With many games, if a booming success occurs throughout the industry, it’s not long before you get a series of copycats appearing. When PUBG took the world by storm, Fortnite quickly arrived to capitalise on the success, and countless others joined in too. During this time, one game that has remained mostly untouched via competition, despite major success is the Grand Theft Auto series. Sure, we’ve had the odd title here and there, and Rockstar themselves have introduced Red Dead Redemption as an almost historical clone for the same audience, but for anything that isn’t Rockstar developed, interest has simply fizzled out, or taken a new and much wackier approach – Saints Row I’m looking at you. Now though, Rustler has arrived, and saying GTA is an inspiration is an understatement to say the least, but how does it hold up?
After a brief intro video in which a man is depicted committing the heinous crime of Grand Theft Horse (taking one’s horse without said permission), we quickly jump through the main menu and on into gameplay. Here we have our protagonist, Guy, complete with a blackened eye, hungover and waking in the same area in which close by a man on fire was running and screaming, whilst another walks around with a rather large trail of stinking gas after letting one rip and a final person is stuck face first in a bale of hay. It’s a comical entry to this game and It’s this same type of humour that sits with Rustler throughout with even the first gameplay moments seeing players looking for a fresh alcoholic drink which soon indicates your health points have increased before being enticed into a fight by one of the locals in order to gain a grasp for the controls. These actions help reaffirm the basics of gameplay mechanics but it’s a nice way to set the tone.
With early missions sending players off to kill off certain individuals, steal a horse for your crime boss, or hide a body, Rustler quickly gets a firm grip on GTA games of old and with a top-down view akin to that of GTA 2 showing there is a clear love letter in the works and throughout the game, it’s this sort of thing you can expect to be doing more and more as you progress through a game that mixes modern-day humour in with its medieval setting to make a quirky yet humorous game.
After a few missions the gameplay area opens up and then you have access to a plentiful amount of quests and side missions, as well as plenty of bars to attend, fights to have, guard to run away from and so on.
The guards in the game work very much as the local police, with a star rating giving credit to just how much of a rebel you are truly being, and a chase often meaning you’ll need to set off on your horse and head out to rip down local wanted posters to remove your star level or take a trip to the pimp a horse for a fresh look for your horse should you wish to live to see another day. Of course, you can navigate on foot, however, with the map proving surprisingly large, horseback will be the main way to travel.
A slight change away from what is otherwise a purely GTA formula is the skill tree that is available to players. By completing quests, you will earn skill points which can then be used on things such as increasing Guy’s maximum health, as well as an ability to pick items up whilst on a horse, getting discounts from vendors and more of the usual variety we see so frequently. There is a decent selection of skills to choose from and I don’t recall seeing any that don’t really benefit gameplay in some form.
Whilst the game leans heavily into humour as a focal point, there is certainly plenty to enjoy and with a decent quest variety and plenty of quests and side activities to complete, there is rarely a shortage of things for players to do.
What strengthens the surprising quality of Rustler’s gameplay is the warm and colourful art style that paints the medieval setting into a lived-in and believable landscape. At no point do players need to feel short-changed with even the finer details being well documented with even the brickwork on local buildings feeling exact in design.
Sadly, as much as I’d like to sit here and tell you that Rustler is game without issues, that definitely is not the case. From my time with the game, I encountered a few problematic experiences one of which required multiple hard resets of my console to fix.
The first niggling issue that slightly ruined engagement was a loud and ‘tinny’ distorted sound coming from local bards playing music in the street, this would happen with the use of a stereo headset from time to time and even changing the headset, the sound persisted until the game was reset which made things slightly irritating.
The more pressing issue was the need to hard reset my console due to the game not allowing me to progress past the main menu or move through the options. This happened on no more than 3 occasions, one before I even got into gameplay the first time, and both others after quitting to the dashboard rather than quick resuming and booting up the game from scratch. A hard reset did fix the issue but when this is required more than once it can definitely cause annoyance.
When all is working as it’s supposed to, however, Rustler is a fantastic game. Sure, it uses toilet humour and pop culture references to bring the laughs and looks to utilise most of what players love about an already established game franchise to create the vast majority of the gameplay experience, however, all of this is done in a way that creates an enjoyable game that isn’t likely to be forgotten all too soon.
Overall and if you’re one of the many that have done all there is to do in the latest GTA game and want something a little refreshing whilst you wait, then Rustler isn’t a bad stop off. Developer Jutsu Games have ensured that this latest title is engaging, silly and fun and with surprising detail packed into an expansive gameplay experience this is certainly going to be a surprise for many gamers out there. The issues however are glaring, and should a fix be put in place soon then there will be very little to complain about should you jump in with a purchase of this one.Become a Patron!
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox Series X/S. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version. Game provided by publisher.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.