I love a good brawler. Beating the crap out of baddies while racking up a huge combo counter is just plain fun. Now, let’s throw in online co-op. That sounds pretty cool. How about an MMO hub world where you can take on quests and upgrade your character? Sounds awesome. Slap on a gothic esthetic with hard rock music. Pure awesomeness. Oh, and let’s make it free to play. Hook, line, and sinker. I have just described to you in a nutshell Rusty Hearts. Allow me to elaborate.
Rusty Hearts is a free-to-play hack n slash/MMO/co-op brawler brought to you by the fine people at Perfect World Entertainment. You play as one of 4 characters as you take on countless waves of undead, monsters, dark knights, and many other creatures of the night. The story revolves around 4 characters that are tasked to take on and destroy an evil, powerful vampire lord named Vlad. He has been sealed up in a castle. Yes, it does sound a lot like Castlevania, and you’ll get more vibes like this later on in the review. You can choose to play as Frantz, the down to business vampire; Angela the wisecracking witch; Tude, the claw wielding werewolf survivor; and Natasha, the distance-fighting ranger. Each has their own unique play style and equipment. On a side note, Natasha is not currently available for play, but Perfect World has indicated that she should become selectable very soon.
As stated above, the game looks like an MMO when in the hub world. Here, you can shop for armor, weapons, and other materials; take on quests, and party up with other players. When going into the dungeon, the game turns into a full on semi-3D brawler, where you and your optional party members travel from one room to the next defeating enemies until you reach the boss of that area.
You can choose different sections of the dungeon to enter depending on what your character level is. Different sections different strengths and types of enemies. You can also choose difficulty levels ranging from easy to very hard. There’s even a harder difficulty called Blood Mode that requires a certain level and a token-based entry fee to attempt. After killing all of the enemies in a section of the level, you can travel through a door and move on to the next room. At the end of each level, there is a special fight that pits you against a boss or bosses that you have to defeat in order to complete the level. At the end, you are ranked F through SSS on how well you did.
The better the rank, the more EXP you’ll gain at the end. Also, the higher the difficulty, the better and more frequent the loot drops are from enemies. During your dungeon crawl, you may find colored cards (bronze, silver, gold, etc.). These cards come into play at the end of the level, when you get to choose one from a grid. Depending on how many special cards you picked up during the level, the colored cards will represent special items or gear instead of the standard monetary reward.
While in dungeons, you use the arrow keys to move. You can use X to attack with standard attacks, Z to block, and C to grab and enemy. There is a complex combo system; the more you attack and rack up combos, the more a bar will fill. For each section filled, you can cancel attacks into another attack for chain combos. A,S,D, and F can be assigned special attacks that use up some of your mana, but offer up huge damage as well as many hits. You can also heal and restore mana using potions.
While in town, you can purchase and upgrade your gear and craft new equipment from items you find in the dungeons. You can equip your character with all kinds of wearables, ranging from chest armor and boots to helmets and stat increasing rings. In town, you will also gather quests from NPCs. Quests can come in the form of gathering item drops, killing a certain number of enemies, or finishing a level on a certain difficulty with a target ending rank. There are also main story quests that progress the plot. The story plays out in some voice acted cut scenes and scripted fights. The voice acting is well done, and the story is compelling at times. The only problem is it may take you a good two or three hours to get to another cut scene that lasts all of a minute. You will only get small pieces of the story.
The entire aesthetic is so charming. I really love the gothic art style mixed with anime characters. It hearkens back to Castlevania; vampires, werewolves, undead, and castles in the woods are all there. However, Perfect World did a very good job with the overall feel, giving Rusty Hearts its own unique style. The music, just like Castlevania’s, consists of some of the most epic tunes you’ll hear in a game. It’s a mixture of hard rock and classical orchestrated music with a choir sometimes singing in the background. The only word for it is “epic,” and if you know me, I hate throwing that word around.
Let’s not forget the PVP aspect to the game. That’s right, you can even play against other players in Rusty Hearts. There are a good number of modes to play including single player and co-op with your buddies against another team. You can begin taking on the PvP at level 10, and you take the character you’re using into the game with you so you’ll hardly ever see/fight the same character twice. The other big bonus from participating in PvP is that you can get items to take over to your campaign. There is no EXP to gain, but still you’re getting something out of it.
I don’t want to get ahead of myself, though. The game is fun, I’ll give it that, but there are a few drawbacks. First, I have experienced a good amount of lag during party play and PvP. I realize that this is an online game and it’s very difficult to not see lag. Also, for some reason, the music is too loud in some parts. There are times during cutscene dialo that I couldn’t hear the speech due to the music drowning it out. Lastly, the controls can become a little cumbersome, especially in the hub world. It just feels off moving around with the arrow keys rather than WASD. Also, the camera will clip into the walls at times and completely block out what you’re trying to see. Granted, the game does allow for controller and gamepad use, and that works nicely.
Of course, the game is free-to-play, and it allows for the players to enjoy every aspect of the game without spending a single cent, but Perfect World does offer you some pretty cool stuff for you to customize your character. The items for sale are only cosmetic and never give players an in-game advantage, but it’s there for those who want to look unique. Of course, you can still earn costume pieces by playing the game and completing certain quests.
Rusty Hearts surprised me. It has a good game play mechanic, fantastic atmosphere and art style, and some really good multiplayer modes. What is so surprising to me is not how good the game is, but rather that nothing is being charged for it. This could easily be a pay-to-play game, but relying on dedicated fans and offering up some decent things for purchase keeps the game thriving. There are a ton of players out there to party up with and play against. The mixture of fast action game play and the customization aspects of an RPG make this game enjoyable for almost any genre of game player. You really have nothing to lose with this free-to-play game. I suggest it to everyone.
Review copy provided by publisher.