Pete Davison: Rusty Water

Posted on August 2, 2011 by

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I’ve been playing the stupidly-named Rusty Hearts since the closed beta started at the end of last month. The game caught my eye during E3, when publisher Perfect World announced that they would be taking the free to play genre up a notch with three titles that featured the level of polish one would typically expect from a commercial title.

I was skeptical, of course — everyone was. “Free to play” does, after all, to many people, mean “not as good as a ‘real’ game”. But still Rusty Hearts held some sort of fascination for me. I can’t quite pin down what it was — perhaps it was the cel-shaded art style, perhaps it was the fact it didn’t sound like another WoW clone, or perhaps I was simply just curious. Whatever it was, it meant that as soon as the opportunity to sign up for the closed beta came around, I was straight in there and sent a code almost immediately.

Now the closed beta is here and I’ve been playing a while, my fascination was, I believe, warranted. Because it’s a good game. Not “good for a free to play game”, not “good, but I’d rather play something I paid for”. No; it’s simply a good game that I would like to play more of — and will.

Why is it good? Well, there’s a variety of factors in play. The aforementioned cel-shaded art style is one of them. It looks good, particularly the characters. The backgrounds aren’t the best in the world but they’re in keeping with the stylised aesthetic. Animations are decent and done with a large amount of Japanese-style visual flair to make things look more exciting. Sword impacts are accompanied by huge flashy “swoosh” effects, every scene transition is done with an effect that looks like claws ripping across the screen and the whole thing is pleasingly “arcadey” in its presentation.

Which brings us nicely onto the way it plays. World of Warcraft it ain’t, unlike several of Perfect World’s other titles. Sure, you have a hotbar at the bottom of the screen and health bars at the top left. But that’s where the similarity ends — this is a full-on Streets of Rage/Golden Axe-style brawler given a next-gen coat of paint and put online. Couple this with a Devil May Cry-esque “style points” system, end-level rankings and skill-based techniques with the word “Just” in them and you’ve got a very endearingly console-style game with the depth of a PC title. This is very much a Good Thing.

Konami must be kicking themselves about now, though, because the game is essentially Castlevania Online, right down to the awesome techno-rock soundtrack. Here’s the plot: there’s a big castle, and somewhere within it is a Bad Dude called Vlad. He has a servant called Death. It’s up to a plucky band of supernaturally-inclined heroes, some of whom may or may not be witches and vampires, to save the day by beating seven shades of shit out of everything stupid enough to cross their path. Sound familiar? It should; Rusty Hearts is pretty shameless in its inspiration. That’s no bad thing, though — the game works well and if Konami aren’t going to make a game like this then someone else might as well.

I haven’t got that far yet — my character is just level 9, but I’m into the castle proper now after what appears to have been a series of lengthy training quests. The difficulty has ramped up noticeably and, unlike the early levels, it may become necessary to team up with other players to take on some of the subsequent challenges. I’m looking forward to trying out cooperative play — so far solo play has been satisfying and fun, but I can imagine fighting alongside teammates will be fun in a different way. It remains to be seen what the community is like.

Rusty Hearts‘ closed beta is active right now — I’m not sure when it finishes, but characters and progress will be wiped at that point. Any cash items players might have purchased when that happens will be refunded to their account, so players won’t lose any money that they’ve invested into the game. If anyone’s curious to try it out for themselves, somewhere in my inbox I have two spare beta codes going — not sure if you can still use them now the beta’s started, but if you’re interested in giving it a shot, just let me know and I’ll send one over for you. First come, first served.

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Posted in: Pete Davison