February 10, 2012

Rusty Hearts: Definitely Worth Playing

Rusty Hearts is a new free-to-play title from Perfect World Entertainment, which cannot be so simply summed up by the traditional MMORPG acronym. For starters, though plenty of gamers can be found loitering about the game's servers, Rusty Hearts relies entirely on four-player sessions, the 'massive' moniker is barely applicable. There are also no open-world areas to explore beyond the starting town, and no true character creation system either, forcing players to choose from one of the three storyline characters (a fourth is on the way), slowly picking up costumes pieces and new hair colors to differentiate themselves from their thousands of clones.

For many these aspects might seem like deal-breakers. For me, they're proof that Rusty Hearts is focused on the elements that actually matter, delivering a game which combines the best of hardcore brawling gameplay with the fleshed-out RPG elements the genre has been crying out for. If you want a lush and magical world to explore, then hey, go play World of Warcraft. But if you're like me, the prospect of waiting around 30 minutes for rest of the guild to show up sounds like a lot less fun than launching straight into some ridiculous ass-kicking action with three of my buddies. Especially when that action is as satisfyingly ridiculous as the combo-centric gameplay of Rusty Hearts.

Rusty Hearts continues differentiating itself from its inspirers by incorporating a sleek, cell-shaded anime inspired look. A style that works well for the games Gothic toned hack-and-slash gameplay. From the four main characters to some of the most creepy and clever enemy designs to grace the genre, players of all powered computers can enjoy what Rusty Hearts has to offer thanks to games relatively low entry specs to play. Further proving just how much more important great art design is over having the latest, processor pounding graphics engine behind a game. As charming as the games esthetics is, perhaps the most entrancing aspect of Rusty Heart’s world is its music. Reminiscent of the rock infused remixes of classic Castlevania music – where can a download the OST? – many of the games tracks had me banging my head as a laid my best combos into the hoards of mutated creatures Rusty Hearts has to offer.

The combat system in Rusty Hearts will be familiar to just about any arcade fan: pile on the attacks as fast and furiously as you can, and don't ever let up. In addition to your standard "hit things" button, each character also has your a suite of regular brawling moves: jump; dodge; guard; and grab. These available actions, combined with the wide range of special attacks and skills each character can earn, results in some truly frantic combat, especially when you've got a full party of four players rampaging their way through the sprawling 3D dungeon levels on a gleeful spree of destruction.

Again, rather than focus on a gigantic game world, the action is broken up into various dungeons. What's worth noting is that these 3D areas offer a variety of alternate routes and paths, players able to decide whether they want to streamline their way towards the boss, or search every dungeon corner for rare treasure and items. Even more interesting is how many of the dungeons offer some small interactive elements. In one dungeon, players can search out and trigger a switch in order to lower the water level in the final room, making it easier to take on the sewer boss there. In another boss battle, me and my mates were unable to damage the giant lobster facing us without first using one of the room's ice cannons to freeze the crustacean, which was an interesting change of pace from our standard button-mashing tactics.

As a single-player experience, something that is usually unspoken of for an online-focused multiplayer experience, Rusty Hearts holds its own. While the game basically boils down to accepting quests from the various townsfolk, entering a dungeon, and completing thus quest by either finding an item or defeating something, the plethora of pillage gathered serves as the perfect fix for the loot amassing addict. Each area in the game offers up to four difficulties for all levels of players and more lucrative loot for their success. What I really liked about the stage structure is the ease in which they can be completed. Only have five to ten minutes, well that’s all it takes to run a quick dungeon, but for those who like the longer treks, staying around and replaying areas consecutively presents some extra opportunities for rare items.

The most important thing to note about Rusty Hearts is of course its monetization model. Rusty Hearts is 100% free-to-play, letting anyone jump online and start hacking away with friends. This model is one which seems to becoming the standard genre-wide, and it's easy to see why, filling up game servers with new players, getting them hooked, and then dangling shiny premium items in their face. The Perfect World crew was kind enough to hook me up with a bit of spending money, and I spent perhaps an hour or so in the cash shop trying to find the perfect assortment of costume items.

A decent anime tale
Benevolent cash shop
Fast & addictive combat

Extremely repetitive
Grindy at times
Unwieldy controls

The bottom line is that Rusty Hearts is fun as hell, free to play, and has a gigantic content update coming in about a week. Again, it's better with friends, so if you've got even a faint memory of smashing your way through Final Fight with a chum, it's time to call his ass up and get him on a Rusty Hearts server. After all, friends don't let friends brawl alone.

Credits: GameZone, Gamexplain, mmorpg.com
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