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A Quick & Easy to Pick Up Brawler

William Murphy Posted:
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I’ve written about Perfect World Entertainment’s Rusty Hearts in the past, and for those of you who read those articles this review might seem a bit redundant.  As a dungeon-crawling brawler, RH performs admirably, and at times excels in several ways.  The story is a decent romp, the combat is addictive and fast-paced, and it’s the perfect game to pick up and play in short spurts.  Where it falters is in its longevity, depth, and repetitive nature.  Still, of the many Action-MMOs available, it’s plain to see that Rusty Hearts is among the best.  If you like games such as Dungeon Fighter Online or Vindictus, and enjoy the macabre setting of gems like Castlevania, then Rusty Hearts will likely be right up your alley.  Keep reading to see why in our official review.  

Aesthetics - 7

The visuals in Rusty Hearts are best when it comes to the character models, and worst when it comes to the bland repetitive textures of the dungeons themselves.  Cell-shaded and fluidly animated, the characters (enemies and players alike) are fantastic. The spell effects are grand, and you really feel the weight of your blows as you strike the mobs.  The music is suitably “Arcade” sounding, as though you stepped right into Devil May Cry, Castlevania, etc.  It’s derivative, but it works well and serves to amp you up as you go bashing the brains of skeletons and creepy crawlies.  The sounds are nothing too standout, but they service the action well.  There are occasional voiceovers, but they’re often drowned out by the music by default which is rather odd. 

The UI is probably where RH suffers the most aesthetically.  It’s brown, drab, and while it’s functional, it’s not that clearly informative.  Your bags will fill with lots of orbs and odd items you won’t know what to do with at first, and the UI doesn’t help to really describe the uses.  Still, it works well, it’s responsive, and does its job admirably.  Additionally, though the game’s looks aren’t going to win any awards, they manage to be pretty without hogging your system’s resources.  The anime style is well wrought, and there’s a sense of ‘pretty macabre’ here that some folks will eat right up.

Gameplay - 7

Here are the basics of Rusty Hearts’ gameplay: enter dungeon, beat the crap out of things, get loot, beat on friends, rejoice in the violence and repeat as necessary.  It’s a brawler.  If you’ve ever picked up the controls of Final Fight, or other action-MMOs like Vindictus or Dungeon Fighter, you’ll feel right at home with Rusty Hearts. 

There’s a main town or central hub which has all the shops, quests, NPCs, and other players roving about.  It’s here you’ll progress most of the story between dungeon romps, buy your gear, and form your dungeon parties.  The odd thing you’ll quickly notice about Rusty Hearts is that everyone really looks the same.  There are three characters/classes currently available in the game, with a fourth coming soon.  One is Frantz (the vampire with a sword, also the story’s main protagonist), then there’s Angela (a cute little magic-user with attitude) and Tude (the wastrel brawler and roving wandering who joins them on their quest). 

Each of these characters, like other brawlers in the MMO space, are gender-locked and you cannot customize their looks at the outset.  Once in the game, after a few levels, you’ll gain access to recipes for more costume pieces, and you can buy PWE’s “Zen” cash to buy costumes as well.  A buck or two will get you a new coat or new shoes, but don’t worry; they’re purely cosmetic.  All the stats and items associated with your characters abilities are obtained in game only.  Weapons cannot be bought in the story, but outside of costume clothing, it’s the weapons that will differentiate you from players more than anything.  High level players wind up having the most epic looking swords, staffs, and demonic gauntlets (Tude’s weapon of choice). 

The game itself is an endless parade of “go into this dungeon, beat up these guys” quests.  It’s not exactly deep, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be.  The combat and its team dungeon romping are the selling point and they’re a lot of fun together.  The game plays well on both the keyboard and the Xbox 360 controller, though for my part I chose the latter.  The downside is that only so many skills can be mapped to the face of the controller, and eventually you’ll have too many to wield easily, and will wind up having to rotate hotbars to get access to different spells and it becomes a bit hard to manage. 

There is a minor amount of crafting, using the game’s NPCs.  You’ll get pieces and parts to make costume items and the like, but it’s not a main draw of the game by any means.  There’s also a private room each player is given to store their items and get away from the riff-raff.  But there doesn’t seem to be any customization here just yet.  There’s really not much customization at all, outside of your looks and the gear you wear.  You’ll get lots of new skills as you level up, but everyone gets the same skills.  Each character (Frantz, Angela, Tude) has different skills, but each player will have the same skills per character.  There are no trees, no choices, or anything to make you different there. 

Outside of the dungeon-crawling and story questing, there is a strong bit of PVP to be had beyond level 10.  The game’s combat system makes it a lot of fun, and the benefit to not allowing players too much tweaking of their characters’ skills means the balance is pretty spot on.  It’s hectic and crazy fun, and if you remember a game called PowerStone on the Dreamcast, you’ll probably like this part of the game.  There’s not much point to it just yet other than bragging rights, but the team has many more plans for PVP in the future, with the team’s first update “Awakenings” launching on the 11th focusing mostly on raising the cap and adding more dungeons.  Though future updates are supposed to flesh out PVP more and more.

Lastly there are also “Training Grounds”, which are sort of a “Fight As Long as You Can” dungeon that gets harder and harder the further you make it into the place.  They’re a lot of fun, and have their own set of killer rewards for those who can make it through.  They’re probably the hardest part of the game, to be honest and are a riot to play as they get progressively more and more hectic.

  • A decent anime tale
  • Benevolent cash shop
  • Fast & addictive combat
  • Extremely repetitive
  • Grindy at times
  • Unwieldy controls

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William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.