Humans have come a long way from sleeping in barns and riding horses to the market. Despite all our advances, we often look back at the way things used to be and wonder how different society was. This nostalgia has led to a huge amount of historical fiction in countries around the world. This is a very popular idea to explore in gaming and Jutsu Games have started their expedition with Rustler. This medieval crime game puts you in the questionable-quality boots of a young farm boy who realizes that crime definitely does pay. The question is, are you willing to take the risk?
We’ve come to expect a lot from stories in medieval settings due to the precedent of epic adventures and fantastical quests. Even the more realistic stories have a lot to offer in terms of narrative. Rustler combines elements to bring a rags-to-riches type of plot. You are Guy, a farm-boy with no passion for farming who decides to undertake criminal work from a local lord named Herb. You’ll do various jobs for a number of morally shifty characters all in the name of gold and treasure, but you’ll end up biting off more than you can chew. Still, this isn’t enough to stop us from riding around and causing chaos.
Rustling Up Fun
In case it wasn’t clear, a ‘rustler’ is someone who spends time stealing livestock such as cattle and horses. With this in mind, Rustler meets its definition’s expectations. First, it does this with the riding mechanic. The map is a decent size so you’ll spend a fair amount of time hijacking horses from passing innocents to get around. Horses can be sturdy or fast but both are fun to ride. They turn sharply without being unrealistic while being grounded enough to punish you for being careless.
Then there’s the pacing. When it comes to open-world crime games, it’s best to give players a lot of freedom as soon as you can. After a fairly brief intro, Rustler kicks you out into the harsh world of medieval turmoil. You can grab horses, weapons and start smashing things pretty much right out of the gate. There are always a fair number of quest-givers to keep you busy as well as some side activities to test your skills.
The overall aesthetic of the game is light-hearted. The whole thing has a cartoon feel with lots of colors that help highlight all the serious crimes you’re doing. You can spend a lot of time riding around the world or just go from job to job without ever feeling tense or pressured.
You’ve got to take care of a horse’s hooves or it’ll run right out of its shoes which won’t lead anywhere good. Rustler definitely needs to check the horse again before offering rides. They should start with the sound. A big part of the game is bards which are pretty much the only source of music. However, the music they make can be so loud and obnoxious even when you mess with settings. On top of that, characters speak in a loud and made-up language during dialogue which is also hard to listen to over and over.
They should also take a look at the combat. Being a crime game, you’re gonna be expected to fight off a fair number of guards and angry townspeople. You’re given a lot of weapons to use, but this doesn’t help against troops and you’ll almost always be outnumbered. There are times where one bad swing can cause enemies to dogpile you to death in a matter of seconds. Since checkpoints in missions aren’t consistent, it can be infuriating to get kicked back to start because you miss-timed a block.
Finally, there’s the humor. Rustler presents itself as a comical medieval adventure attempting to follow the footsteps of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. The problem is that they want you to know that. There are multiple references to this old film and they just don’t work. Rather than develop its own sense of humor, the game is trying to borrow one.
Rustler is a top-down open-world medieval crime game. It’s light-hearted and fast-paced with some solid horse-riding mechanics. The ride is weighed down by painful sounds, frustrating combat, and unfunny humor. Still, if you’re looking for something low-pressure and chaotic to play, rustle up a copy.
TechRaptor reviewed Rustler on PC with a copy provided by the publisher. The game is also available on PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
- Enjoyable Horse-Riding Mechanics
- Fast Freedom and a Good Amount of It
- A Light-Hearted and Low-Pressure Experience
- Loud and Annoying Music, Sounds, and Speech
- Frustrating Combat and Penalties
- Ineffective Referential Humor and Comedy