverty by winning a grand tournament. The only problem? You need 5000 gold to enter.

The game has a strong opening. A live-action video takes place, showing some nicking, sword fighting and our (anti) hero being pursued by guards as a man that appears to be Owen Wilson’s dad drunkenly watches on. It’s through this video and the subsequent rolling introduction that the tone is set. Prepare yourself for several hours of farting, drinking, swearing and pop culture references – coincidentally, also the names of my four daughters.


I found the crassness of the dialogue to be pretty in keeping with the time and misfits that make up the game. Dodgy clergy; alcoholic knights; insane, beat-boxing bards and back-stabbings galore - Rustler is at its best when it’s throwing silly missions at you and embracing the absurdity of the situation. The problems that arise are mostly technical and really impact your play, though.

I had several issues very early on, such as the audio glitching out and sounding like a broken speaker  - which required a reboot - and also a couple of occasions where I got locked in text boxes and my character froze upon conversations ending, again needing restarts in order to proceed. These can probably be patched out in future versions but the main point for me was that the controls felt clumsy and collision detection can be teeth-grittingly infuriating. 


Getting into scrapes with the town guards is fun, as you have a multitude of weapons at your disposal - including a really satisfyingly clunky crossbow that takes ages to reload but almost always guarantees a one-hit kill - and the subsequent chase to tear down your wanted posters as myriad guards pursue you is all well and good, but all too often you’ll find yourself banging off the scenery and getting jammed in the environment - getting arrested or killed in these situations just feels cheap.

Presented from a top-down viewpoint, the game design feels reminiscent of a title I covered a year or two back called American Fugitive - and suffers from some similar issues. That was also a game that I dearly wished I enjoyed more than I did.


The audio work in Rustler is amusing, with characters talking in colourful gibberish and the ability to hire bards to follow you and having to punch them to change tune like a masochistic mobile radio station is a good call, but the boring unlockable abilities - surprisingly bland considering the jokey tone of the game - and aforementioned design flaws chip away at the enjoyment.

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