It's been a little while since we last talked about Perfect World's free-to-play MMO beat-'em-up/hack-'n-slash game Rusty Hearts. Now though, a couple of months later, it's been released in an open beta format, but has it kept on the same track?
Is it worth looking into as a game to keep, or is it something that you might download for a quick game to kill with your friends while waiting for the next big blockbuster release?
Rusty Hearts (PC)
Publisher: Perfect World Entertainment
Release date: September 14, 2011 (open beta/release)
For the most part, the gameplay of Rusty Hearts is unchanged. You still choose one of three characters: Frantz, Tude, or Angela. The game is still about running dungeons either alone or in a group, and trying to stylishly clear them for a higher score and reward. I have played a lot more since the game released, reaching level 20 with Angela, just five levels short of the current cap, and have cleared the first set of dungeons with Tude.
The character's playstyles seems varied enough to warrant a play through, or at least a partial play through with each one. Angela is quite ranged-based for being a melee fighter, her basic attacks having the most range, and having projectile as well as area of effect specials. Tude is a lot more “in your face,” his dodges blocking damage, and able to lead into his attack combos right from the start of the game. Frantz appears to be a quick hitter, with a bit more range than Tude, and more of an emphasis on juggling his opponents.
Of course, the gameplay has been talked about quite a bit before, so I won't go into as much depth with the basic mechanics here. I did get into the higher-level dungeons though, and the gameplay does get somewhat repetitive until you get about midway into the second set of dungeons. Usually, it seems like mastering a single combination of normal attacks and specials can easily allow you clear a room of enemies. The enemy types they throw at you start to become more varied, evolving from just the standard soldier and archer combinations, which puts more emphasis on placing yourself in relation to a group, as well as taking out specific enemies first.
For the most part, I found the difficulty to be fairly easy, even on the third difficulty mode, “Very Hard.” It takes a bit longer, but I found all of the dungeons I encountered so far to be able to be run solo on most of the settings. The difficulties are nicely laid out; instead of each higher difficulty just making enemies tougher and able to do more damage, they start mixing in more varieties of larger -- almost mid-boss-like -- enemies into each room. These enemies are usually more resistant to attacks, such as not flinching from a special that knocks other enemies into the air, and have much harder-hitting attacks that may knock you out of a combo yourself.
There is a fourth difficulty, deemed “Blood Mode.” The requirements to unlock a single run in this mode are much higher, involving item collection. The enemies are significantly more threatening, not only by including the larger mid-bosses in each room, but also making all of the enemies tougher to deal with in general. I feel that this mode warrants a party to clear. In addition to the numbers and types of enemies, the rewards also go up in value and amount with each higher difficulty level.
When I originally previewed the closed beta, it felt really good to play, but the game was still plagued by a few nagging little bugs. Input lag when interacting with the menu interfaces and, especially, when using text chat was an issue I encountered the whole time. This bug was squashed, and I have not noticed any major input lag from interacting with the interface or typing. I also noticed that there was also lag, freezing for a second or two, when loading enemies in new sections of dungeons. There is still a bit of a stutter when large groups are being popped in, especially ones with bigger special effects to their entrances, but it's a lot less of an annoyance now, and much shorter each time it happens.
The bug fixes were not the only things that are new and changed from the beta. One key element in the beta was removed, for the better, from the released version. Gone is the stamina bar, which would limit how much progress you could make each day. I considered the rate of stamina drain in the beta to be very fair in relation to many other games, but not having any limiter like that is a huge plus. The cash item shop is also fully integrated. I got to look in it, and nothing sold seems like it would break the game's balance. The items are mostly cosmetic, offering small stat bonuses as well, but nothing too overwhelming. There are also experience booster packs, and items to change an existing equipment's bonus stats if it has one, and little things like that as well.
The game tries to tell a cohesive story as well through its main questline. The basic premise is that Gold Seal Team, consisting of Angela, Frantz, and I think Tude as well, are helping the militia occupying the town to stop Vlad, an evil sorcerer vampire who has cause all manner of things to go bad quickly in the area. The game follows the week leading up to the raid on the castle Vlad is held up in made by Gold Seal Team and the militia.
The story feels like it's something more fitting for a single-player, offline game. For most of what I've played, only two of the main characters ever seem to have any showing in the cutscenes or in the dialog. Tude is MIA at this point -- as is stated in his bio, he doesn't join up until the team enters the main level of the castle. There is also very limited voice acting for the characters, so far only having really noticed any on Frantz and Angela, and only during a few scenes. It makes it feel odd at times when one of them is talking, with voice, to someone else who only has text.
On the other hand, it's actually nice to see an MMO attempt something like this. It may feel a little weird at times, especially when playing as Tude, but the production values put to the story side seem higher than similar MMOs. There are fully animated cut scenes dispersed here and there, both in town and in dungeons, that break up the monotony of just reading text boxes from quest givers. The dialog is also well written. Characters, especially main ones, seem very self aware of the world around them, at times poking fun at tropes usually associated with this type of story, as well as ones associated with games of related genres. It rings heavily of a Japanese anime influence, which I know may turn some people away, but I think it's still enjoyable.
The story helps to liven up the dungeons as well. The main goal will always be to beat all of the enemies, including the boss at the end, but there are times through the story where other NPCs will start showing up in them. Occasionally, they'll just be there briefly to help move along the plot, whereas other times, they can be quest givers that you'll be inclined to go back and routinely visit. The story also gives you reason to keep revisiting dungeons. Depending on what story quests you have, you may take different paths through a dungeon, or even encounter different enemies and bosses.
Lastly, there is also a player vs. player arena. I talked about it briefly before, and it's mostly the same from what I could tell. It's still as fast and furious as it was the first time I dove in. The game does an admirable job trying to compensate for the level differences between characters, but just having different skills unlocked or even using a different weapon type than another person using the same character can make a fight harder. It seems like something that you can learn to compensate for, but that would require a good bit of time in that mode learning the nuances of the character and weapon combo.
Overall, I was very pleased with Rusty Hearts. The content seems somewhat lacking in comparison to some other games in the similar combination of genres, but what content is there is mostly used to the fullest. Luckily, this is only the beginning, and more content is promised, starting with the “Awakening” update that is live today. As long as such content can continue being pushed out at a consistent and reliable rate, then this game will have a lot of staying power.
Currently, I think the game is worth checking out, and playing through with at least one character. It's free, fun, and though it can seem repetitive at times, it feels really satisfying to play.