Old-school Grand Theft Auto in medieval times is such a good idea on paper; I’m shocked no one has done it before. Well, developer Jutsu Games have grabbed the horse by the reins and released Rustler, a classic style crimeathon that sees players taking on the role of a medieval thug. Believe me, I was ALL IN on the concept alone, especially after seeing the game in action.
Unfortunately, the final product is a bit of a mixed bag. Whilst Rustler does have its moments where it shines, it’s also guilty of being a bit bland and cumbersome.
Check out a gallery of screenshots down below:
Rustler puts players into the role of Guy, a young thug who works alongside his best friend Buddy for the crime lord of his town. As you’d imagine, they get into all sorts of trouble and aren’t afraid to throw their weight around for their boss, but they soon find themselves with grander aspirations when they decide to enter a medieval tournament. The prize? The princess’ hand in marriage. Unfortunately, you have to be a noble to enter the tournament, which is something that Guy certainly isn’t. As you can imagine, that doesn’t stop him from trying, which leads him on a journey full of zany shenanigans and, of course, crime.
The narrative is one of Rustler’s high points, with Guy and Buddy’s absurd antics lending themselves well to the genuinely humorous adventure. It’s all very tongue in cheek and isn’t afraid to break the fourth wall, whilst some genuinely entertaining writing adds plenty of life to each interaction you have in-game. Of course, there’s also fart and poo jokes that lower the tone a little, but I’m childish so I could deal with that. It’s a shame there’s no voice acting on show since it would have added a bit more cinematic flair to the game, but it’ll still keep a smile on your face.
“The narrative is one of Rustler’s high points, with Guy and Buddy’s absurd antics lending themselves well to the genuinely humorous adventure.”
If you’ve played the old-school PlayStation Grand Theft Auto games before, you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect from Rustler… just replace the city with a medieval setting, the cars with horses, and the guns with crossbows and you’ll be on the right track. Everything takes place from a top-down perspective and gives players an open-world to play around in, with players able to head straight to mission markers or indulge in some of the game’s side activities. Par for the course, as far as open-world adventures go, then.
The biggest hook is the medieval setting, with players stealing horses instead of cars as they gallop across fields and towns. It even comes with its own variation of a wanted level, with Rustler’s approach to the law seeing all sorts of guards pursuing you as you commit more crimes. It’s possible to lose this attention by tearing apart wanted posters or riding through an aptly named ‘Pimp a Horse’ station to lose this heat, so it’s not too hard to keep the law off your back if you’re crafty. It didn’t bring with it the excitement of the police chases in the Grand Theft Auto series, but it was fine.
“If you’ve played the old-school PlayStation Grand Theft Auto games before, you’ll have a rough idea of what to expect from Rustler… just replace the city with a medieval setting.”
Combat sees players using the likes of a crossbow, a sword, a spear, a lance, and so forth… basically, the kind of weapons you’d expect to see on a medieval battlefield. Unfortunately, the combat mechanics of the game felt a bit clumsy, with it difficult to line up attacks when using the melee weapons. I found myself just mashing the attack button and hoping for the best at times, with a lack of accuracy offered when fighting up close. The game does try to spice things up by giving different attack types as well as blocking and parrying skills, but it never felt natural in-game. You can mostly button mash your way to victory, but there will be times where you’ll wish the combat had a bit more nuance.
The missions could feel a little bit dull too, with the repetitive ‘go here, kill this person, go there, grab this item’ formula getting tedious fast. Don’t get me wrong, there are missions which are more enjoyable and that embrace Rustler’s shenanigan-fuelled setup, but they’re always sandwiched between more boring and repetitive tasks. The Grand Theft Auto series brought more creativity and imagination to its missions when it progressed past the original PlayStation years, but Rustler is guilty of being a bit stuck in the mud with its old-school ways. It’s fine, but I just hoped for a bit more from the game.
“The missions could feel a little bit dull, with the repetitive ‘go here, kill this person, go there, grab this item’ formula getting tedious fast.”
Rustler does have strengths elsewhere, though. There’s a neat upgrade system in place that allows you to give Guy new skills (being able to summon a horse at any time is a big help), the side missions offer the likes of racing and being a taxi dri- I mean, ‘taxi horse rider’ (that’s a thing, right), whilst generally causing chaos as you mow people down on your horse or attack them randomly brings with it moments of fun too. It also plays well on the Nintendo Switch with minimal performance hiccups, though the top-down nature of the game can make it difficult to make out some objects when playing handheld – it’s something you get used to though, so don’t let it put you off playing the game that way.
Rustler is a neat game that has some fun and clever ideas, but just doesn’t live up to its potential thanks to some dull missions and clunky combat. It’s a shame too because there’s a lot to love about this manic medieval world and I had a good time simply causing chaos – some missions brought with them some great and silly tasks too, which were always fun. There’s just a real inconsistency to the experience, with Rustler’s best bits blighted by those that make it feel frustrating.
– The medieval mayhem can be really satisfying
– The narrative is genuinely funny (in a silly and stupid kinda way)
– There’s plenty to do in the world
– Missions can feel repetitive and bland
– Combat is clunky
Developer: Jutsu Games
Publisher: Modus Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One, PC