Back in March of 2021, I took a look at a neat little game. Something of a parody on the earlier Grand Theft Auto games, the game trades a modern city for a humorous interpretation of a medieval setting, while keeping a modern (and coarsely-worded) take on much of the dialogue, story, behaviors and activities. Now that Rustler, developed by Jutsu Games and published by Games Operators and Modus Games on PC via Steam and all the consoles available today, is out of Steam Early Access, it’s time for us to head back to the game’s historically-inaccurate kingdom and see how far things have come. Let’s do it!
Guy That Knows a Guy
In Rustler, you play as a natural-born thug named Guy, who in simpler terms is tired of his lot in life and the way of the land, and decides to take matters into his own hands to change it. You’ll have to steal things, beat up or kill people who get in your way, and help others in ways that only you know how. You have free range to do as you please, although there is a main story to follow which will open up inaccessible areas and weapons and useful things (and some perhaps less useful things, like psychedelic herbs that will turn your vision weird colors).
The game parodies GTA and it really isn’t afraid to admit it. References can be found all over and, even though you’re in a medieval-themed world, many of the NPCs you’ll come across seem very gangster-like, speaking a hybrid of modern language and archaic. There’s plenty of fourth wall breaking (Honestly, the fourth wall barely even exists!) and some characters even seem aware that they don’t really belong in the world they’re in.
It’s all extremely entertaining, at least, as long as you don’t mind the constant stream of vulgarity. The story itself isn’t terribly sophisticated, but it does have some entertaining twists and turns. It uses plenty of classic tropes but has some really entertaining moments and doesn’t get stale too easily.
The game also promises pop culture references and it delivers. While you might expect the Monty Python references – and there are plenty – there’s definitely more than that. Heck, without spoiling too much there’s even a scene on a quest that imitates a moment from Star Wars: Return of the Jedi. The game even makes fun of collecting rare items in MMOs. There’s a reference for almost everyone! While the main plot is not anything super special, it largely acts as a delivery mechanism for all the crazy things you’ll end up doing, and it does that job very well.
Grand Theft Horse
As you go, you’ll find situations where you need to raise some cash to be able to progress, such as getting a forger to make you a fake ID so you can convince guards that you are noble-born. There are a variety of legitimate and not-so-legitimate ways to do this, from going on a rampage on the streets to get money from your victims, to horse racing, to punching people to get them to attend church.
There were a fair few things to do when I first tried the game, but now the world is comparatively full of activities and such. If back alley brawls or taking corpses to the undertaker isn’t enough for you, how about being a horse taxi or driving an ambulance cart to take some of the people you beat up to a doctor? There’s a lot more variety now to facilitate the open-world experience if the main story just isn’t enough for you.
One of my main gripes when i played in Early Access was how overly sensitive the guards were. Often merely brushing against someone while running on a horse would trigger the guards, which is something that would happen almost inevitably as there are a lot of people and a lot of traffic on the roads. Fortunately, this aspect of the game has been tweaked, and while it still happens, it takes a bit more for the guards to take notice.
The game also has refined its controls considerably, offering multiple ways to move both on foot and on horseback. Many balance tweaks have been made, such as to the availability of various weapons and items. The gameplay and stability have improved in pretty much every way from the Early Access version.
The one thing I didn’t like quite so much was one particular story quest where I needed to follow an NPC from one place to another. I didn’t know exactly what I was doing the first few times and very quickly I was given the maximum Wanted level and my quest objective said, “You didn’t do the thing… now you must die!” I could go anywhere but an entire army of guards would be chasing me, there were no Wanted posters to lower the alert level, and if you tried to pimp your horse to lose the chase, you’d be surprised by a guard in there. If I’m literally doomed, maybe just give me a quest failure as soon as I mess up the objective instead of making me think I can get out of the situation? To be fair, that’s a lot of words for a pretty minor gripe, I’m just not really keen on a game taking me for a ride when I fail a quest.
Streets and Beats
Rustler has an interesting aesthetic to it. The visuals are kind of halfway between trying to look real and trying to be something else. The game really plays up its historically inaccurate-ness with the modern styled (but hand-painted) traffic signs, curse-laden graffiti and political posters with a medieval-looking town that features crosswalks and lane lines marked in the roads with planks, car-style parking spaces for horses, and other hilariously innaccurate elements.
The style is there, but the graphical quality seems a bit dated for 2021. The character and item models in particular are rather simple. This is only a minor consideration though; it’s still plenty good enough and you don’t need a bazillion polygons to make a game achieve its art goals. It could be improved some, but it does do the job.
The music is bizarre, but in a good way, as is the system by which its played. There are no radios or CD players in this world like you would in your car in GTA, but you do have bards for hire that can follow you around, playing the game’s soundtrack for you. There’s a decent variety of tracks ranging from cliché typical folk music fare to medieval gangster hip-hop (in the game’s nonsense language voice-overs) and more. The music is also dynamic and its intensity can change depending on the situation, if you’re riding a horse or the poli…I mean guards are in hot pursuit. The use of the music in this game is quite creative and one of the highlights of the game to me.
‘Tis Only A Flesh Wound
If Rustler suffers from anything, it’s just that it sometimes doesn’t quite know what it’s trying to be. Most of the time, it seems to be specifically trying to parody GTA, and it plays a just like the early top-down games from said series. The tone is a bit off-beat, though, with all the jokes, pop culture, and poking of fun.
It might not be perfectly cohesive, but whether you’re here for the jokes or because you like games where you can be on the wrong side of the law, there is definitely something here for you. So if you aren’t easily offended by the copious amounts of cursing, blood, and violence, you should definitely give Rustler a go. Pull that guard off his horse, ride off, and don’t look back!
Review copy and featured image provided by Jutsu Games for PC. Screenshots taken by reviewer.